Coleman RV History Starts with the Coleman Company

June 24, 2016

From Coleman lanterns to Coleman RVs, more than 100 years of tradition

Coleman RV History Starts with the Coleman Company

A young salesman noticed a steady white flame in a gasoline lamp through a drugstore window in Brockton, Ala., in the early 1900s. The steady, strength of that flame intrigued that salesman, W.C. Coleman, and that intrigue eventually reshaped the camping industry. 

During that time, the standard lamp burned kerosene, producing a smoky, flickering, yellowish light. W.C. Coleman saw potential a new potential for gasoline lamps, and his company was born, eventually becoming a household name in outdoor recreation. During the 1950s, insulated Coleman coolers were born, then in the 60s, “The Outdoor Company” began making tents, backpacks, sleeping bags and catalytic heaters. More than 100 years later, the Coleman Company is the leader in all things camping, including recreational vehicles. But all these years later, one constant remains — Coleman’s light still burns bright.


To gauge the impact of the first Coleman gas lamps, W.C. Coleman strung his lamps from poles that lined both sides of a football field in 1905 at Fairmount College in Wichita, Kansas. Thanks to Coleman, historians say it was the first night football game west of the Mississippi. Since then, more than 50 million Coleman lanterns have been sold around the world. Today, these lanterns are LED, shining bright for up to 75 hours. LED bulbs run cool, so the lantern is always safe to touch, even when it’s been on four hours.


After World War II, car camping became popular in the 1940s. W.C. Coleman recognized the unwavering trend, so he created the fold-up gasoline camp stove to meet consumers’ on-the-go dining needs. Quickly, it became a must-have product. Retailers billed the two-burner stove as a “keen cooker and a quick seller.” Today, the Coleman dual-fuel two-burner stove gives you the power of 14,000 BTUs, letting you cook breakfast, lunch and dinner in all kinds of weather. Together, the Coleman lantern and the Coleman camp stove are excellent travel companions.


Picnic chests used to be made from heavy steel, known to sweat and eventually rust. In the 1950s, a Coleman engineer innovated the cooler industry by heating sheets of plastic and molding them into coolers. Known as the Cooler Company since 1954, the popularity of the Coleman Cooler is still hot in 2016, with sizes and options galore. For example, the 82 Quart Xtreme 6 Wheeled Cooler is large enough to hold 129 cans, or there’s the 120-quarter Xtreme 5 Cooler that can keep 204 cans cold for up to six days.


By 1967, Coleman began adding its iconic logo to camping trailers, and by 1979, Coleman had become the best-selling brand of camping trailers in the United States — a position held until 2010. Over the years, different RV manufacturers licensed the Coleman name. Today, the Coleman lineup includes expandable models, travel trailers and toy haulers, all built under the Dutchmen Manufacturing roof in Goshen, Indiana, where the company just celebrated its 25th anniversary building reputable RVs.


Today, the Coleman name continues to outfit people’s passion for the Great Outdoors with a full line of affordable travel trailers that provide you all the conveniences of home. Just this year, Dutchmen introduced the economical Coleman Light Series, a nimble package for young families. Light on weight but big on features, this series features expansive slideouts, 80 inches of interior height and a host of homelike amenities. Meanwhile, the Coleman Lantern lineup adds even more features and even offers a toy hauler travel trailer model to ramp up even more on the outdoor gear. In short, the Coleman legacy of camping innovations lives on …

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