Updated: Jan 30
Oh, behold the glory of an aluminum Christmas tree! But the aluminum tree wasn’t always looked upon as a great symbol of Christmas.
Let’s take a look back…
It was the late 1950s when we first saw aluminum Christmas trees in people’s houses. Before these artificial beauties came about other artificial trees were used in homes, such as goose-feathered trees in the 19th century. First seen in Germany, feathers were dyed green and put into a triangular tree form with the use of wired branches.
ther artificial trees were wooden, where dowels were used to form the tree shape, and later faux green trees made from brush bristles (the same way toilet brushes were manufactured) were being made in the 1930s.
But none of these trees have enjoyed the resurgence and have regained popularity quite like the aluminum tree.
Aluminum Christmas trees were first manufactured in the Mid Western portion of the United States, starting in Chicago in 1956, and later in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, where the majority of the trees were then produced.
These trees were being produced and enjoyed at a time when there was a wave of a new era, as they accompanied the Atomic and Modern expression of that time period.
Aluminum, what once more valuable than gold or silver per ounce in the nineteenth century, had just become more plentiful, so aluminum companies went into production of these trees, making luminosity available to anyone’s Christmas décor!
The manufacturing of aluminum trees went into the early 1970s but they lost their ‘shine’ after 1965.
That year “A Charlie Brown Christmas” aired on TV for the first time, which gave the aluminum tree a negative portrayal, using it as symbol for commercialization of Christmas, thus resulting in a decline in sales in subsequent years.
It was hip to have an aluminum Christmas tree in the late 50s and early 1960s. The trees ranged in size 2 foot to 7 foot, and were fun to construct! Each branch had its own sleeve to keep the aluminum from bending in storage, these branches were taken out of the sleeves and the ends were inserted into holes that existed on the trunks of the tree to form a fabulous, shiny and sparkly Christmas tree!
With their reflective quality, aluminum trees were generally decorated with brightly colored ornaments and lest we forget the color wheel? An electric, rotating color wheel was used as a spotlight for the tree and they generally had four colors, so as it turned it illuminated the tree in a different color as it spun. Some people even used two color wheels at a time for maximum effect!
Color wheels for these trees were generally the only alternative since a string of lights on an aluminum tree was considered a fire hazard.
After aluminum trees popularity decline, you could find them in basement storages or garage attics and it wasn’t until the 1980s when we started seeing these discarded trees at garage sales. By this time it was oh-so-nostalgic and fun to have one of these trees! Back then you could pick up one of these trees for $1 at a garage sale, and so aluminum trees were slowly being brought back to homes all over America.
It was only the beginning of the resurgence! With the popularity of all things ‘Mid Century’ during the last three decades, there was a huge upswing in popularity of this kitschy but glorious part of our history! This well-sought-after tree is now being shown all over on websites (hence, this one), Pinterest boards, and being sold all over eBay for 100s of dollars! If you are someone lucky enough to have adopted the family aluminum tree, treasure it! Or if you found one in 1985 at a garage sale for $5 or less, hold onto it!
Some manufacturers are claiming to be making these trees once again, but not in the same spectacular way, and we have all grown to love the originals. And these trees may have lost their luster there for a short time but we welcome their appeal very much today!
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