Part of a group of six photographs depicting the Rolfe family of Elsternwick on camping holidays with the pop-up caravan trailer built by motor body builder Charles W. Rolfe.

Charles William Rolfe was born at Maryborough, central Victoria, on the 8th September 1878. After schooling he trained as a apprentice coachbuilder with the local firm of Martin, Millgate & Cosstick, who had opened a coachworks in High Street, Maryborough, in 1890. As part of his training, C.W. Rolfe built a detailed scale model of a horse-drawn dog cart or buggy (now held in the Museum Victoria collections - ST 023999 ), which he exhibited at several local agricultural shows, between 1898 and 1902.

Charles moved to Melbourne in the early 1900s and found work as a motor body trimmer with a firm in South Melbourne. He married Mabel Tassell in 1913, and they settled in Elsternwick, raising two children - Mabel Dorie (born 1913) and Victor Charles (born 1919). Charles later established his own motor body building business that operated at Elsternwick and Richmond from 1923 to 1938.

Aside from his business activities, Charles turned his skills to a variety of domestic projects, building a large timber sideboard and a radiogram entertainment unit for their home. In the mid 1920s, he designed and built a camping trailer, which in many ways was a prelude to modern camper trailer designs, incorporating such features as a pop-up roof and two foldout beds that could be extended on either side of the trailer. The family used the camping trailer for family holidays to places throughout Victoria. Charles purchased a DeSoto car that was used for towing the camper van and built a wooden boat that fitted neatly on top of the van.

Description of Content

Taken on route to the Rolfe family's annual camping holiday over the Christmas break in 1940. A 1930s sedan style motor car is parked at an angle on an unsealed dirt road with a pop-up camper trailer/caravan hitched to the rear towbar. The camper trailer was designed and built by Charles W. Rolfe - a trained coach and motor body builder - during the 1920s for use on family holidays. It has the form of a large enclosed rectangular box with two wooden-spoked wheels. The lid of the trailer could be raised to form a walk-in caravan while the sides folded out to form two beds. On top of the camper trailer is a wooden boat, also built by Charles Rolfe. The silhouette shadow of the photographer can be seen on the roadway in the foreground. Two cypress trees can be seen on the roadside behind the motor car.

Physical Description

Digital copy of a photograph.

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