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Finding aid for Omar Suttles papers, 1927-1981
1292  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Restrictions on Access
  • Restrictions on Use and Reproduction
  • Preferred Citation
  • Processing Information
  • Biography/History
  • Scope and Content
  • Organization and Arrangement

  • Title: Omar Suttles papers
    Collection number: 1292
    Contributing Institution: UCLA Library Special Collections
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 3.2 linear ft. (8 boxes)
    Date (bulk): Bulk, 1950-1979
    Date (inclusive): 1927-1981
    Abstract: Omar Suttles (1893-1980) was the founder of the Airfloat Coach Manufacturing Company and manufactured one of the earliest travel trailers built specifically for recreation. He co-founded the Trailer Coach Association (TCA), presently known as Manufactured Housing Institute, and wrote a long-running column for Trailer Life magazine. The collection consists primarily of Suttles' scrapbooks, photographs, reminiscences, correspondence, memorabilia, brochures, and other printed materials, ranging from approximately 1927 to 1981, with Suttles posthumously receiving correspondence and honorary mentions in serials.
    Language of Materials: Materials are in English.
    Physical Location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact the UCLA Library Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.

    Restrictions on Access

    COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF: Open for research. Advance notice required for access. Contact the UCLA Library Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.

    Restrictions on Use and Reproduction

    Property rights to the physical object belong to the UCLA Library Special Collections. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Omar Suttles papers (Collection 1292). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library.

    Processing Information

    Processed by Annie Tang in 2014 in the Center for Primary Research and Training (CFPRT), with assistance from Jasmine Jones. This collection was initially processed at collection level to facilitate access and has now been processed at folder level.

    Biography/History

    Omar Suttles (1893-1980) was the founder of Airfloat, a Southern California trailer manufacturer. Born in 1893 in Arkansas, Suttles eventually moved to San Diego, where he not only worked for the Chrysler car company, but also had a short career as an automobile racer.
    In 1927, Suttles moved to Los Angeles, where he met his wife, Ruth. They married in 1928. At this time, Suttles started his Chrysler repair shop business, where he would eventually manufacture one of the earliest travel trailers built specifically for recreation. By 1931, he had established the Airfloat Coach Manufacturing Company. His wife became an integral part of the firm’s operations,particularly with regard to the trailers' interior design.
    In 1936, Suttles became a founding member of the Trailer Manufacturers Association, later known as the Trailer Coach Association (TCA). The TCA, in 1975, merged with other similar organizations to form what is today called the Manufactured Housing Institute. In addition to being a membership-based organization, the TCA also published Trailer Life magazine, previously known as Western Trailer Life. Suttles wrote a running column in the 1970s, detailing the early years of trailer travel and the trailer manufacturing industry.
    Airfloat contributed to the military effort of World War II, as the U.S. federal government commissioned thousands of trailers for its armed forces. The company hit its peak in the post-war period and contributed to the popularity of American cross-country tourism from the late 1940s to the 1950s. In 1955, the firm celebrated its 25th anniversary. During Suttles’ 26-year ownership of the Airfloat company, he was able to patent several trailer design features.
    By 1956, Suttles and his wife sold the business, acquired their own Airfloat trailer, and, in their retirement, reveled in the recreation past Airfloat customers had enjoyed for decades.
    When Omar Suttles passed away in 1980, his wife Ruth donated his papers to UCLA shortly after in 1981.

    Scope and Content

    The collection consists primarily of Suttles' scrapbooks, photographs, reminiscences, correspondence, memorabilia, brochures, and other printed materials, ranging from approximately 1927 to 1981, with Suttles posthumously receiving correspondence and honorary mentions in serials. The bulk of the content originates mostly from the period of the 1950s to 1970s, reflecting the later years of the Suttles’ ownership of the Airfloat firm and their travel lifestyle. The bulk of the material relates to travel.

    Organization and Arrangement

    This collection has been arranged in the following series:
    • Series 1: History of Airfloat, circa 1927-1981
    • Series 2: Travel, 1936-1981
    Except for Series 1: History of Airfloat, no consistent original order exists. The Suttles’ categorical notes and labels within the collection influenced the arrangement and description.