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Posts Tagged ‘kit log homes’

Sears and The Wizard Block-Making Machine

August 11th, 2010 Sears Homes 1 comment

In the early years of the 20th Century, cement was all the rage. And the idea of making your own cinder blocks (for fun and profit) apparently also became quite popular. The back pages of the 1905 issues of American Carpenter and Builder (a building magazine from that era) were filled with advertisements for block-making machines and cement-stirring machines.

Sears offered the Wizard Block Making machine which retailed for $57.50 (a bargain at twice the price!). And Sears suggested that a man could save a lot of money on building a new home if he made his own blocks. Now if a man devoted himself to making nothing but blocks and if a man had someone else preparing the cement for pouring, he could make about one every two minutes. To do this, the poured cement was loaded into a form, pressed down in this contraption and then removed. The form was not removed until the concrete had hardened a bit. That meant if you were serious about making blocks, you had to have several forms on hand.

The ad below suggests that the block could be removed immediately from the form. I’d love to know if that was accurate. Having never made a block in the Sears Roebuck Wizard Block Making Machine, I can’t say for sure.

Sears estimated that 1,300 blocks were needed for the basement of The Chelsea (one of their kit homes). The Chelsea was a modest foursquare on a short cellar. It’d be safe to assume that a Chelsea made of nothing but block would require more than 4,000 blocks. If you devoted yourself to the creation of those blocks and really hustled, you’d need about 17 eight-hour days to do nothing but work like a dog making blocks and setting forms in the sun and breaking open the forms and placing the forms back into the machine. And that’s if he had someone else preparing the cement. That’s a lot of work.

When I give talks on Sears Homes, I get a surprising number of questions about the Wizard Block Making Machine. Apparently this labor-intensive, cinder-block maker was quite a popular item for Sears.

Close-up of The Wizard

Close-up of The Wizard


The Wizard Block Making Machine from an early 1900s Sears specialty catalogue

In what looks like a backwards evolution graphic, a man demonstrates how to use the easy-to-use Wizard block-making machine.

In what looks like a backwards evolution graphic, a man demonstrates how to use the "easy-to-use" Wizard block-making machine.

Sometimes, They’re Sitting in the Middle of Kansas Cornfields

August 5th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

In 2007, I traveled to Quinter, Kansas to visit Gale Ringer and learn more about his family’s “Ohio.” His grandfather, Mathias Ringer had purchased the Wardway kit home before World War I, and amazingly, this house had stayed in the family through the generations.

During my three-day stay with the Ringer family, we went driving around other parts of Kansas and that’s when we found the Aladdin Villa, sitting in the middle of a very large field.

As soon as possible, I sent a photo of the house to Dale Wolicki (who is THE expert on Aladdin Homes) and he could hardly believe that we’d stumbled upon one of Aladdin’s fanciest homes in such a quiet, rural area.

Aladdin was a kit home company that (like Sears), sold entire houses through their mail order catalog. Aladdin started selling kit homes in 1906 and outlasted all the competition, finally closing their doors in 1981.

Not surprisingly, North Carolina has many Aladdin Kit Homes. Aladdin had a massive mill in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Do you have a Villa in your city? If so, please leave a comment below!

To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

Aladdin was a bigger company than Sears - in its day - but not as well known. They sold about 75,000 kit homes during their 75 years in business.

Aladdin was a bigger company than Sears - in its day - but not as well known. They sold about 75,000 kit homes during their 75 years in business. This page appeared in the 1914 catalog, before they opened their mill in Wilmington, NC.

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The Villa was their biggest fanciest house.

The Villa was their biggest fanciest house.

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Look at the size of these rooms!

Look at the size of these rooms!

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The 1919 catalog featured interior views of the Aladdin Living Room.

The 1919 catalog featured "interior" views of the Aladdin Living Room.

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And the dining room...

And the dining room...

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The Villa, as shown in the 1919 catalog.

The Villa, as shown in the 1919 catalog.

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This Villa is one of the prettiest Ive ever seen. Its in Atlanta.

This Villa is one of the prettiest I've ever seen. It's in Atlanta.

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This Villa is in Scotland Neck, NC.

This Villa is in Scotland Neck, NC.

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Driving around the Quinter area with the Ringer family in 2007, I discovered this perfect Aladdin Villa sitting in the middle of a massive Kansas cornfield. The Villa was probably Aladdins biggest and best house.

And this is the Villa in Kansas, sitting in the middle of a massive Kansas cornfield.

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Aladdin Villa from the catalog

Look at the price! That was an expensive house in the 1910s!

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To learn more about Aladdin Kit Homes, click here.