Living Steel commissioned an interesting article on the history of steel and iron prefabs. Professor Miles Lewis explains how Britain shipped wrought iron and corrugated steel houses to California and Australia during the gold rushes of the 1850s, when housing was in short supply.
Corio Villa, Eastern Beach, Geelong, by Robertson & Lister of Glasgow, 1854-5.
Interestingly, with transport by ship being the most economical way at the time, sending them all the way from Britain made some sense:
The mass production of more conventional buildings arose in response to the Californian gold rush of 1848-50. Like all gold rushes it caused a massive demand for accommodation, but the goldfields were in particularly remote locations. Long before the time of the Panama Canal, most goods transported from the eastern United States had to travel down the Atlantic coast of South America to Cape Horn, a notoriously difficult passage, and then up the Pacific coast to San Francisco. The practical effect of this was that Europe was virtually as close to California as to New York.
Download the PDF from Living Steel