Prairie settlers were economical in their use of lumber. The great majority of them chose to build balloon-frame houses.
The balloon-frame was a relatively newfangled way of constructing a home, first developed by a Chicago carpenter named Augustine Taylor in the 1830s. Instead of using heavy timbers to frame a house, as was the style in Europe and much of the eastern U.S., the balloon house skeleton consisted of simple 2 X 4s, 2 X 8s, and 1 X 10s nailed together to make joists, studs and rafters.
It didn't require the skills of a master carpenter to erect a balloon frame home. A prairie farmer didn't need to know a mortise from a tenon in order to tack joists together in the shape of a rectangle. The advent of inexpensive nails by the 1880s, made construction all the easier, as did pre-cut, sawmill lumber. These boards came in standard sizes, which meant that adding on to the basic structure of the house was a relatively simple matter, too.
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