The demise of Sears is, if nothing, well chronicled. But Curbed dug a little deeper, foundation depth actually, and found some interesting facts about Sears kit homes. It's worth reading just for the old ads.
The retail chain’s bankruptcy filing this week, after decades of slow decline, obscures just how disruptive Sears was in its early 20th century heyday. While the business page obituaries will continue to position Sears as the Amazon of its day—and there’s some truth to that—the physical footprint left by Sears, especially via its kit home program and Modern Homes catalog, is wholly different than anything Amazon has yet to achieve.
Consider this: In an era before commercial aviation and long-haul trucking, Sears, Roebuck & Co. set up an operation that would package and ship more than 400 different types of homes and buildings to anybody who had the cash and access to a catalog. From 1908 to 1940, Chicago-based Sears sold between 70,000 to 75,000 homes—”from Craftsman to Cape Cods, they offered a custom home at budgets and sizes that could accommodate any size family,” according to Popular Mechanics—which were sent via train car and set up as far afield as Florida, California, and even Alaska.
As a company-produced history from 1918 noted, “the customer must be satisfied for a lifetime for every house we sell is a standing advertisement for Sears, Roebuck and Company.”