House made of discarded airplane engine crates (1939)

From Shorpy Historical Archives, this stunning photo by Russell Lee.

March 1939. "House in Mexican section made of discarded airplane engine crates. San Antonio, Texas." Medium-format nitrate negative by Russell Lee for the Resettlement Administration. View full size.


  1. When Ford shipped Model Ts to Europe, the wood from the packing crates was reused as floorboards. Why ship two pieces of wood then discard one of them?

    1. I’ve heard that he specified the dimensions of the crates his suppliers should use, so that he could reuse the wood.

    2.  Kingsford Charcoal is a direct descendant of Ford Charcoal, a side business started to use up the wood scraps generated by Ford sawmills, which milled the wood from Ford forests used in making Ford cars. Ford at one time made it’s own steel, it’s own glass (from sand mines owned and operated by Ford) and generated its own electricity at Ford hydroelectric plants.

  2. My grandparents small farm house near Black River Falls/Osseo Wisconsin was built with wood from old TNT boxes. The TNT was used for railway excavating.  We had heard the story, then when I was about 11, I went with him into the crawlspace/basement under the house and he pointed out the marking on the wood above our heads.  Coolest thing ever.

  3. I have been in more than a few houses that have attic flooring made of old crate slats.  My own house built in 1947 had (now replaced with a second story) attic floorboards made from Argus Camera shipping crate slats, and one whole crate side, as in the photo above.  Depending on what shipped in them they were nominal 3/4″ planks, more than sturdy enough for sub-flooring or roof decking when laid properly.

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