Most people have heard of Sears catalog and kit houses, which were popular in the early 20th century, but many are unaware of the numerous other businesses which sold essentially the same product. These competing businesses routinely adapted each other’s work or simply flat out stole from each other. Many designs were reversed, perhaps in an effort to make the the source less obvious, but frequently at the customer’s request. Houses built from kits or mail order plans can be found all across the country. Not surprisingly, the kit houses typically appear in towns which were either on a railroad or had a railroad spur while houses built from mail order plans could crop up just about anywhere.
Kit houses faded from popularity by the 1980’s but plan books themselves remain popular today. Below are four catalog designs from the early 20th century paired with photos of existing homes built from them (or from a similar competing design). Historic images are courtesy of the Internet Archive.