December 12, 2012

I have a collection of 8 aluminum Christmas trees- and after reading the Wiki, I am pleasantly surprised to know that I have one from each of the main manufacturers of the time. I found them in antique stores in Wisconsin, not realizing that is where the bulk of them were made.  The one I most covet is my grandmothers pink aluminum one, which I inherited along with all of her pink and gold vintage ornaments. 

The aluminum tree holds a place in design history- so read on!

An aluminum Christmas tree is a type of artificial Christmas tree that was popular in the United States from 1958 until about the mid-1960's. As its name suggests, the tree is made of aluminum, featuring foil needles and illumination from below via a rotating color wheel

  Aluminum trees have been said to be the first artificial Christmas trees that were not green in color.  They were first commercially manufactured sometime around 1955, remained popular into the 1960's, and were manufactured into the 1970's.   The trees were first manufactured by a Chicago company called Modern Coatings, Inc. Between 1959 and 1969, the bulk of aluminum Christmas trees were produced in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, by the Aluminum Specialty Company; that decade the company produced more than one million aluminum trees.   At the time they were produced in Manitowoc the trees, including the company's flagship product the "Evergleam", retailed for $25 and wholesaled for $11.25.  During the 1960's, the aluminum Christmas tree enjoyed its most popular period of usage.   

As the mid-1960's passed, the aluminum Christmas tree began to fall out of favor, with many thrown away or relegated to basements and attics.  The airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas in 1965 has been credited with ending of it's era, using the tree as a symbol of the over-commercialization of Christmas.  In the now classic holiday cartoon, its mention of the aluminum tree solidified the tree's legendary status while satirizing it as well.  Peanuts character Lucy implored Charlie Brown to get a "big, shiny aluminum tree...maybe painted pink."  Charlie lamented the commercialization of the true meaning of Christmas, ignored his friend's request, and purchased a small, scrawny natural tree instead.  

Aluminum Christmas trees have been described as futuristic or as cast in a style which evoked the glitter of the space age.  The Space Age-feel of the trees made them especially suited to the streamlined home decor of the Mid-Century Modern period.  This iconic distinction, has helped them to find their way into museum collections. One example is the Aluminum Christmas Tree Museum (officially known as the Aluminum Tree and Aesthetically Challenged Seasonal Ornament Museum and Research Center, located in Ashville, North Carolina.  The Children's Museum of Indianapolis holds a vintage aluminum Christmas tree and color wheel in its collections.   The Wisconsin Historical Museum has the "'Tis the Season" exhibition, featuring a collection of vintage aluminum Christmas trees.