Kit Home Companies
Kit homes were made by manufacturers like Sears, Aladdin, Gordon Van Tine, and dozens more, and were designed for affordability. The materials were often top-notch, and nearly 100 years later many of these small, old houses are eagerly sought after. Home builders were able to pick up crates of materials at the local train station and, with a little help from their friends and kin, assemble their new homes over the course of a summer.
There were hundreds of catalogs and pamphlets produced by different manufacturers and product vendors, which would-be owners thumbed through eagerly dreaming of a home of their own with its garden and white picket fence … a place of refuge and domestic bliss that provided emotional and financial security. Such were the poetic promises in many magazines and books. This concentrated marketing effort reshaped the way Americans thought about home, imbuing the concept with health, happiness, and contentment.
People found designs mainly in plan books handed out by lumber dealers. Piracy among publishers was rampant.
Everyone “borrowed” from everyone else and it was common for identical plans to appear in different books with only the smallest changes. William A. Radford and C. L. Bowes both published prolifically. Radford employed dozens of designers and architects and left a rich legacy of books and magazines. Bowes licensed his plans to lumber yards for publication under their names. Standard House Plans did the same thing as did the National Plan Service. Even companies like Morgan Sash & Door or Bilt-Well, which were both known for their doors, windows, and trim, offered plans in their catalogs. Architects frequently marketed themselves in the popular magazines of the day with their designs … Frank Lloyd Wright for example.