A plate of architectural detail plans from Palliser’s Useful Details. From the nineteenth century, beginning before the Civil War, architectural pattern or plan books became an increasingly popular source for house plans. Initially, they were simply a source for rough plans and stylistic details for the public as well as architects and builders.
In the early 1870s, the Palliser brothers, George and Charles, were designing houses for P.T. Barnum in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Expanding their business, and augmenting the already existing market for plan books, they began selling their architectural designs by mail. Working from a group of basic designs, the customer would choose the plan he preferred, and complete a questionnaire, sending along with it the fee for the complete plans. The Pallisers would modify the basic plan to suit the customer’s needs, refer it to the customer for comments and changes, then working with those suggestions, submit a complete and detailed building plan. The brothers advertised the availability of their plans through the twenty or so books they published between 1876 and 1908, of which Useful Details was the most popular.
These interesting and detailed prints are enduring examples of the ingenuity and foresight of George Palliser and his brother Charles. They are milestone artifacts for the history of American architecture.