In the late 1940s, American builders found themselves competing against a growing number of prefabricated housing manufacturers in a race to meet demand for detached, single-family homes in the suburbs. The National Homes Corporation of Lafayette, Indiana, and its competitors were pioneering the mass manufacture of room-sized panels that could be shipped by truck to the building site and assembled by unskilled workers. Although the production experience prefabricators gained during the war made the factory-built home’s peacetime success seem certain, they were met with skeptical consumers. National Homes propelled itself to the top of the prefab industry with a three-pronged campaign aimed at banks, builders, and buyers. Advertising for National Homes, which ran in nationally circulating financial publications, building trade journals, and consumer magazines, reveals prefabricators’ struggle to gain traction in a competitive housing market and sheds light on the shift within the building industry from the production of standardized economy dwellings in the 1940s to individualized homes offering the latest design trends and custom features in the 1950s. Analysis of the company’s “revolution in home merchandising” enriches our understanding of the competing interests and conflicting values that shaped the postwar housing boom.


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pp. 66-94
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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