The first artificial Christmas trees were made in Germany during the 1800s because the tradition of cutting live Christmas trees had seriously depleted the region’s evergreen forests. Germans fashioned artificial trees from goose feathers. In the early 1900s the Addis Housewares Company, a U.S. firm that manufactured the first toilet bowl brushes, used their technology to construct and artificial tree from brush bristles. Their product was more durable and sturdy than the feather tree and could hold ornaments.
Between the late 1950s and mid 1960s aluminum Christmas trees gained popularity in the United States. The foil needles on these trees were illuminated from below by a rotating color wheel. The aluminum tree phenomena prompted other companies to manufacture many different types of artificial trees: life-like pines, spruces, and even trees dusted with artificial snow.
The use of aluminum trees peaked about 1963. That year the Sears catalogue description said, “Whether you decorate with blue or red balls . . . or use the tree without ornaments – this exquisite tree is sure to be the talk of your neighborhood. High luster aluminum gives a dazzling brilliance. Shimmering silvery branches are swirled and tapered to a handsome realistic fullness. It’s really durable . . . needles are glued and mechanically locked on.”1
Many credit the TV special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, which first aired two years later in 1965, with ending the popularity of aluminum trees. They all but disappeared from the market by 1967. However, the silvery trees have recently regained popularity in groups who enjoy “retro” decorations. Some museums have also added aluminum trees to their collections.
Aluminum Christmas tree and color wheel
Victorian Feather Tree
To commemorate the City of Troy’s 60th Anniversary in 2015, we will publish a different story each day that highlights a person, discovery, or event that occurred locally, regionally, nationally, or even globally between 1955 and 2015 and that helped shape our lives and our community. We will try to post stories on important anniversary dates, but we also realize that dates are less critical than content and context. We will include the facts related to controversial stories, allowing our readers to form their own opinions. We invite you to read and comment on the stories. Your suggestions for topics are also welcome and can be posted on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/TroyHistoricVillage. You can also email stories or ideas to the 365 Story Editor at email@example.com.