Tin Can Tourists

Tin Can Tourists hosted winter conventions in Arcadia from 1924 to 1932, and in Sarasota from 1933 to 1938.

Editor’s note: This article was first featured at yoursun.com. 

Many people may be surprised to learn that Florida tourism has been around for more than 100 years. Though it really took off when people started owning cars and driving here. It made vacationing more affordable.

Statistics from the American Automobile Association show 28 million people owned cars in 1920.

Automobiles brought a new kind of adventurous freedom to the average family. Previously it was mostly the very wealthy who had the means to travel.

Camping trips in the family automobile became extremely popular. Soon people began hitching up homemade trailers or “car houses” to their automobiles and started expanding the distances they traveled, looking for new areas to explore. Exotic Florida was one such destination that beckoned with it’s famous sunshine, beaches, spectacular fishing and orange trees.

The state quickly saw an economical advantage of having so many “motor tourists” coming to visit. They liked seeing the previously empty roads full of cars and increased road building.

More paved roads would mean more tourists, so thought the state.


These pioneering motor-tourists unknowingly became a big influence in several ways in Florida, but especially for the state’s early road development. By 1930, the state bragged it had 3,000 miles of paved roads.

The motor-tourists also had a huge impact on the birth of the many pre-Disney roadside attractions that Florida became known for, some of which were very quirky. And many were so taken by the tropical living they eventually purchased property contributing to Florida’s land development.

Automobile travel groups began popping up, catering to these new traveling campers. The most popular and well-known organization was formed in 1919 in Tampa and was called the T.C.T., which stood for Tin Can Tourists. The purpose of the travel groups was to provide members with information about clean campsites, good roads and entertaining sites to visit.


Tin Can members evidently took themselves and their group quite seriously. They soon wanted to recognize and socialize with each other. Also, some vendors and campgrounds offered special prices to them. So, as to identify themselves, members started soldering a tin can to their radiator cap. And later, when they got together, they could express their delight in meeting other members by exchanging a secret handshake or singing their theme song. When passing each other on the road they would display secret hand signals.

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