Just after World War II, America faced the worst housing shortage in its history, as millions of GIs returned to civilian life. President Truman appointed a national Housing Expediter to solve the crisis. The government's plan was to foster a new industry: prefabricated or manufactured (factory-built) housing. A celebrated engineer and inventor named Carl Strandlund then came to Washington with a bold proposal: he would construct houses out of the same type of porcelain-enameled-steel panels he used to build gasoline stations and White Castle restaurants. His Lustron ranch-style house was rot-proof, vermin-proof, never needed painting, had about 1000 square feet of floor space, cost much less than 10,000 dollars, and could be erected on-site in less than a week. The federal Reconstruction Finance Corporation loaned Strandlund millions of dollars to convert an old aircraft factory in Columbus, Ohio to Lustron production. But political machinations, financial difficulties, government ...