This article focuses on finding the origin of the balloon frame that modern American society uses in building processes. The article looks at the origin, as well as highlights the journey that the balloon frame has undergone over the centuries.
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The article begins by acknowledging that home construction has significantly changed from how it was during the 19th century to what it is at present. The article describes the construction in the 19th century as one that used large timbers to build frame houses. Construction was then a complicated affair. It was a preserve of experts, and normally consumed a lot of time. The article also seeks to challenge the conventional historical tradition that the modern-day construction technique referred to as the balloon frame was randomly invented.
According to the author, the current construction technique was coined “the balloon frame” in the early nineteenth century. The article adds that, unlike the traditional house construction style that uses interlocked heavy timbers, the balloon frame involved the use of boards that were less than 2 by 12 inches. The boards were then spaced strategically to form a basket-like structure that was both strong and durable. The balloon frame further relied on the other lighter products that were left from the mass production of lumber. Thus, it was able to cut on the time required to complete the building house drastically. Also, the work was completed using basic skills.
However, the author is not clear on the origin of this method. The article adds that the balloon-frame house is the closest style to the one used in modern-day America. Notably, the major difference between them is that, whereas the balloon frame method had frames that reached the two-story height, the modern construction employs walls that reached greater heights. According to Cavanagh (1999), the balloon frame is very efficient in terms of the structure and the material used.
The article asserts that the first person to publish designs on the balloon frame was William Bell. His construction manual was written in 1858. The article adds that Bell, who was a carpenter from Illinois, had been constructing houses for more than fifteen years using the balloon frame technique. In his manual, Bell sought to present the balloon-frame as an organized system. He further provided suggestions on the material and procedures that were best suited for certain buildings.
The article adds that the benefits that the new technology was presenting were very luring. However, according to the article, the benefits are yet to be fully reaped. The author attributes this to the existence of some kind of inertia that has prevented the full automation of the home construction process. The balloon-frame has been persistent due to its resistance to change. This separates it from other innovations in the home construction industry.
The author says that the full embrace of the balloon frame started during the nineteenth century in the Midwest. The adoption of innovation was a result of increased demand for houses. The author adds that the nineteenth century witnessed a lot of growth. Most American towns were founded during this time. The author argues that the innovation of the balloon–frame must have occurred during this time. It was a trend for builders to move in groups, and the same applied to the construction. The author challenges the conventional history of the invention, which says the invention was dramatic. The author hypothesizes that several innovations by different builders must have given rise to this new method.
The article also gives the traditional and conventional story, which he points out to be a controversial topic. According to the story, the invention was made by Augustine Taylor in 1833 after he was asked to construct several houses, and he used the balloon frame method. The author observes that St Mary’s Catholic Church in Chicago is regarded as the first balloon frame by those who subscribe to this school of thought.
Interestingly, the author points out that there exists no record for any of these builders laying claim to the invention that historians have attributed to them exists. Thus, this shows that the invention was not from one builder. The argument that the builders may have been ignorant can be challenged. In this regard, the inventions were made at a time when patents and property rights were highly contested.
The second point in the author’s argument is that a well-known builder would not have risked using lumber at that time in history. Thus, the article can be acknowledged as resourceful, and one that historians will find interesting.
Cavagh, T. (1999). Who invented your house? The Magazine of Technology 15 (2). Web.