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Re: History of Conventional Wood Framing

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Sash Lulla wrote,     
>     I believe the Nordics started the conventional wood framing process. 
>     The strong Edda upbringing refined the process and when they relocated 
>     to the new world they brought it with them.  
>     The Finnish sauna is all conventional wood framing.
>Does anyone have anything else to add ! please do so
Here's a summary of one other perspective: 

Sigfried Giedion's classic book "Space, Time and Architecture" discusses the
origins of "Balloon Framing", further described as "the substitution of thin
plates and studs-- running the entire height of the building and held
together only by nails-- for the ancient and expensive method of
construction with mortised and tenoned joints." 

The book is based on Giedion's lectures at Harvard in 1938-39, and has been
revised and enlarged through many editions. (I'm reading the 1967 5th edition)

According to Giedion, "the invention of the balloon frame really coincides
with the improvement of sawmill machinery as well as with the mass
production of nails." Nail-making machinery was producing affordable cut
nails in the late 1820's and the rapid switch to stud and plate framing
occured in the 1830's and 1840's, especially in Chicago. An 1855 article in
the New York Tribune is quoted as asserting that, "if it had not for the
knowledge of the balloon-frame, Chicago and San Francisco could never have
arisen, as they did, from little villages to great cities in a single year."

This method of construction was initially regarded with scorn and ridicule,
and "the tag, 'balloon frame' was a mere nickname, a jocular reference to
the lightness of of this new type of construction." (noting that in those
days, balloons were an exotic and amazing aerospace conveyance.) It is also
stated that the name "Chicago construction" was commonly used, and that a
precut and partially assembled western farmhouse so described was shipped in
sections to the 1867 Paris Universal Exposition. 

In present times the term "balloon" is applied primarily to tall studs that
extend higher than one story, as originally practiced, but not to where
studs infill between one story and the next as "platform framing".  But it
is clear that the latter is merely a variation of the former, and that in
Giedion's accounts, balloon is the generic term for all of it.  As Bob Bossi
recently posted, various names for this general framing system have been
used in building codes (since the codes belatedly came into being and played
catch-up) with "light framing" and "conventional framing" being among the
recently popular names.  

While no one inventor appears to have been solely responsible for this 170
year old breakthrough, the name George W. Snow (1797-1870) is given major
credit by Chicago architectural historians researched by Giedion: "The
balloon frame is the joint idea of George W. Snow and necessity." It seems
that Mr Snow was a realtor, financier, building and general contractor,
lumber yard owner, land surveyor, and had been educated in civil
engineering. He arrived in Chicago in 1832 when the population was 250, and
vocational licensing laws apparently less strict than in California currently.

Lecturing in 1938, Giedion concluded, "The balloon frame has kept its
vitality for a whole century and is still used extensively."  Sixty more
years, and it's still true.  

        Charles O. Greenlaw, SE     Sacramento CA