The History of the Manufactured Home
The mobile home has been around longer than America has been a country and then after it became a small country, the mobile home was used to explore and eventually expand the boundaries coast to coast of what was to become, “the greatest nation on Earth,” the United States of America. The first mobile home I can recall was the Native American Tee-Pee. The Native Americans would setup seasonal camps for hunting and farming and then as game migrated and fertile grounds demanded it, moved on to as they say, “greener pastures.” Then, when America went to settle the mid-west and eventually the west, the covered wagon became the home of choice mobilized by a single horse power or two. So the manufactured home is as unique to Americans as apple pie and baseball.
The underlying reason behind what actually spurred the creation of the first mobile home is kind of silly. Can you believe a very wealthy man wanted his pillows fluffed a certain way and his clothes neat and pressed along with his assortment of hats protected? Back in the day, in the turn of the 20th century when railroads, steel and other industries were beginning to boom, wealthy men needed to travel from state to state to open new enterprises. When they arrived at small town hall meetings to pitch their business ideas, potential jobs they would create and stipulations they demanded from the towns, it was very important they be well rested and look like the powerful millionaires they were. The wealthy had to “look the look” and “walk the walk” in order to command the moment from the town folks. The problem was the shortage of hotels and conveniences they were used to and the businessmen had to come up with a solution. At the time, the most successful of the wealthy was Commodore Vanderbilt, the railroad tycoon that had come up with a solution by converting a railroad car into a little apartment. His clothes were pressed in a closet, his assortment of hats were boxed and protected and he slept like a baby on his fluffed up pillows when he arrived at the end of a RR line to begin negotiations for expansion. Not only did he gain more wealth in his endeavors from town to town, but he also attained more power and respect. However, other up and coming Tycoons, such as Andrew Carnegie of the Steel Industry didn’t have RR cars and had to come up with his own solution to rival that of his nemesis Commodore Vanderbilt. It’s unclear who was the first, but this is why and the approximate time frame when the trailer/mobile/manufactured home began, to arrive in style. This caught on with more and more influential business people that if they opened their perspective businesses in a town the town would have jobs that led city governments to develop elaborate trailer parks for them. With these trailer parks in place as good stopping points for wealthy business men on their way to say, Detroit and the trailer park is say, in Cleveland would allow local entrepreneurs and city leaders a chance to wine and dine them with the hopes of convincing them to build a factory in their towns. This approach showed much success and because of such more and more towns opened trailer parks for the same reason. After a while, with the advancement and mass production of the automobile and railroads, visiting most major cities around the country became easier and more comfortable with hotels springing up in towns with train stops. As a result, the need for trailer parks began to fade away and cities sold them off to the highest bidder. However, because they were there and usually in good locations, the new owners wanted them filled up and began back-yard trailer building and sold them to commoners. Before long, mass produced trailers were built often and used to house temporary construction workers. Similar to today, many of the construction workers accept a job with the new company that they just helped build and move their families in with them. Before long this caught on and became what we now call the mobile home industry. As demand rose, it caught the attention of other entrepreneurs that built manufacturing facilities and the manufactured home business exploded.
In the 50’s and 60’s with mass production mastered, mobile homes became very affordable and in much demand.
As it is with all products built to this day, demand drives competition and completion coupled with ongoing demand creates a war of who can build the biggest and prettiest at the cheapest price. This was so successful and became so competitive that by the early 70’s they were being built by the thousands, but with one major stumbling block, there were no regulations. As a result, fires and deaths occurred that caught the eye of the Federal Government (HUD) so in June 1976 new building and safety codes came into play giving birth to the name “Manufactured Home.” The rest is history.
In 1974, Congress passed the Construction and Safety Standards Act. On June 15,, 1976, it went into effect. It is also known as the HUD Code.
As we have all experienced with just about any manmade product, there are cheap made versions and very well made versions of what appears to be the exact same thing. For whatever it is worth, the most expensive home ever built was a manufactured home. It cost more than the Vanderbilt mansion in Tennessee, the Luxemburg Castle Walt Disney patterned his castle after or even the Taj Mahal in India.
The manufactured home has come a long way since the day of the Tee-Pee or covered wagon and like all industries it had its growing pains and set-backs. I’ve traded in manufactured homes built in the 1950’s and 60’s and they were gems to behold, but those built in the 70’s, 80’ and even some today were/are a mixed bag of junk and quality. It’s truly up to the buyer as to what quality of home to buy. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of as a manufactured home owner. It’s a truly American product brought about through raw American innovativeness and manpower. I’ve been to many countries and spoken to many foreigners and I can tell you most of them would love to have the availability of manufactured homes, but they don’t. So I ask, can you imagine what it would be like if we didn’t have them? The manufactured home has offered home ownership to your sons and daughters, bedrooms to your grandchildren and so much more and if they weren’t here, where would our love ones live, in your spare bedroom, over your garage, a pieced together storage shed built of left over building materials, or in a camper in your back yard? Hum, I believe I’d rather them be in their own homes watching their TV shows, and using their own washer and dryers! Cliff Davis
The most advanced manufactured home to date, The International Space Station!