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George Franklin Barber

George Franklin Barber, Architect [1854-1915]

George Franklin Barber [†] of Knoxville, Tennessee, became one of the most successful late-Nineteenth century American domestic architects through his mail-order business. Charles and George Palliser, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, were among the first of this type of architects, printing a small booklet of house plans in 1876 and a larger catalog in 1878. Another architect, A. J. Bicknell Company, published Bicknell's Village Builder, also in 1878.

Barber learned the mail-order business by purchasing the Palliser and Bicknell publications, and began printing his own small catalog of house plans in De Kalb, Illinois, in 1887-1888. After moving to Knoxville, Tennessee, in late 1888, Barber practiced as an architect locally and began to expand his mail-order business.

Barber's catalogs illustrated the exteriors by means of architectural renderings and the interiors by means of floor plans. The customer would purchase plans, specifications and full working drawings for the designs shown in the catalogs. Barber advertised in popular and trade magazines such as Ladies Home Journal, Woman's Home Companion, Scribner's, The Century, The Churchman, The Manufacturer and Builder, and others. His earlier designs were of mainly Queen Anne and Romanesque styling, but by 1893, Colonial styles were sold. Later pattern books exhibited Renaissance and Beaux Arts styling. Barber's was among the most prominent of the mail-order architectural firms in the United States from 1888-1915. Other successful companies included that of R. W. Shoppell of New York City and W. J. Keith of Minneapolis. The plans sold by the Sears Company followed upon the successes of the Barber Company and the others.

† Steven R. Hoffbeck, Coordinator, Grand Forks Historic Preservation Commission, J. Nelson Kelly House, Grand Forks, North Dakota, nomination document, 1992, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

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