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What happened to the mail-order house?

Last century saw more affordable homes through reduced costs for materials, construction
Published on Mar 28, 2008

A century ago, Henry Ford's canny use of mass production put the automobile -- a former plaything of the wealthy -- within reach of the average American. Since then, mass production has made complex products from clocks to computers affordable to pretty much everyone. In the same 100 years, however, the way we build houses has hardly changed at all. In fact, if you set aside niceties like electricity, telephones and central heating, basic building techniques have actually changed very little in a millennium. Whether we assemble houses with oaken pegs or pneumatic nails, they're still largely handmade from laboriously cut and fitted individual pieces, and put together one at a time. Over the course of the 20th century, there have been many attempts to bring mass-production methods to the building industry. The Aladdin Co. began selling precut houses in 1906, and two years later, retailing giant Sears Roebuck began offering houses by mail order. Each Sears Modern Home came ...

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