Relatively few homes were built during the depression and almost none during WWII, so after the war there was pent-up demand for housing. Builders responded by applying the lessons of war-time production to the production of homes, mass producing components in factories and assembling them onsite, instead of building them one-at-a-time by hand. The videos below show homes being prefabricated at a plant in Indiana in the mid-1950s.
You can tell they were shot before the existence of OSHA; not a single person is wearing safety glasses or hearing protection in what had to have been a noisy environment. The workers wear street clothes. For most, the sole concession to being at work is to remove their shirt and work in a t-shirt. One guy’s not wearing a shirt at all—something you would never see in a modern factory.
Except for the exterior sheathing, which is automatically fastened with an incredible gang-nailing contraption (1:05), all of the nailing is done by hand. It’s interesting that the sheathing is also glued.
I know present-day framers who use routers to cut sheathing out of door and window openings. They may think this is a recent innovation, but as the videos show, the technique has been around since at least the mid-1950s. Check out the clever two-man overhead router-setup used to cut sheathing from openings (1:20; first video). I can’t tell for sure, but it looks to me like it’s piped to a dust collector.
On some of the homes the interior face of exterior walls is sheathed with plywood, fastened in place with hammer-driven staplers (1:55; first video) that remind me of the hammer-driven flooring nailers still in use today.
I’m glad they show what happens to the components after they leave the factory. It’s interesting to see a truck show up with an entire house inside, and then be unloaded by hand. In today’s world, prefabs arrive more fully assembled and the components unloaded by forklift or crane. The simple slab-on-grade homes in the development are very familiar; when I was a child in Springfield, Illinois my family lived in a house that could well have come out of that Indiana factory.
For a look at the tools and methods used to build homes on the eve of WWII, see Who Cares What Tradesmen Do?