Photograph of an Aladdin Kit House (C) M Nichols, D Friedman Aladdin Kit Homes
How to Identify an Aladdin House

  • ALADDIN KIT HOUSES - CONTENTS: How to identify Aladdin Kit Houses or Aladdin Homes - a complete list of what and where to look for to identify an Aladdin Kit Home identifying details, framing stencil markings, and designs. Photographs of Aladdin Kit homes and Aladdin house details are provided along with references and books. History of Aladdin Homes; photographs of disassembly of an Aladdin kit home shows stamps, markings, & construction details
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Aladdin kit homes: detailed photographic and historic clues to assist in the identification & restoration of Aladdin Catalog or Aladdin Kit homes and including references to other expert books and resources on catalog or kit homes in the United States.

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Our page top photo of an Aladdin kit house, an Edison model, is provided courtesy of museum curator Melodie Nichols. The front porch, originally an open design, has been enclosed.

Photo Guide to Identifying Aladdin Kit Houses

Aladdin kit homes catalog logo from 1910Aladdin Readi-Cut Homes: Beating Sears to the kit home market, the North American Construction Company, under the kit home name Aladdin, in Bay City Michigan, 1906-1981 began selling kits in 1906. The company, pointing out that they were the originators of the knock-down system of house construction, sold "pre-cut" home kits to build cottages and later arts-and-crafts homes.

Also see Sterling Kit Homes and Lewis Liberty Kit Homes below. By 1910 the company's spring Aladdin Houses catalog advertised that they had already been in the lumber business for 19 years as the North American Construction Company in Bay City. [1]

The company described the product as "The original and only perfect system for the construction of knocked down houses" and further pointed out that by using mill-run lengths of No. 1 Huron Pine lumber throughout, their house design made unnecessary the cutting and waste of good lumber, reducing lumber waste to less than two percent.

North American also provided this encouragement to would-be knocked-down kit home builder-owners: [1]

Aladdin 4 room home style D 1910The four-room Aladdin house style "D" is shown at left and sold for $296. The company went to some effort to avoid intimidating would-be buyers who might have worried that they lacked the skill to erect the house, stating:

[Click to enlarge any image]

Aladdin kit house 1910

The companies we list above eventually merged. 35 models of Aladdin knocked-down houses or kit homes were available in 1949 and over 75,000 Aladdin kit homes were sold.

By the 1960's delivery of these kit homes shifted from rail to truck delivery, which may mean that there will be more homes of this vintage and later built further from rail stations.

Floor plan, Aladdin kit home 1910At left is the floor plan for the Aladdin two-room kit home, style A, from 1910. The exterior of this home is illustrated below. The two-room low-cost home was also sold in a "shotgun" design that placed all of the rooms in a row suitable for placing on a tiny narrow lot.

[Aladdin kit home photos wanted, CONTACT us]

The National Trust Library offers catalogs of these Aladdin kit houses.

According to the Clarke Historical Library:

Aladdin 2 room house 1910Shown at left, the Aladdin Two-Room Dwelling House, Style A, from the 1910 Spring catalog. This home sold for $180. [1]

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. Full-text copies of the annual sales catalogs were scanned through a grant by the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs. [2]

Aladdin knocked-down house kit homes were sold for cash with a fifty-percent downpayment at the time of order and the remaining balance due cash on delivery of the home. "This is an invariable rule and is no tmeant to be a reflection on your financial standing. We absolutely will not sell houses on any other except a strictly cash vasis. All prices subject to advance in price of lumber. Discount of 5 percent allowed for full amount of cash with order." [1]

Tips for Identifying an Aladdin Kit House

Aladdin house style GG 1910As we discuss at Confusion in Sears House Identification, relying only on the external architecture of a home to identify it as an Aladdin, Sears, Wards or other kit home is tricky. All of the kit home manufacturers copied or modified existing stick-built home designs that had already proven popular in the U.S.

Shown at left, the Aladdin five room house style GG from the Spring 1910 catalog [1].

To make a reliable identification of a kit home we start with the home's general architecture, style, appearance, and age, but we will need to confirm the specific home's origin by noting particular details such as special hardware, woodwork, windows, or hand-written or stenciled markings that make clear not only that this was a kit house but which manufacturer produced it.

In most homes a thorough and careful inspection can usually turn up one or more spots where there is visual access to these details.

Ventura model Aladdin kit home 1954 At left we show the Aladdin Ventura ranch style home from the Aladdin 1954 kit home catalog. [3]

Rebecca Hunter says that Aladdin Readi Cut homes and also Lewis and Sterling Kit homes (see below) may be identified by grease pencil markings on lumber: "Company numbers are handwritten in grease pencil, usually in the middle of a board. They consist of numerals, usually hyphenated in groups of 2 or 3. Some of the numbers are fractions, e.g. 42-18-11 3/4. Part names may be stamped in ink."

[Note: grease pencil markings alone are certainly not the case found for all Aladdin Kit homes, as we demonstrate at Tivoli Aladdin Kit Home below - where very extensive stenciled markings and even referral to construction sketches are indicated on building framing and sheathing - Ed.]

Photo Examples of Aladdin Kit Houses

Photograph of an Aladdin Kit House (C) M Nichols, D Friedman

1. The Aladdin Edison kit home, ca 1919

The our page top photograph of the Aladdin shown again below was contributed by Melodie Nichols who points out that the front porch has been enclosed.

Mrs. Nichols is planning a tour of kit homes in and around Clawson MI and can be contacted at

Photograph of an Aladdin Kit House (C) M Nichols, D Friedman

2. The Aladdin Dresden kit home

This photo is of an Aladdin Dresden model home in Clawson MI, purchased (and presumably constructed) in 1919.

Both this Aladdin Dresden home and the Aladdin Edison home shown above were purchased by the same owner in 1919.

Note: kit homes built primarily of masonry (brick or concrete block) are not nearly as common as frame structures due to the higher transportation weight, but Sears also sold some masonry "kit" structures. - Ed.

Photograph of an Aladdin Kit House (C) M Nichols, D Friedman

3. The Aladdin Venus 1 kit house

This is the Aladdin Venus model from 1919. There were two floor plans offered - this is the Venus 1.

4. The Aladdin Georgia 2 model kit house

Photograph of an Aladdin Kit House (C) M Nichols, D Friedman

This popular model Aladdin home is the Georgia 2, also located in Clawson MI, and a very popular house.

We believe there is a second one in town, as well, but it has had some modifications and doesn't look as "original as this one - it still has the original windows and porch.

Aladdin Denver kit house 1910

This model Aladdin home is shown from the 1910 Aladdin kit house catalog available from the Clarke Historical Library [1], [2].

The library offers Aladdin kit home catalogs for most years from 1908 through 1954. In this article on identifying Aladdin kit homes or "knocked-down" houses we include excerpts from those documents.

An Aladdin House at a Glance - What You Get

Aladdin kit home on the railroad boxcar

The 1954 Aladdin kit home catalog [drawing at left] illustrated how the entire home was packed into a single railroad box-car for shipping. [3]

Aladdin Knocked-down Houses as kit homes produdced by the North American Construction Company advertised that

We send you a comlete house, ready to be nailed together and live in for less than you can buy the rough lumber for.

From the 1910 Aladdin Kit House catalog we note the company's list of just what was provided with each "knocked-down" kit home: [2]

  • Foundation timbers
  • Joists, studding, and rafters
  • Siding
  • Flooring
  • Roof Sheathing
  • Porch timbers, joists, flooring, columns, railing and posts, moulding, roof sheathing and roofing
  • Prepared roofing (shingles if preferred) [note that some kit homes such as the Wonder House used metal roofs]
  • Steps for front and back
  • Doors for all openings, with frame and trim inside and out
  • Windows and frame, sash with glass in place, trim inside and out
  • Moulded base board for inside rooms
  • Weather moulding for trimming all outside doors and windows
  • All hardware
  • Mortice locks, knobs, and hinges
  • Nails of proper size for entire house
  • Paint for two coats outside and inside (any color)
  • Plaster board for lining entire house
  • Instructions and illustrations for doing all the work

The lumber used in Aladdin homes was described by North American:

Every piece of lumber in every Aladdin house has been carefully selected from the highest graade of Huron Pine. Clear yellow pine is used for all inside finish. It is carefully inspected by experienced men and if not up to a high standard is not used.

This is an extremely important point and you should consider it carefully. Our facilities for buying high grades are unequaled by any manufacturer of lumber in the country.

This means much to the purchaser - to know the quality of materials used - to know that the lumber and timber are the best; that it is well seasoned; sound and of first quality throughout.

And nowhere in the world is there better pine to be found than in the great stat of Michigan. All the interior finish, doors, etc. is put through three separate sanding macines, m aking a beautiful finish.

Aladdin Plaster Board

Aladdin plaster board is the greatest single achievement in the builders' craft in the last generation. Aladdin plaster board makes a perfect wall; it is easily and quickly put on; its remarkable construction gives protection against extremes in weather; it is positively fireproof; it deadens sound.

In actual, carefully conducted comparative tests a house lined with Aladdin plaster board required 18 per cent less coal to keep it at a temperature of 70 degrees than a house of identical size and construction, but with the usual lath and plaster inside walls. The above test gave definite proof of the superiority of Aladdin plaster board over lath and plaster.

Aladdin plaster board is comprosed of four layers of wool felt and three thicknesses of the very best close grain plaster. It is manufactured under enormous pressure and the result is a perfect board, stiff, strong, and smooth. It will not crack with age nor loosen from dampness as will the ordinary plaster.

It comes in sheets 32 x 36 inches in size and is nailed directly to the studding. The plaster alone in Aladdin plaster board is equal in warmth to ordinary plaster, while the four layers of wool felt are more than equal in protection to inch lumber sheathing and building paper combined.

You paper directly onto the plaster board. We also furnish a special Plasto-filler, which when mixed with water is used to fill all joints of the plaster board, giving a smooth, perfect wall.

Tivoli New York Aladdin Kit Home Renovation Exposes Construction Details, Markings, History

Aladdin kit home (C) Daniel Friedman

This photo is of an Aladdin kit home constructed in Tivoli, New York. Since its original construction, especially viewed from the exterior, it would be tough to identify this as a kit home much less as an Aladdin kit home.

But the observation of stencil marks on some framing visible in the interior of the home and research by the owners turned up the original plans for this Aladdin home.

Better still, in 2010 the owners of this home began a major renovation that led to gutting the building's interior, exposing the original Aladdin kit home stencils, markings, and even a calling card that identified the kit manufacturer and model number. The Tivoli Aladdin Kit Home case report below details these markings.

In 2010 the owners of this Aladdin home began a major renovation that led to gutting the building's interior, exposing the original Aladdin kit home stencils, markings, and even a calling card that identified the kit manufacturer and model number.

Below we include a photographic guide to the Aladdin kit home stencil markings and other construction annotations exposed on the framing and sheathing of this building.

As exterior siding and felt paper were removed during renovations (below left) blue grease-pencil / crayon markings were visible on some exterior sheathing boards (below right), perhaps as described by Rebecca Hunter (and discussed above)

Aladdin kit home (C) Daniel Friedman Aladdin kit home (C) Daniel Friedman

But as our next two Aladdin construction photos demonstrate (below) we found the more common black inked stencil marking on exterior sheathing boards, most likely indicating their length. Plans and construction guidance for the home required the builder to find the proper framing material by type (2x lumber, sheathing boards, shims, etc.) and dimension or length. [Click any image to see an enlarged, detailed version.]

Aladdin kit home (C) Daniel Friedman Aladdin kit home (C) Daniel Friedman

The hammer marks in our exterior sheathing photo (above right) may have been made during original construction, giving a clue about where the carpenter was standing, through what arc the hammer passed, and how many times she or he missed the nail. [The plywood at left in this photo is a new addition made during renovations.]

Inside this Aladdin home the first floor subflooring (below left) was un-marked common yellow pine. But the wall sheathing 2x lumber was plainly marked for its intended use (below right).

Aladdin kit home (C) Daniel Friedman Aladdin kit home (C) Daniel Friedman

Wall framing was conventional 2x4 dimensioned lumber, 16" on center (below left) but a closer look at the under-side of the wall top framing and top plates shows that the lumber length was also marked on pre-cut 2x4's (below right).

Aladdin kit home (C) Daniel Friedman Aladdin kit home (C) Daniel Friedman

At below left you can see the construction grade stamp on the wall 2x4 stud, and the 16'0" length indication on longer sections of exterior wall sheathing, also pre-cut for assembly. Gable-end exterior wall sheathing boards were also pre-cut and labeled as you can see marked (below right). Notice that the stenciled label refers to "Gable Fig. 11" in the instructions. We do read the instructions, right?

Aladdin kit home (C) Daniel Friedman Aladdin kit home (C) Daniel Friedman

From the first floor we can see that joists to frame the second floor structure were plainly labeled (below left).

And while we have no doubt that the original builders would have howled with laughter at the mere thought of modern viewers romanticizing what the builders surely found was hot hard work building this home, modern viewers interested in the history of a home may enjoy noticing the hand prints of the original builders, left where oil and sweat marked roof sheathing boards (below right).

Aladdin kit home (C) Daniel Friedman Aladdin kit home (C) Daniel Friedman

Earlier we mentioned the blue grease pencil/crayon markings on some lumber in this home. Considering the extensive stenciled identification of framing components, sheathing, flooring we have found, and based on our own construction experience, a plausible but different explanation from that offered by Hunter for these hand written markings (see the window header at below left, marked 3' 11 1/4) is that they were made by the builders during construction, marking cut-to-length materials adjusted on site, not at the factory.

Aladdin kit home (C) Daniel Friedman Aladdin kit home (C) Daniel Friedman

At above right we show the common corner stud and and overlapping top plate design used to tie the long and short gab le end walls together.

Below left you can see that the subflooring material for the second floor was also stenciled for that use.

At below right our photo shows that the second floor joists were end-butted together over a load bearing first floor center partition wall. Rather than rely only on toe-nailing the floor joists to the partition wall top plate, 1x lumber plates were face nailed to the butted joist ends to assure that there would be no separation. This allowed use of shorter lumber lengths (more economical) and took advantage of the lower cost of pre-cutting framing lumber to length at the Aladdin kit home factory in Bay City Michigan..

Aladdin kit home (C) Daniel Friedman Aladdin kit home (C) Daniel Friedman

Standard interior wall stud height was pre-cut to 8'- 4-7/8" (below-left) while cripple studs used in interior door frames below door headers were pre-cut to 6'-9-3/8" (below right). Other exterior wall studs were pre-cut and marked at 8'0" so you can see why clear labeling and picking up the correct pre-cut lumber lengths is important in kit home construction.

Aladdin kit home (C) Daniel Friedman Aladdin kit home (C) Daniel Friedman

This Aladdin home included a stone fireplace with a steel firebox (below left) that may have been added later in the life of the property. Notice that leaks at the chimney had rotted the building sheathing to the left of the fireplace stone.

At below right we illustrate the second floor knee wall partition framing. The diagonal brace at the photo right was added as a temporary brace during this gut-renovation project. Although kit home framing lumber stencil marks will be mostly hidden by finish materials, take a look in the attic knee wall spaces and you're likely to find identifying markings. That's where we first saw stenciled numbers in this home, several years before this renovation project was undertaken.

Aladdin kit home (C) Daniel Friedman Aladdin kit home (C) Daniel Friedman

Our first photo of this home (shown at the start of this article) shows that the front roof slope included a lower intersecting gable at the left end of the home. A lower-height intersecting roof gable called for some compound miter cuts to form the jack rafters (below left) that may have been difficult for amateur builders to get right - another advantage of factory pre-cut lumber used in kit homes. At below right you can see added stencil markings keying construction framing lumber to the home's assembly instructions. The home also included a larger raised dormer at the rear roof slope, shown below.

Aladdin kit home (C) Daniel Friedman Aladdin kit home (C) Daniel Friedman

When second floor plasterboard was removed from this Aladdin home we were excited to find the Aladdin Home card stapled to a second floor doorway header and shown at below-right. This little business-card document identifies the Aladdin Co., Bay City Michigan, gives the order number for this home # 580013, and includes instructions to the original builder.

Aladdin Company Pre-Cut, Pre-Assembled door headers were provided as a pattern for use by the builders.. Aladdin included an example door header (this one with this card attached) along with instructions:

2x4 Header, to be used for any opening calling for 3'-3 1/4" Header, with a note - Assemble all headers in a similar manner using 3/8" spacer material furnished. Spacers to be cut to length on the job. All the amateur builder needed to do was read the instructions and copy this model header to frame in other doorways or windows of the same width, using framing lumber and spacers included in the Aladdin kit.

Aladdin kit home (C) Daniel Friedman Aladdin kit home (C) Daniel Friedman

A List of Manufacturers of Kit Homes and their Identification Markings

We've had less success finding details about other kit home companies selling in the United States and Canada, though Rebecca Hunter has compiled a list of a variety of kit house companies. Benefiting from Hunter's work as well as our own search we list a number of kit or catalog home manufacturers here.

  • Aladdin Kit Homes: Details are at ALADDIN KIT HOUSES. Aladdin Readi-Cut Homes: Beating Sears to the kit home market, Aladdin, in Bay City Michigan, 1906-1981 began selling kits in 1906. The company sold "pre-cut" home kits to build cottages and later arts-and-crafts homes. Also see Sterling Kit Homes and Lewis Liberty Kit Homes below.

    These companies eventually merged. 35 models available in 1949. 75,000 Aladdin kit homes were sold. By the 1960's delivery of these kit homes shifted from rail to truck delivery, which may mean that there will be more homes of this vintage and later built further from rail stations.
  • Bennett Kit Homes: Better-built Kit Homes & Ready-Cut Kit Homes were sold by the Bennett Home and Lumber Company, in North Tonawanda NY 1902- ca 1935. Online discussions include a 1926 Bennett Homes Kit house, in Clarence NY,a book upcoming by Dale Wolicki, and some catalog photos at which cites that "Bennett Homes are concentrated in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, as well as into the upper Midwest."
  • Gordon Van Tine Catalog Homes: Ready-Cut Kit Homes Davenport Iowa 1907 (perhaps 1912) to 1946. For identifying marks on Gordon Van Tine Catalog Homes see notes at Montgomery Wards Kit Homes just below.
  • Harris Homes: a Chicago company in business from 1913 to 1960, perhaps selling kit homes between 1912 and 1925. Ms. Hunter [see references below] indicates that Harris Kit Homes may be identified by markings on framing: "numbers are stenciled in ink, often in the middle of a board, and may be numerals alone, or numerals and letters, or Roman numerals. E.g. 76, HR 50, RI 32 or AII. Home model number and/or order number may be written in grease pencil."
  • Lewis Liberty Catalog Homes: Bay City Michigan. See "Lewis/Liberty Homes - 59 Years in the Ready-Cut Homes Business," Robert Schweitzer and Sally Linvill Bund, Michigan History, Volume 79, Number 2, March 1995. Also see Rebecca Hunter reference information below.
  • Lustron Steel Homes: The Lustron company, started in Columbus Ohio in 1947 with a government loan after WW II by Carl Strandlund, provided [mostly] ranch-style steel home kits - the entire home was built of steel products: framing, walls, trusses, roof covering, even interior ceiling tiles.

    Strandlund was interested in a porcelain coated steel process that was to be corrosion resistant. See and also (a website put up by Kodiak Steel Homes, a modern producer) which gives some history of the company and cites "The Lustron homes were designed to be maintenance free, cost approximately $7,000, and were produced in 1949 and 1950. These homes were considered to be three times stronger that a traditional stick built home and were advertised as being rodent proof, fire proof , lightening proof, and rustproof.".

    After selling 2,498 homes (a much smaller number than the number of orders received) in 1950 Lustron declared bankruptcy. 1800 Lustron homes are collected at the U.S. Marine Corps training center in Quantico Virigina, but beginning in January 2006 the Corps announced that these homes would be given away. (If you didn't apply by April 2006 you're probably too late.)
  • Montgomery Wards Catalog Kit Homes: Montgomery Wards, a Chicago company, sold catalog homes or "kit houses" under the name Wardway Homes from 1910 to 1931, with sales of pre-cut home kits beginning in 1921 and ending in 1931.

    Rebecca Hunter
    says that Wards Kit Homes might be identified by lumber markings "numbers are handwritten in grease pencil, usually in the middle of a board. They consist of numerals, hyphenated in groups, e.g. 17-21-19, or 3-5 digit numerals. Part names are stamped in capital letters about 1" high (e.g. "ceiling joist" "top rail"). Delivery address may be stamped or stenciled in ink."
  • Lewis Kit Homes: for possible identifying marks on Lewis Kit homes see notes above at Aladdin.
  • Pacific Kit Homes: a California catalog home company in the construction business from 1908 to at least 1940. (The company made surfboards 1929-1940), possibly selling kit homes for at least some years between 1919 and 1925. Hunter estimates that the company sold 37,000 homes in states west of the Rocky Mountains.

    Rebecca Hunter suggests that Pacific kit homes may be identified by framing components that "... are marked in grease pencil with a 4 digit number, probably the order number, and the names of the parts."
  • Ready-Built Homes: often cited along with Sears and Wards, searches turn up too many builders using this term, including Alfred G. Oxley, Elizabeth New Jersey, president of Sterling Service Homes, who was reported have been jailed for fraud after he failed to provide the "ready built" homes sold to his clients for $36,000. each. "OXLEY NOW IN THE TOMBS.; Head of "Ready-Built" Homes Scheme Is Held in $25,000 Bail." New York Times, 25 July 1922. We're still looking for details )
  • Robinson's Kit Homes: often cited along with Sears and Wards, we're still looking for details (Jan 2008)
  • Sears Catalog Homes: Details are at SEARS KIT HOUSES. Sears Roebuck is estimated to have sold 100,000 catalog homes in the U.S. between 1908 and 1940, with probably the heaviest individual sales years before 1929.

    Sears Roebuck's business model differed from some or all of the other kit home marketers by offering an accompanying home mortgage to their customers beginning in 1916. Thornton says there were 370 different home models; Hunter says there were 450 different house models. Sears sold building products before 1900, and sold kit homes from 1908 to 1940. From 1940 to 1950 or 1951 Sears sold Homart pre-fabricated home kits in a more limited distribution.
  • Sears Honor-Bilt Homes: were distributed by Sears Catalog and represented a higher-quality construction. Framing spacing intervals were 14 3/8" instead of the standard 16" (or even 24" in some older non-kit homes), and interiors used a better grade of lumber to fabricate flooring and trim.
  • Sears Standard-Bilt Kit Homes: were a more economical line of kit houses (see Honor-Bilt above) and were less insulated. "Simplex Sectional" homes were a still simpler home design sold by Sears.
  • Sterling Kit Homes: Bay City Michigan. For possible identifying marks on Lewis Kit homes see notes above at Aladdin; also see Rebecca Hunter's information listed below

For more extensive references on identifying and determining the age of buildings see Find the Age of a House How to Determine the Age of a Building from Visual Clues, Architectural Style, Building Materials, Construction Details, or Documentary Clues

Also see Brick Lined Wall Cavities - determining the age of older homes by bricks in wall cavities.


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