Scope and Content Note
Title: Better Homes in America records,
Date (inclusive): 1923-1935
Collection number: XX395
Better Homes in America
60 manuscript boxes, 13 oversize boxes
(39 linear feet)
Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace
Stanford, California 94305-6010
Abstract: Correspondence, press releases, expense statements, clippings, pamphlets, and photographs, relating to home ownership in the
United States. Includes correspondence of Herbert Hoover as president, and Marie M. Meloney as organizer, of the association.
Physical Location: Hoover Institution Archives
Microfilm use only (except for box 57 that has not been microfilmed).
For copyright status, please contact the Hoover Institution Archives.
[Identification of item], Better Homes in America records, [Box no.], Hoover Institution Archives.
Alternative Form Available
Also available on microfilm (64 reels).
Increments may have been received since this finding aid was prepared. Please check Stanford University's online catalog Socrates
to find the full extent of the collection.
Private organization to encourage individual and community efforts at home improvement in the United States.
Scope and Content Note
The Better Homes Movement was initiated in 1922. This plan for encouraging
local communities to undertake demonstrations for home improvement was developed by Marie M. Meloney, then editor of the national
The Delineator. The first national campaign was held from October 9 to 14, 1922. The second campaign was shifted from fall to spring and
was scheduled for June 4-10, 1923. Both early campaigns were supervised by Marie Meloney.
In the beginning,
The Delineator was the chief organ of the movement, which gained national attention and support readily. Marie Meloney organized an Advisory
Council to guide the work. In this connection, she took some of her ideas for an extensive voluntary effort for the improvement
of housing throughout the country to Herbert Hoover, then Secretary of Commerce, and enlisted his support and membership on
the Advisory Council. The Council was made up of distinguished men and women from government, business, and professional fields.
The movement was endorsed by President Warren G. Harding in a letter to Secretary Hoover in February 1923. The demonstration
week of June 1923 had the support of the governors of 30 states and of the territories of Alaska and Hawaii.
Before the end of 1923, the Advisory Council had recognized the need for independent organization, longer-term status, and
more adequate financing.
The Delineator relinquished all connection with the movement, and Better Homes in America was incorporated as a non-profit, educational
organization in the state of Delaware on December 22, 1923, with the following five individuals as original members: Marie
M. Meloney, Herbert C. Hoover, Christian Herter, John M. Gries, and John A. Sellards. Mr. Hoover agreed to serve as President
of the new organization, and Mr. Coolidge, then Vice President of the United States, became Chairman of the Advisory Council.
A request for support was made to the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Fund, which provided a grant to finance operations for three
years. This grant was later extended. Offices were established in Washington, D.C., where the organization functioned until
1933, when it was moved to New York City. Dr. James Ford, Associate Professor of Social Ethics at Harvard University, was
engaged to direct the work of Better Homes in America, beginning in 1924, and continued in that capacity until 1935.
The mission of the Better Homes in America was to help American families make their homes more convenient and attractive.
As more and more communities participated in the local campaigns, activities were concentrated mainly in the following divisions:
home improvement, community improvement, urban-rural relationships, and dissemination of information on housing and homemaking
subjects. Efforts in these areas were made through the annual campaigns and demonstrations, cooperation with national, state,
and local organizations, press coverage, and publications.
The Better Homes Manual was published by the University of Chicago Press in 1931.
By 1935 the number of communities participating in the Better Homes Week campaigns had reached 10,000. Due to lack of funds,
however, the corporation of Better Homes in America had to be liquidated. The research and publications work was transferred
to the Housing Research Foundation at Purdue University, Indiana. The momentum of interest by the Better Homes Week campaigns
continued through 1937, despite the fact that there was no organized backing for the work during the last two years.
After the corporation was dissolved, the right to handle all future activities of Better Homes in America was turned over
to the Housing Research Foundation at Purdue University. Most of the historical office files were sent to the Hoover Library
at Stanford University.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the repository's online public access catalog.
Home ownership--United States.
United States--Social conditions.
Cities and towns--United States.
Other Index Terms Related to this Collection
Meloney, Marie M.
Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964.