above, in the 1930s, Airstream wasn't restricted to just making the aluminum bread loaf shaped trailers we instantly think of when imagining an "Airstream"
Photography from the estate of Helen Byam Schwamborn, courtesy Dale Schwamborn, who is Wally Byam’s cousin once removed.
Dale was on many early Airstream caravans with Wally and was an advance scout on the famed African Caravan expedition. Dale’s mother, Helen Byam Schwamborn, worked at Airstream and formed the Wally Byam Caravan Club.
Because aluminum weathers considerably better than Masonite, especially when similarly neglected, survival rates of Airstream’s prewar Masonite campers are quite low.
This has led many to the impression that the Airstream Clipper, introduced in 1936, was the company’s main product before World War II. This ties in well, it seems, with the company’s exclusive use of aluminum after the war. In fact, that isn’t true.
“Airstream’s [Masonite] Airlites and Silver Clouds sold for $500 to $600. The new Clippers…in the neighborhood of $3,500. Since each one was custom, prices varied from a base price to cost-plus."