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By:    On: 2013-08-12

Between 1915 and 1924, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, and John Burroughs, declared themselves as “The Four Vagabonds”, which launched a sequence of summer camping trips. The idea was started in 1914 when Ford and Burroughs visited Thomas Edison in Florida and visited the Everglades. The idea thrived the next year when Ford, Edison and Firestone were in California for the Panama-Pacific exhibition. They visited Luther Burbank and then rushed from the Riverside to San Diego.

In 1916, Edison invited Ford, Burroughs and Firestone to explore the New England Adirondacks and Green Mountains. Ford, however, was unable to come along with the team. In 1918, Ford, Edison, Firestone, Burroughs, and John DeLoach of the Shield Organization, caravanned through the hills of West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. Following visits were made in 1919 to the Adirondacks and New England; in 1920 to John Burroughs' house and cottage getaway into the Catskill Mountains; in 1921 to West Virginia and Northern Michigan; and in 1923 to northern Michigan. In 1924, the team moved to North Michigan by train, gathered again at Gretchen and Clara Ford's Wayside Inn in Massachusetts, and visited Chief executive Coolidge at his house in Vermont.

The visits were well structured and prepared. There were large travel vehicles and automobiles to carry the tourists, household staff, and equipment. The 1919 trip involved forty automobiles, such as two designed by Ford: a kitchen car with a fuel oven and built-in icebox presided over by a cook and a large traveling car on a truck framework with spaces for camp tents, cots, seats, electric lighting, etc. On later visits, there was a huge, foldable round table prepared with a lazy susan that allows twenty people to sit down.

Over time, these visits took on mythological ratios, demanding an entourage of guests and resources, gaining luminaries as visitors and producing numerous (and sometimes unbelievable) experiences. Photographers were often on hand to take images of the four friends and their visitors experiencing the beauty and comparative isolation of their selected environmental expeditions.

For Henry Ford, the visits offered an opportunity to get in touch with his distinctiveness and his non-urban origins. He allegedly never sat still during those trips, but was always out gathering wood, discovering the scenery, and making a connection with nature.

After 1924, the growing popularity of the travelers brought too much public attention and their camping trips were stopped.

It was quite fascinating to think that these four renowned icons actually came up with the idea of “Camping” considering that they were rich. The Four Vagabonds truly show that no matter what your status in life is, nature is part of being human and is still in our deepest roots and will remain forever.

Take a moment to watch footage of the actual camping of the great “Four Vagabonds”


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