WOW, THIS IS AN AMAZING TREASURE TROVE: An online archive of 46 years of Aladdin Home Sales Catalogs, courtesy of Central Michigan University and its Clarke Historical Library. I’m serious: Complete catalogs: Page through for hours and watch the history of middle-class housing styles in the first half of the American 20th century unfold. The catalogs were the principal marketing method for the houses…. So also you get all kinds of little detail that paints a picture of how people lived, what they considered when looking for a house… See the dramatic shifts during the Depression and wartimes, for example. They are little social history books. Aladdin’s were kit houses… manufactured houses like the famous Sears’ models. These kinds of homes are EVERYWHERE across America.
The series starts in 1908, with cottages and $98 hunting lodges and one house, at about $600. As the years progress we see bungalows, capes and Dutch Colonials…barracks during WWII…on into the 50s. The images here are from ’54, the last year for catalogs posted, but the bio says Aladdin, which was based in Bay City, Mich., manufactured homes until 1981.
Here’s some history about the firm:
- Begun in 1906 by two brothers, Otto and William Sovereign, the family-owned firm continued to manufacture houses until 1981. Over the firm’s long history it sold over 75,000 homes to both individual and corporate customers.
- The records of the Aladdin Company were donated to the Clarke Historical Library in 1996. The almost complete run of company catalogs, full set of sales records, over 15,000 post-World War II architectural drawings, and various other company records create an extraordinary historical resource.
- The Aladdin Company records are open for use by the public, having been arranged and described through a grant made by the National Endowment for the Humanities. (Mount Pleasant, by the way, is on the far western side of the state, just north of I-94 where it starts to bend around the Lake. Full-text copies of the annual sales catalogs were scanned through a grant by the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs.
Many thanks to all these great folks! I for one cannot wait to start wading through every single catalog. I love love love this every-person kind of house…I am so excited! My guilty secret, though: I seriously thought about not posting this story, afraid I’d never get you back, like, you’ll be Alice fallen down the rabbit hole into retro-wonderland. But there. I’ve gone and done it anyway.
View the website and catalogs here. … I’ll miss you all. Come back soon!