Curtis Cos.

This post is part of a monthly series that explores the historical applications of building materials and systems through resources from the Building Technology Heritage Library (BTHL), an online collection of AEC catalogs, brochures, trade publications, and more. The BTHL is a project of the Association for Preservation Technology, an international building preservation organization. Read more about the archive here.

While homeowners might have developed penchants for flapper dresses and bob haircuts in the 1920s, house plan catalogs from the Building Technology Heritage Library (BTHL) reveal the decade’s preference for period-style houses, from the ever-popular Colonial Revival to the Spanish Revival.

With more than 1,700 catalogs from the 1920s—more than any other decade—the BTHL provides historical evidence of the great prosperity of that time. Much of this collection relates to residential design and planning, which set the stage for an even greater number of product catalogs for residential construction and renovation.

For Home Lovers, National Lumber Manufacturers Association, District of Columbia, 1929
Building trade associations produced documents that promoted their materials—in this case, wood—which often took the form of house plan books. For Home Lovers by the National Lumber Manufacturers Association features architect-designed house plans and completed buildings from across the U.S.

The Books of a Thousand Homes, Vol. 1, Home Owners Service Institute, New York, 1923
This two-volume set features house plans and illustrations or photographs of 1,000 houses across the U.S. The first volume features houses of “moderate cost” with three to eight rooms.

Lake Shore Lumber and Coal Company House Plans, National Plan Service, Chicago, 1925
A major producer of style-specific house plan catalogs, the National Plan Service also published titles that led homeowners to local lumber yards or residential building companies. As is the case with this catalog, the National Plan Service company often hid its name in the fine print.

The Kitchen Plan Book, Hoosier Manufacturing Co., Newcastle, Ind., c. 1920
The “modern kitchen” with integrated kitchen cabinetry was a major innovation in the 1920s. This catalog from the Hoosier Manufacturing Co. features architectural submissions for a national kitchen design competition.

The Window Women Want, Andrew Hoffman Manufacturing Co., Chicago, c. 1923
This steel casement window was a popular new window type in the 1920s and later. This catalog is both a technical document and an example of the era’s gender-targeted marketing for easy-to-open window casements since "it's no woman's job to open" the old-fashioned sash windows that stuck.

The Story of Oak Floors, Oak Flooring Bureau, Chicago, c. 1925
The oak floor was one of the most popular choices for residential construction at the time. This publication includes both technical details and visual illustrations of new buildings with oak floors installed.

The Home Fires, American Face Brick Association, Chicago, c. 1923
The fireplace has a special place in the domestic interior. The catalog provides a great overview of fireplace designs for a variety of residential styles.

Architectural Interior and Exterior Woodwork Standardized, Curtis Cos., Clinton, Iowa, c. 1920
Woodwork for residential interiors could be implemented to complement a great range of architectural styles. The Curtis Cos. were prolific marketers of woodwork, many examples of which were colorfully illustrated in this large volume.

Color Charm Enters the Bathroom, Kohler Co., Kohler, Wis., 1928
Kohler was a leader in the development and promotion of colored bathroom fixtures back in the 1920s. Its prominence in fixture design and manufacturing remains today.

Rod and Window Draping Book, Kirsch Manufacturing Co., Sturgis, Mich., 1923
The BTHL contains numerous catalogs for building furnishings and equipment.

Electric Fixtures and Supplies, Enzor-Hoel Co., Columbus, Ohio, c. 1920
Luminaires were yet another product that consumers could select based style preferences. In addition to hanging fixtures, Enzor-Hoel also advertises electric lamps, commercial units, outdoor lighting options, and replacement parts.

Home Lovers Bargain Book, Spiegel, May, Stern Co., Chicago, 1928
Residential furnishings catalogs published by large department stores are also included in the BTHL. Anything from carpets to curtains to linens and home furnishings could be purchased from this issue.

Maloney Nursery Book, Maloney Bros. Nursery Co., Danville, N.Y., 1928
Plant and seed catalogs are key resources for researching historic landscaping of the residential homes.

Yuletide Lighting, National Lamp Works of General Electric Co., 1926
The electric Christmas tree light made its debut in the early 20th century. By the 1920s, a wide variety of interior and exterior yuletide lighting options were available for homeowners and public institutions as promoted by the National Lamp Works of General Electric Co.