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Posts Tagged ‘sears and roebuck kits’

Richard Warren Sears: A Few Fun Facts!

November 28th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

As mentioned in my previous blog, Richard Warren Sears was my hero, and he really was a marketing genius.

Here’s my #1 favorite story that showcases his brilliance:

Knowing that many households would have both his catalog and the Montgomery Ward catalog, Sears purposefully designed his catalog a little shorter and narrower than the Ward catalog. He knew that when the housewife was tidying up the home, the Sears catalog, being smaller, would be stacked on top of the Wards catalog.

The book Sears Roebuck and Company: 100th Anniversary relates that a Sunday School pupil was asked,”Where did the Ten Commandments come from?” The child innocently replied, “From the Sears, Roebuck catalog.”

Local merchants and owners of general stores were up in arms at the low prices Sears offered in his catalog and the bold promises that buyers could save money by eliminating the middle man. Of course, the middle man that Sears wanted to eliminate was the owner of the general store! In more than a few towns, children were promised a free movie ticket for every Sears catalog they brought into the local store. The catalogs were then piled high and ceremoniously burned in a massive bonfire.

In 1896, the annual sales for the mail order firm of Sears and Roebuck were $1.2 million and by 1914 they hit $101 million. At its peak in 1915, the general merchandise catalog contained 100,000 items in 1200 pages and weighed four pounds.

During World War I, the Sears Roebuck catalog was the book most requested by American soldiers recovering in overseas hospitals. Julius Rosenwald sailed to France in the midst of the Great War (WWI) with four huge wooden crates, each filled with Sears catalogs, for distribution to the American boys lying in a hospital. (The Good Old Days; A History of American Morals and Manners as Seen Through the Sears Roebuck Catalogs.)

According to Sears, Roebuck, USA: The Great American Catalog Store and How It Grew a Sears customer wrote and asked to return several bottles of patent medicine shed purchased from Sears, explaining that the medicine had originally been intended for her husband and he’d since passed on. The clerk who received the inquiry responded by asking the woman if shed like to see a copy of Sears Tombstone Catalog.

The famous Chicago radio station, WLS, actually began as a promotional tool for Sears. In fact, WLS stands for Worlds Largest Store. The station signed on in 1924 with farm reports and weather information. Sears sold the radio station in the fall of 1928.

In the 1930s, Sears sold live baby chicks through their mail order catalogs. The chicks cost ten cents each and safe, live delivery was promised.

In November 1952, Sears announced it would sell the Allstate - a small car with a 100-inch wheelbase, capable of 35 mpg. It was an incredibly “basic” ride, and the first models lacked trunk lids and glove compartments. The little car with a four or six cylinder engine cost $1395 - $1796. Two years later, Sears stopped selling the cars, having sold about 1500. The reason: Sears was ill-prepared to handle the problem of trade-ins.

To see several beautiful photos of this 1950s Dream Machine, click here.

To see a video of the Henry J (the Sears Allstate), click here.

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For 76.99 pounds (British), you can have your own "Henry J" (Sears Allstate) auto. This is a miniature reproduction of the 1952 "Deluxe" Allstate, offered by minimodelshop.com.uk.

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To order your own Henry J, click here.

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WLS was originally started by Sears and Roebuck to use wholly as a promotional tool. WLS stands for Worlds Largest Store. Shown here is the first edition of the WLS (Sears) employee newsletter.

WLS was originally started by Sears and Roebuck to use wholly as a promotional tool. WLS stands for "World's Largest Store." Shown here is the first edition of the WLS (Sears) employee newsletter.

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Sears had a massive lumber mill just outside of Cairo, Illinois. The street was named Sears and Roebuck Road, but in later years, it was split into two dead-end streets by the highway. One side was named Sears Road.

Sears had a massive lumber mill just outside of Cairo, Illinois. The street was named "Sears and Roebuck Road," but in later years, it was split into two dead-end streets by the highway. One side was named "Sears Road."

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And the other side was named Roebuck Road.

And the other side was named "Roebuck Road."

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And Garmin never got the memo...

And Garmin never got the memo...

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To read more about the mill in Cairo, click here.

To read the prior blog about Richard Sears, click here.

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Ardara: Contrast to the Commonplace

June 4th, 2012 Sears Homes 7 comments

After my talk in Raleigh (May 19th), a woman named Lydia introduced herself to me (and purchased several of my books!). She said that she had family members living in a fine Sears House in Chapel Hill.

That was puzzling, because I had driven through Chapel Hill the day before, and I had only seen Aladdin kit homes, no Sears.

However, while in Chapel Hill, I’d become flustered by the vast amounts of pedestrian traffic (and non-thinking students stepping off curbs right in front of vehicles) and the trees: Massive, leafy, bushy, house-obstructing trees.

Within 30 minutes of arriving into Chapel Hill, I abandoned my search and returned to my hotel in Raleigh.

Had I missed a Sears House in Chapel Hill? It was a distinct possibility.

Soon after I arrived back home to Norfolk, Lydia contacted me and emailed a photo of this fine Sears House in Chapel Hill.

The photo she emailed was a beautiful Sears Ardara.

I’ve not seen many Ardaras in my travels. In fact, I’ve only seen four: One in Zanesville, Ohio, two in Elgin, Illinois and one in Crystal Lake, Illinois. And soon, I hope to visit this Ardara in Chapel Hill!  :)

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read about Buster Keaton’s kit house, click here.

The Ardara first appeared in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Ardara first appeared in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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In both the 1921 and 1928 catalogs, it was offered with and without the attached garage.

In both the 1921 and 1928 catalogs, it was offered with and without the attached garage. This is from the 1928 catalog, and if you compare it with the image above, you'll see the price actually had dropped by 1928.

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This is one of my favorite descriptions (taken from the 1928 catalog). The Ardara is "notable for its contrast to the commonplace...pleasingly combines Oriental and Occidental architecture." And the garage has "the same treatment as the house." Awesome!

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Notice that it has a Music Room. In the late 1920s, this could have a couple meanings.

Notice that it has a "Music Room." In the 1921 version, this room was identified as a den. In 1928, this could have a couple meanings. The phonograph and the radio were all the rage in the late 1920s, and in some of these old floorplans, you'll see this identified as a "radio room," or "space for phonograph." Or it might have been a designated space for the family piano. In this time period, it was expected that most people would own a piano.

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The Sears Ardara in Chapel Hill. What a beauty!  This photo is copyright 2012 Paige Warren and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

The Sears Ardara in Chapel Hill. What a beauty! Note the oversized cornice returns. This is one (of many) eye-catching features on this Colonial-style house. (This photo is copyright 2012 Paige Warren and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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And heres a picture of the same Ardara in the late 1920s, soon after it was built.

And here's a picture of the same Ardara in the 1920s, soon after it was built. The small gable (at the top of the roof) was original to the house, and the dormer was added in the 1950s. (This photo is courtesy of the Wade family and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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The Ardara, soon after it came into the Warren family (February 1944). he in 1944.

The Ardara, soon after it came into the Wade family (February 1944). The dormer (shown in the contemporary photo above) was added in the 1950s to create living space on the second floor. (This photo is courtesy of the Wade family and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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The Ardara

The Ardara, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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An Ardara in Crystal Lake, IL.

An Ardara in Crystal Lake, IL.

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A very sad Ardara in Elgin, IL. (This photo was taken in 2003.)

A very sad Ardara in Elgin, IL. (This photo was taken in 2003.)

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To learn more about what I found in Chapel Hill, click here.

Look at the abundance of Sears Homes I found in Raleigh, NC.

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A Sears House Designed by “Uncle Sam”! (Part II)

May 31st, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

Thanks to Donna Bakke, we now have photos of a real live Sears Wabash. The house is in Wyoming, Ohio (near Cincinnati), and it’s had a few changes but not too many.

To read the previous article on the Sears Wabash, click here.

Sears Wabash, as seen in the 1920 catalog.

Sears Wabash, as seen in the 1920 catalog.

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And there are Wabashes in these towns, too.

And there are "Wabashes" in these towns, too.

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Study the window placement on this floor plan. Theres a pop quiz later on.  :)

Study the window placement on this floor plan. Note there are only two columns on the front porch, whereas typically Sears Homes have groupings of three.

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Wabash

The Wabash, close-up.

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Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and may not

This Wabash is in Wyoming, Ohio and it's a fine example. Those porch columns are pretty interesting. Looks like the traditional Sears column - but it's a double-decker. The Wabash shown here is the mirror image of the image in the catalog. (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Porch detail

Close-up of the front porch. Notice, it has only two columns (where most Sears Homes with this configuration have three columns at each corner).

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Porch detail on house

What a match! (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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To read the previous blog on the Sears Wabash, click here.

To read the blog I  wrote one year ago, click here.

Homart Homes: I Know Where You Live (Part I)

July 4th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

When I retrieved old photos from a dead laptop, I wasn’t surprised to find that I had more than 35,000 photos on the hard drive. The great majority of those photos were Sears kit homes. Of those 35,000 photos, I have one photo of a Sears Homart Prefab Home.

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From 1948-1951, Sears sold prefabricated houses known as Homart Homes. These small houses were shipped by truck (not train) and arrived in sections measuring 4′ by 8′ to 8′ by 8′. Fasteners were included with these diminutive homes, and the houses were bolted together at the site. They were very modest homes with very simple lines and shallow roofs. Most were 600-850 square feet.

Sears Modern Homes - the kit homes that were sold from 1908-1940 - were not prefab houses. Prefabricated houses are - as the word suggests - prefabricated. In other words, they’re pre-built at a central plant, broken down into sections, and then transported to the building site, where they’re re-assembled, quickly and efficiently.

Sears Modern Homes were were true kits, containing 12,000 pieces of house. Each kit came with a 75-page instruction book. They were made with superior quality building materials (#1 southern yellow pine framing members and cypress for everything exterior).

From 1908-1940, about 70,000 Sears Modern Homes were built. Based on some educated guessing from reading old catalogs, fewer than 3,000 Homart Homes were built.

And now I need a little help from my friends. The 1949 Homart Homes catalog lists several addresses where Homart Homes were built. I’d love to have photos of these houses to publish at this site. If you’re so inclined, please get me a photo and send to me? Doing so will launch a veritable wave of good housing karma in your direction. :)  The Homart Homes (for which I have specific addresses) are in Illinois, Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin. Click here to see the specific address of Homart Homes.

Sears also had a line of hardware and home merchandise (electric fans, water heaters, tools) which bore the name “Homart.” And where did they get that name? In the first decades of the 1900s, Sears headquarters was located in Chicago, at the corner of Homan and Arthington Street. Homart is a combination of those two street names.

To see pictures of Sears Modern Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

Homart Homes were very modest prefab homes offered after WW2. Today, its nearly impossible to find these houses, because they were so plain and in subsequent years, most have been covered with substitute sidings.

Homart Homes were very modest prefab homes offered after WW2. Today, it's nearly impossible to find these houses, because they were so plain and in subsequent years, most have been covered with substitute sidings.

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In the catalog shown above, there were several addresses of known Homart Homes in Illinois. This house (in Monmouth, IL) was listed in the catalog as a Homart Home. Thanks to Carol Parrish for sending in this photo!

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For the most part, these were very modest homes.

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Look at the size of the rooms in this first house!

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This was their most spacious Homart Home, but you can see from the photo below, this is also a pretty modest house. One of the bedrooms is 7 feet by 9 feet. As long as Junior never outgrows his crib, this should work just fine.

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This was the largest Homart Home offered in the 1950 catalog, and it's not very big at all.

Homart

Close-up shows that these Homarts were well-constructed homes.

Homart Homes arrived in sections, which were bolted together.

Homart Homes arrived in sections, which were bolted together.

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The houses were not wholly prefabricated and pre-built. A significant bit of onsite building was required.

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Roof trusses were pre-built in Homart Homes, and walls arrived in sections. Lap siding covered the sectioned walls, hiding the home's prefab origins.

These porches could be a clue in identifying Homart Homes. Every Homart Home offered in the 1950 catalog had this unique configuration on the front stoop.

These porches could be a clue in identifying Homart Homes. Every Homart Home offered in the 1950 catalog had this unique configuration on the front stoop.

A variation of that unique woodwork around the stoop.

A variation of that unique woodwork around the stoop.

An old Sears Homart (prefab house) sits on the edges of the city, not far from the Sears Mill in Cairo, IL

An old Sears Homart (prefab house) sits on the edges of the city, not far from the Sears Mill in Cairo, IL. Homart Homes were post-WW2 Sears Homes that were shipped out in sections, which were then bolted together at the building site. These were radically different from "Sears Modern Homes" which were pre-cut kit homes. And usually, they just don't "age" as well as the sturdier "Modern Homes" (Honor Bilt homes).

To learn more about kit homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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