Fabulous Space Age Christmas Trees!

Collection of Barbara Levine/

One of the reasons I love collecting and selling vintage photographs is often the photos lead me to learning about history and interesting stories. Recently, I purchased the above 1970s snapshot of a silver Christmas tree decked out in gold glass ball ornaments. In addition to my appreciation of the photo for it's unique color, I became curious about the origin of aluminum Christmas trees and decided to find out the story.

In 1959, America saw the first commercial aluminum Christmas tree manufactured by the Aluminum Specialty Company in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Named the 'Evergleam', it was advertised as a ''permanent'' tree.  No more having to tie a tree to the top of the car or cleaning up falling pine needles! The Evergleam stayed forever beautiful!  Many people were introduced to aluminum trees when on the1965 television show, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Lucy sent Charlie Brown out to get a pink one for their school play.

from Seasons Gleamings:  The Art of the Aluminum Christmas Tree by J.Lindemann and J.Shimon

The new 'space age' tree consisted of shredded aluminum strips that were wrapped by hand around wire branches and then fluffed out. Each branch was then packed in a cardboard sleeve. The branches were all the same length and could be put in any one of the holes in the pole that was the trunk. The trees were easy to assemble (and advertised as light enough for women to lift) and the first trees had a folding tripod base to hold the tree trunk.

from Seasons Gleamings:  The Art of the Aluminum Christmas Tree by J.Lindemann and J.Shimon

It was warned that electric lights should not be put on the trees because of the danger of electric shock. Color wheels were sold to illuminate the trees and because branches couldn't hold much weight, ornaments were usually only glass balls. The sleek minimal trees looked very much at home in mid-century modern homes.

Unfortunately, the trees fell out of fashion in the late 1970s and were often tossed out in the trash or forgotten in attics. Now they are hip again and selling for as much as $1,000 on eBay and the subject of a museum exhibition. On view at The Wisconsin Historical Museum in Madison, is the largest display of Evergleam trees including rare pink, gold and green models. According to curator, Joe Kaplan, '...the trees are more like "sculpture" than imitations of real trees.'

photo by Mike De Sisti, Wisconsin Historical Society Museum

'Tis the season for vintage photos and aluminum Christmas trees!

Questions? email me:

Barbara Levine, mid-century modern, Vintage Christmas trees, vintage photos

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