Do you collect vintage Christmas ornaments? Perhaps you just enjoy the look of yesteryear at Christmas. Or, you may want to recreate the remembered warmth of your childhood Christmases. In any case, it's possible to have those beautiful old-fashioned Christmas decorations for your home this year!
The first artificial Christmas trees appeared in the late 1800s, when tabletop trees made of goose feathers were made in Europe. A few antique feather trees have survived in museums or can be found through antique dealers. Reproduction feather trees, made of either goose feathers or synthetic feathers, can be purchased online at Traditions Year-Round Holiday Store. They carry tinsel trees as well.
If you prefer the aluminum artificial trees from the 1960, you are not alone. An entire museum devoted to the aluminum Christmas tree is located in Brevard, North Carolina. The Aluminum Specialty Co. began producing their "Evergleam" aluminum trees in 1958. Don't forget the floodlights, or "color wheels", that made the trees change color! Penetray wheels were one of the most popular brands. Some of these trees can still be found at thrift stores and consignment stores, although antiques dealers and auction houses are more likely sources.
Vintage Christmas Ornaments
Glass Christmas ornaments have adorned Christmas trees since the mid-1800s. Handmade from carved molds, silvered and painted, these miniature works of art are now quite rare. Some Victorian and Edwardian ornaments can still be found, usually at auctions or through antiques dealers. Christopher Radko has reproduced some of these antique designs.
Max Eckardt, a German immigrant who imported ornate handblown glass ornaments, saw his sources disappear as Germany became more warlike in the 1930s. Around 1937, he and Bill Thompson of F.W. Woolworth Co. persuaded the Corning Glass Company to modify their glass ribbon machines to produce simple glass spheres instead of light bulbs. In 1939, Woolworth's sold more than 200,000 of these ornaments, and their success was assured. Eckardt's company, Shiny Brite, silvered and lacquered the balls. The line continued to be popular through the 1940s and '50s, but stopped production in 1962. Today, vintage Shiny Brite ornaments can be found many ways: at estate and yard sales, in retro shops, and at auction. These ornaments are so popular that a reproduction Shiny Brite line is now being produced. Kurt S. Adler, Inc. also has a line of ornaments based on designs from the '50s and '60s. Midwest of Cannon Falls has a line with reproductions from the '30s and '40s.
Vintage Christmas Lights
Although one of Thomas Edison's colleagues put electric lights on a Christmas tree in 1882 and an electrically lighted Christmas tree was displayed in the White House in 1895, the first commercially available light sets were not available until 1901. They were designed for stores to use, generally as part of their window displays at Christmas. People didn't starting using electric Christmas tree lights in their homes until the 1920s. The ribbed, cone-shaped bulbs that looked like candles flames were developed then and continued to be popular for decades.
Bubble lights were actually invented in 1938, but World War II made manufacturing of such frivolities impossible. NOMA mass-marketed the first bubble lights in 1946, under the name Bubble Lites. Sales were phenomenal, and other companies offered similar lights the following year.
Surprisingly, collectors can still find Christmas lights from the 1920s, '30s, and '40s today. Some of them even still work! Those of us who are only interested in the charm of vintage lights - and who are aware of the safety hazards - prefer reproduction lights, such as those made by Kurt S. Adler Co.