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The Bookshop’s Book Caravan

Book caravan painting

The Caravan was outfitted to Bertha’s specifications by Charles Hodgkins.
This painting is probably his work.

In the summers of 1920 and 1921, Bertha Mahony had a truck outfitted to sell books and trained two booksellers from her Bookshop for Boys and Girls to drive and maintain it. Though the Book Caravan was a commercial flop, it got plenty of attention in its day, including featured stories by all the movie reel companies. In the slideshow below you can see images of the caravan and the diary its drivers kept in the summer of 1921. You can read about the caravan in detail in Barbara Bader’s 1999 Horn Book Magazine article, “Treasure Island by the Roadside.” We also offer transcriptions of selected pages from the caravan diary and a slideshow of newspaper clippings.

Slide 1
Probably a preliminary sketch of the Caravan by Charles Hodgkins
Slide 2
In the summers of 1920 and 1921, two booksellers drove the Caravan around New England.
Slide 3
The Caravan's vehicle registration
Slide 4
The Caravan had an awning on one side to shield customers from the rain — or sun.
Slide 5
Before arriving at one of their selling destinations, the Caravan drivers stopped to clean the car.
Slide 6
Before arriving at one of their selling destinations, the Caravan drivers stopped to clean the car.
Slide 7
At some locations, business was brisk.
Slide 8
At other times, there were fewer customers.
Slide 9
Inside the Caravan were shelves and a bench.
Slide 10
A group reading aloud
Slide 11
The Caravan makes a city stop
Slide 12
The drivers found that beaches brought plenty of browsers but not very many sales.
Slide 13
A young customer
Slide 14
The Caravan drivers kept a diary. Read more diary pages and transcriptions here.




  1. It’s interesting to see how books were traded back in the day. I think it’s fun to look back at how far we’ve come! From buying books from cars to buying them online!

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