In the 1936 General Electric Supply Corp. wiring materials catalog, more than a dozen pages at the front of the book are devoted to promoting the "radial wiring system" for residences.
Essentially, the system was an extreme version of the concept of feeders and subpanels, with the important difference that the feeders are not fused and therefore had to follow the NEC tap rules. I'm not an electrician and am not familiar with the current code, but at the time the rules were that taps may be no longer than 25 feet, must terminate at a single set of fuses/breakers, and must have a capacity of at least one third of the main fuse/breaker.
The branch circuit breakers at the end of the feeders were installed like toggle switches in standard single or multi-gang outlet boxes with raised covers.
The service-entrance panel was dubbed the "totalizing unit". It consisted merely of a main pull-out fuse block, plus fuse blocks for the range and other special loads. All of the feeders were connected directly to busbars on the load side of the main fuses.
It's not a whole heck of a lot different from 1935 until now.
From (2008) NEC 240.21(B)
(2) Taps Not over 7.5 m (25 ft) Long. Where the length of the tap conductors does not exceed 7.5 m (25 ft) and the tap conductors comply with all the following: (1) The ampacity of the tap conductors is not less than one-third of the rating of the overcurrent device protecting the feeder conductors. (2) The tap conductors terminate in a single circuit breaker or a single set of fuses that limit the load to the ampacity of the tap conductors. This device shall be permitted to supply any number of additional overcurrent devices on its load side. (3) The tap conductors are protected from physical damage by being enclosed in an approved raceway or by other approved means.