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Lustron: Never Before in America a Home Like This

Intro: The Lustron Corporation was founded in the mid-1940s by Carl G. Strandlund with the intention of creating low-maintenance, prefabricated homes out of baked enamel steel.

Fireproof, rustproof and termite-proof, this unconventional design was able to be constructed within 350 hours and sold for around $10,000. In a healing economy post-war, these homes were marketed towards the idealized white nuclear family of the 1940s-50s, specifically aiming to get women back in the home after working during the war, who were often featured in staged Lustron advertisements. Although the Lustron homes became well known within the eastern and midwestern United States, the Luston Corporation was short lived. With such unique construction, the Lustron homes could not meet many local building codes, and repelled conventional contractors who resisted the introduction of Luston homes to their areas. These issues, coupled with the inefficacy of Lustron home production quota not being met lead to the inability of the Corporation to break even, relying on their loans to keep producing. Becoming unable to pay back these loans the Lustron Corporation went bankrupt, ceasing production in the early 1950s.

Lustron Realty: The immense popularity of Lustron homes within the Eastern and Midwestern parts of the United States can be seen in these photos. Eagerly awaiting people wrap around the bending neighbourhood sidewalks, all of whom were invited personally by Lustron Realty to an invitation-only advanced showing. Although these homes were popular they lacked a great diversity in audience. The use of direct-advertisements was used to pinpoint and gain interest from a specific demographic; in turn, leaving Lustron cut off from groups of potential buyers. Lustron Realty also used auxiliary forms of advertising such as staged photos to further cater these homes towards the idealized nuclear family of the time.

Staged Photos: The Lustron Corporation launched a major marketing campaign in an attempt to improve profits and convince the American people to buy their homes. The company’s slogan, “Lustron: A New Standard For Living,” embodied the nation’s expectations for higher quality in housing for an affordable cost. Lustron’s advertisements emphasized durability and efficiency while still promoting the idealistic 1950’s American family through full-page ads depicting white carefree adults and smiling children. Through these staged photos the Lustron Corporation aimed to promote maximum leisure in a time when America and its people were still recovering from World War II. Along with photos of the interior design, Lustron provided images of the exterior in order to advertise the way each model differed.

Lustron Exteriors: Lustron Exteriors: The outer structure of the Lustron home has remained fairly basic enough through modifications over the years. Baked enamel steel makes up the exterior, while porcelain enameled steel tiles make up the roofing. The materials used to construct the home have needed little, if any, revisiting over the years, which has been great for families after the war. Three major models were created by the Lustron corporation; the Westchester, the Newport, and the Meadowbrook. The new models were chosen to resemble the look of popular ranch style homes to be appealing for all consumers.

Lustron Floor Plans: There were a few floor plans offered to buyers for the Lustron Houses. They varied in price depending on the amount of bedrooms or amenities the design offered but all were relatively similar to each other. The floor plans showed buyers a house specifications sheet which described the dimensions, information about the heating and cooling in the house, and the amenities which that specific plan offers.

Lustron Manufacturing: These photos display a small section of the 1 million-square-foot factory that Lustron Corporation used to produce the porcelain-enameled steel homes. The Lustron Corporation facility was located in the Columbus area. The facility contained the largest porcelain enameling set-up in the world in addition to 11 furnaces, 8 miles of conveyor belts, and 163 presses. Lustron used specially designed trailers that were rolled along the assembly line where parts were loaded in order for easy building at a later date. They were easily stored in the facility and would later be used to transport to the site where the homes would be built.

Charles Mintz Bio

Charles Mintz (b.1948) is a photographer currently based in his hometown, Cleveland, Ohio. Working mostly with a wooden film camera, Charles captures intimate portraits of current Lustron homeowners, focusing on the conservation of post-war manufactured homes and their socio-economic history. Photographed in the dreamy light of cozy Midwestern homes, the poses of the current occupants are reminiscent of the 1950’s Lustron ads which, then, were marketed towards the stereotypical white middle-class household- complete with a staged nuclear family and dinner on the table. Through these photographs Charles documents the diversification and modernized version of the American Dream. Charles frames his photographs with enameled steel used in the construction of Lustron homes- another element which brings tactility to his works.

“Chuck connects the viewer through these intimate portraits of the individuals who live in these treasures from our recent past. Each picture captures a unique story and time.”

Bill Mahon, Ohio History Connection

All artwork courtesy of Chuck Mintz and The Ohio History Connection