In 1908, a little ad appeared on page 594 of the Sears general merchandise catalog. It read, “Let us be your architect, without cost to you.” Interested buyers were invited to write in and request the free catalog, “Book of Modern Homes and Building Plans.” The first houses ranged in price from $500 to $5000.
The mail-order homes were shipped by boxcar and came in 12,000 piece kits. Sears promised that a “man of average abilities” could have one assembled and ready for occupancy in 90 days. That was probably a little optimistic, but if you requested a Sears mortgage on your Sears kit home, there was a requirement that thee house be occupied within four months of purchase!
By the early 1910s, the specialty catalogs featuring these kit homes had a new title: “Sears Modern Homes.” And they really were modern homes.
In 1917, American Carpenter and Builder Magazine reported that “watertight roof, walls and floor are an essential feature of a modern city house.”
Below is a picture of a soddie. These were very primitive and dark and dank; undoubtedly a fairly miserable way to spend the day, nine months out of the year. One look at these soddies (below) and you’ll fast understand why a pretty little Sears bungalow would be classified as a “Modern Home.”
To learn more about these Modern Homes, click here.
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