Tuesday, January 10, 2012

10 January 1933 “Mail Order Homes: House & Home”

mailorderhouse3 Just a short post today. I received a few key books in the mail today and am now going through and outlining some points for future posts concerning making and keeping the Home.

This made me think more about the home as the House or the building in which we dwell. And while looking through my various ‘new’ magazines from the 1930’s, I continually see advertising for mail order homes. I am finding it amazing the prices these houses are able to be sold. They often include delivery and fittings as well. Some are more expensive, as this one heremailorderhouse2 which is from the late 1930’s early 1940’s I believe. But this one here mailorderhouse4 from my 1932 Better Homes and Gardens shows this darling little starter home at $1420. Adjusted for inflation (and boy do we have inflation) this type of home would still only be $23,653.00. That is a very low cost for a completely constructed new home. Of course this does not include the cost of the lot, but land, as we will look into later, was not as expensive as today either.

Later, in the 1950’s, homes will become even less expensive and of course will be built in subdivisions created for that purpose. We do not really have the exodus of the Suburbs here in 1933. And pre WWII construction costs and manufacturing is actually a bit higher, having not kicked into high gear nor being subsidized by the Government as it will be in WWII and 1950s. Therefore, even considering that, these are rather good prices for darling little homes with quality wood detailing and fine craftsmanship (in fact much better than we will see in the 1950’s).

This simply leaves me a bit sad at the current state of affairs. Even during the Depression years, though of course there were many who could not afford a home , those who could, could do so with much less than today. And certainly a SAHW or SAHM would be easier to come by with hubby’s paycheck. I do know, of course, that with increasing job loss many reversed roles existed where father was at home jobless, while mother earned a living say sewing out or doing odd jobs to help support the family. But, we did still have a middle class, much less so perhaps than in the 1950’s, but still very much there.

My main point and contemplation for today, then, is housing. And of course the Home. One cannot make a home without a house. And one of the main Needs we have, besides food and clothing, is shelter. Where we lay our heads, laugh, cry and make our family is rather important. How it is made and its costs say a lot about a society. I think we need to begin really considering this and our world at large as a modern society. And looking back to how it was once considered will help us to better understand and plan for our future in this country and the world at large.

Are we happy with outrageous prices and housing bubbles? Are we pleased that those who caused such problems got a ‘bail out’ while many homeowners struggle to keep their overpriced and over valued homes alive? Are we glad to struggle onward  with two incomes to pay for homes that sit empty and uncared for with all pooled money going into simply paying the mortgage? Have we become slaves to the new type of house and home? And what will and should House and Home become to mean in the 21st century? I believe we all have some considering to do.

30sfamily And I hope, in the coming year, that 1933 will reveal to me where we came from and what is worth bringing back from those days gone by. And what House and Home meant and what it can mean again.

Happy Homemaking.


  1. What a neat floor plan! I love this walk in time and I wish that more did this. It is time to get back to a simpler time when we appreciated debt and worked hard not to obtain it. Small, simple, elegant yet efficient!


  2. That first house at the top, there are several homes that look like that in my neighborhood. They're just so, so cute. I have no idea if those near me were actually mail order or not. My own house was built in 1935, but no where near as cute as those. It hasn't been updated much over the years either so some of the old style touches are still in place - the coal door along the side of the house, the original milk door (though this is sealed now), and original wood floor, badly in need of refurbishing.

  3. Have you ever seen Buster Keaton's 'Seven Days' It shows what can go wrong when building a kit house.

  4. "One cannot make a home without a house."
    Oh, I don't know. We manage with a crappy little apartment. And since Saturday we're authentically 1930s with a cold water flat!
    (yes, I am joking, but sadly not about the lack of hot water)

  5. I don't understand it either: I mean why do people spend so much on a house nowadays?

  6. I like the idea "what it can mean again."

  7. First, about a week ago my husband and I chanced upon a Buster Keaton film about a newlywed couple and their mail order house...It was interesting to see the numbered crates which were brought to the homesite.

    My second thought goes along with the many small abandoned homes I see these days in our rural Georgia scene. I daresay they weren't abandoned until the 60's for the most part and most likely were homes used in the depression era. They are quite modest, most consisting of two bedrooms, a living room and eat in kitchen with a bumpout where the bath was added once indoor plumbing was possible.

    Rural areas of Georgia were not electrified until the late 1950's so these homes wouldn't have had the benefit of light,running water, etc. It was all ice boxes and wood or coal or gas stoves, washboards and wringers for the laundry (many and many a patient in the nursing homes will talk still of 'boiling laundry' out in the yard over an open fire), outhouses and hand pumps or buckets on rope and pulley at open wells. I saw many of these things growing up in the 1970's even (well we did have the electricity but many rural homes continued with out houses as second baths(!), and my grandparents kept a bucket and dipper as the drinking water, just as they had grown up with in the '20's. And all of these things would have applied to our Middle class and upper class folks as well who might reside rurally!

  8. oh goodness, when I said you need a House to make a home, I meant house, apt, tent what have you. A place you call your own. Many people, of course, own apartments and they are very much their home.

    I shall have to check out the Buster Keaton film, sounds hilarious.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. we live in a brick cape cod style house built in 1935. i know it wasn't a mail order house, it was built by a local doctor for his family. we too have all the quirky little touches from that period......coal door on the outside of the house, original wood floors, original windows, etc. but we LOVE it! it has wonderful character, a gorgeous fireplace and it's small enough to make keeping it clean very easy. :)

  11. Yes the older homes that have not been 'modernized' have such charm. They did not make homes with box like rooms then but homes had style and individuality. You did not have to work so hard to make it special...it already had many built in charms. The little extra details in the woodwork and arched door ways and so many little features add so much. The pride of the workers shows in the details. Sarah

  12. My grandparents built a home just like the first one you show! They were married in 1930 and lived with in laws while they built the house. It was so lovely and my grandpa did a lot of extra "built-ins." It burned to the ground in the 1990's but I have WONDERFUL memories and can "walk through" it in my mind. I have the original plans as they didn't throw a thing away. :0) Dee

  13. Undertaking the construction of a new home can be very intimidating right from the start.

    Electrician Wellesley

  14. We have had a major upsurgance in home costs in our area in the last 20 years. The people of the suburbs of Chicago decided this area was "quaint" and a great spot for a 'summer home'. This is all fine and dandy, except they would come over, purchase a home that was worth, oh say $50,000 for $120,000, claim it was a great deal. Then they would proceed to tear down that house and put up a house that was now worth $400,000. I know several people who have been TAXED right out of their homes because of this. The taxes just keep going up, and those who lived there before cannot afford it.

    My own home, we paid around $115,000. This almost same house in my brothers town would be about $60,000. And in the Chicago suburbs it would run around $300,000.

    Along with the taxes, the cost of living in our area has skyrocketed as well. If I drive a few miles east, I find things about 30% cheaper than around here. They price it knowing the summer people think it is cheap and will buy here.

    Best of luck on the 30's.

    Lorie B.

  15. Prices for homes now are so high for many reasons, but it is mainly since the introduction of the home mortgage. Years ago it was considered shameful to owe money on a house, and it was not built or bought until someone had the full price saved up. Nowadays, people just buy according to the monthly payment. I am sure those house kits were easier to build too because there were not so many zoning restrictions and regulations back then.

  16. I'm also going to recommend the Keaton film. We saw it a while back and loved it.

    Interesting what Katie says about mortgages. Spouse doesn't even feel one is really middle class if they still owe money on their home. What that makes us as renters...

    In many ways we are doing things of the young couple starting out: renting a small place while trying to save for some place of our own. The apartment feels even smaller now with a baby here. Then I remember I'm not actually young and it gets depressing.


 Search The Apron Revolution