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The Vagabonds

Between 1915 and 1924, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, and John Burroughs, calling themselves the Four Vagabonds, embarked on a series of summer camping trips. The idea was initiated in 1914 when Ford and Burroughs visited Edison in Florida and toured the Everglades. The notion blossomed the next year when Ford, Edison and Firestone were in California for the Panama-Pacific Exposition. They visited Luther Burbank and then drove from Riverside to San Diego.

In 1916, Edison invited Ford, Burroughs and Harvey Firestone to journey through the New England Adirondacks and Green Mountains; Ford, however, was unable to join the group. In 1918, Ford, Edison, Firestone, his son Harvey, Burroughs, and Robert DeLoach of the Armour Company, caravanned through the mountains of West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. Subsequent trips were made in 1919 to the Adirondacks and New England; in 1920 to John Burroughs' home and cabin retreat into the Catskill Mountains; in 1921 to West Virginia and northern Michigan; and in 1923 to northern Michigan. In 1924, the group journeyed to northern Michigan by train, gathered again at Henry and Clara Ford's Wayside Inn in Massachusetts, and visited President Coolidge at his home in Vermont.

The trips were well organized and equipped. There were several heavy passenger cars and vans to carry the travelers, household staff, and equipment; Ford Motor Company photographers also accompanied the group. The 1919 trip involved fifty vehicles, including two designed by Ford: a kitchen camping car with a gasoline stove and built-in icebox presided over by a cook and a heavy touring car mounted on a truck chassis with compartments for tents, cots, chairs, electric lights, etc. On later trips, there was a huge, folding round table equipped with a lazy susan that seated twenty. After 1924, the growing fame of the campers brought too much public attention and the trips were discontinued.

For more see:

Vagabonds [electronic resource]. Henry Ford and friends camping. Dearborn, Mich. : The Henry Ford, 2009.

Vagabonds [electronic resource]. Henry Ford and friends camping, part 2. Dearborn, Mich. : The Henry Ford, 2009.

There to breathe the beauty / by Brauer, Norm. Dalton, Pa. : Norman Brauer Publications, 1995.

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For more information about this topic or the collections of The Henry Ford, contact research.center@thehenryford.org.

Henry Ford, 1918
Resting after lunch, 1918
On the road, 1921
Leaving Green Is., 1919
Henry and Edsel, 1921
Edison and Ford, 1923