introduction
Anomalous, mutable, with tenuous fringes, the middle classes never have been and
are not now a fixed entity, to be encompassed by a simple, rigid definition . . . The
meaning of the middle classes is likely to remain with good cause in a state, so to
speak, of suspended definition.
—Charles F. Palm, 1936∞
In this country all men are realtors. As the prime symbol of our civilization, neither
the pilgrim father, nor the pioneer, nor the captain of industry, su≈ces so well as
the real estate man to explain certain habits of mind, certain ideals and certain
inconsistencies of the behavior of the American people.
—Robert C. Binkeley, 1929≤
A Nation of Realtors?
Around the beginning of the twentieth century, a group of prominent Ameri-
can urban real estate brokers, dealers in commercial property and developers
of residential subdivisions, made a concerted e√ort to organize their occupa-
tion into a ‘‘profession’’ on the national level. They were motivated both by
their desire to rehabilitate real estate as a commodity in the wake of the
depression of the 1890s and by their desire for ‘‘unification of thought and
purpose among the country’s real estate interests,’’ in the words of a promi-
nent broker from New York.≥ The men who led this group were primarily
from rapidly growing cities in the Midwest and the West. Men like William
Washington Hannan of the Detroit Real Estate Board, Alexander S. Taylor of
the Cleveland Real Estate Board, and Edward S. Judd of the Chicago Real
Estate Board aimed to refashion real estate brokerage into a vital, ethical, and
progressive calling. These real estate men were also trying to spur the de-
velopment of their own regions. It was no coincidence that the impetus for
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