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The motel chain grew out of the traveler's desire for consistency and predictability. Warren Belasco explains this need in Americans on the Road:

Affluent tourists looked for familiar brand names for they had learned to distrust local eccentricities. A suspicious traveler, out of his own region, felt more secure sleeping on a Simmons Beautyrest mattress, or drinking a Coca Cola. Assuming that a brand name product was superior, many consumers were willing to pay a premium for such insurance. Cabin owners learned that advertising a Simmons mattress or Congoleum floor attracted additional guests. Also, stocking name brands helped communicate with long distance travelers. Camp ownership and management were strictly individualistic at this point -- no chains, no group advertising. A brand name joined consumers in a "consumption community" that crossed regional lines, making them feel at home wherever they happened to be (Belasco, 40).





In addition to promising familiarity and comfort through advertising their use of nationally known products, motels directly associated themselves with a familiar name by joining referral chains. These referral chains were comprised of individual, independent cabin owners who banded together to win over customers by building on each other's reputations. Members of these associations agreed to abide by certain standards and used a common logo. They advertised together and distributed pamphlets which listed the various members' facility along with a brief description of each. As these associations grew, so did the list of facilities available, as in this rather complicated key. The idea for these referral guides grew out of the AAA guide books of the time (Margolies, 71).

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While cottages and cabins which were part of referral chain retained their individual names and characters, accomodations which were part of a franchised chain were identical. While some of these were owned by individuals, others were owned by corporations. Motels, like gas stations and roadside eateries, were part of the corporatization of roadside America which was so evident during the 1930s.

John Margolies writes about these early franchises in his history of the motel in America, Home Away from Home:
The first successful motel chain was based upon the unforgettable premise of remembering the Alamo. The first Alamo Plaza Tourist Court opened in Waco, Texas, in 1929 -- a joint venture of Edgar Lee Torrance, who was in the automobile business, and Judge J.W. Bartlett. Torrance and Bartlett built the white-stucco facade of their drive-through offic and registration structure so that it looked a lot like the Alamo in San Antonio. Others soon opened in various locations throughout the southern and southwestern United States, some company owned and others franchised, until there were a total of 34 Alamo Plazas by 1960 (Margolies, 71).

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