Why Is a Mobile Home Called ‘Mobile’ When it Isn’t?

Posted on April 23, 2017




Image: hubhomedesigns.com

The end of World War II created unprecedented housing shortages across the United States.

Returning veterans anxious to attend college under the G. I Bill, or get married and start a family, all needed a place to live. Coupled with the post-war economic boom, housing shortages led to the wide-spread use of military-style prefabricated housing – remember the Quonset huts on college campuses?

People who didn’t want to live in barracks-like surroundings, but weren’t ready financially to purchase a conventional home, presented a unique market niche.

And where there’s a niche, there’s an opportunity for someone to fill it.

James and Laura Sweet, from Pritchard, Alabama, a town just at the edge of Mobile, had an idea. James was a machine shop supervisor, accustomed to working out mechanical and production problems. He thought it might be possible to manufacture a type of low-cost housing that could be put together at a central site, then delivered to the buyer’s desired location. Something with all plumbing and electricity self-contained; something small and lightweight, but laid out in a comfortable home-like arrangement.

Since his wife was a commercial artist, James asked Laura to draw up some floor plan ideas.  Soon James was hard at work building a couple prototype units in his spare time. Satisfied they were on to something, the Sweet’s mortgaged their home, emptied their savings, and launched Sweet Homes.

They enjoyed a modest success, but sales were limited to Alabama and Mississippi, due to difficulties towing the homes long distances over the type of roads existing in the south during the 1940s and early 1950s    .

However, the construction of thousands of miles of good highways following passage of he 1956 Interstate Highway Act finally made it possible for the Sweets to prospect for business outside their immediate area.

When people elsewhere became acquainted with this new residential concept, they discovered Sweet Mobile Homes were affordable, attractive and comfortable. The demand grew.  People wanted their own Mobile home. Mo-beel home.

Now you get it!

Manufacturing companies sprouted up all over the country to serve their local market, and many were in northern states where few people had ever heard of Mo-beel.

As the generation who fought World War II aged and prefabricated homes became commonplace throughout the country, newer consumers were unaware that the appellation “Mobile Home” was actually a geographic reference acknowledging where the industry got its start, and had nothing to do with moving around.

mobile-home-logo So now you know.

Posted in: Travel - Alabama