The Lady on Horseback

In 1918, Standard Oil of Indiana made mail-order history when they placed a $1 million order with Sears Roebuck & Company for 192 Honor-Bilt homes. It was purported to be the largest order in the history of the Sears Modern Homes department. Standard Oil purchased the houses for their workers in Carlinville, Wood River and Schoper in Southwestern Illinois. Of those 192 houses, 156 went to Carlinville, 12 were built in Schoper and 24 were sent to Wood River.

These houses were built for the coal miners and refinery workers employed by Standard Oil.

Thee best part of the story is, Standard Oil hired a woman to supervise the construction of these 192 houses.  She was known as “The Lady on Horseback”  and her name was Elizabeth Spaulding. According to an article which appeared in the 1967 Illinois State Journal, Ms. Spaulding would ride her horse from house to house, keeping a close eye on the workmen. She kept the construction workers on their toes. Men she’d hired in the early morning were sometimes fired by noon (from the article, “Dear Sirs; Please Send Me 156 Houses”).

On April 23, 1919, The Carlinville Democrat printed a piece which said that the houses in Standard Addition to Carlinville were now ready for occupancy. “Prospective purchasers apply to Charles Fitzgerald, Office of Standard Oil Company (Indiana) corner High and Rice Streets.”

To  learn more about the Sears Homes in Carlinville, click here.

To buy Rose’s newest book, click here.


Photo of Carlinville's Standard Addition, showing houses in various stages of construction.


Vintage photo of Sears Homes in Carlinville soon after construction was completed.

House 2

Another vintage photo from Standard Addition, about 1920.

house 3

Standard Oil's Sears Homes in Wood River

house 4

Sears Homes on 9th Street in Wood River, Illinois

house 6

Rear cover of 1925 Sears Modern Homes catalog

house 7Close up of letter from Standard Oil

To  learn more about the Sears Homes in Carlinville, click here.

To buy Rose’s newest book, click here.

*  *  *

1 Comment

  1. Deborah Heal

    I’m looking for more information about Elizabeth Spaulding for my novel, but I can’t find anything online–not even the 1967 journal article you mention.

    Could you please email me and let me know where to look? Perhaps you have more details than what you put in your book (which I devoured yesterday, thank you very much).

    I think she sounds fascinating and just the sort of person I like to fictionalize.

    I could always imagine her into life, but if there are more details about her I’d like to have them. Thanks for any help you could give.