Image: Click to embiggen. 1908 Sears mail-order house No. 115 for $725.
I used to write ads for Sears, and I always admired their influence in American DIY/maker culture. They had a huge influence on reducing local general stores' price-gouging practices, and they gave consumers access to goods that were hard to come by (they started when there were no cars and only 38 US states). Back when Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Montgomery Ward were battling it out over who would be the analog version of Amazon, Sears offered increasingly ambitious and specialized catalogs. One of their most ambitious projects was mail-order homes, inspired by success of The Aladdin Company. Last year, Cory blogged about Thomas Edison's similar prefab concrete home venture. But Sears Modern Homes had huge success with their wood-framed homes from 1908 through the Great Depression. Their cheapest model was $107 in 1908 (about $2,000 today). Unlike a lot of modern prefab, these were made to last; you can still find these homes here and there around the country.
Andrea James is a writer, director, producer and activist based in Los Angeles. Her work often focuses on consumer activism, the free culture movement, exogenous mysticism, humor, and LGBT rights.