In Sara Schaefer Munoz’s extensive article Historians and Fans Are Racing to Catalog Homes Sold by Sears [WSJ] she describes the attempts by preservationists to catalog the remaining houses sold through the Sears Catalog.

Precut houses ordered from a Sears catalog were shipped by boxcar in 30,000 pieces — including shingles, nails and paint — and assembled by a local carpenter or by the buyers themselves. Styles ranged from the elaborate, nearly $6,000 Magnolia, to the three-room, no-bath Goldenrod, sold in 1925 for $445. (Outhouses sold separately.)

The choices were quite elaborate: From 1908–1940, Sears, Roebuck and Company sold more than 100,000 homes through their mail-order Modern Homes program. Over that time Sears designed 447 different housing styles.

Sears has a surprisingly extensive archive of information. This includes photos, floor plans, chronology and an extensive history. There is also a nice write up in Wikipedia.

After looking through all this material, it struck me how much higher consumers expectations about housing are now as compared to 100 years ago. Its something that would not fit in a catalogue.



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