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The Depression Years


By the time this decade began, Americans were beginning to feel the full effects of the stock market crash of 1929. The majority of the population had little or no money for unnecessary luxuries such as Christmas lights, so they either went without or made their older outfits last a few years longer. Many of the light sets pictured in the previous category were also sold during the early 30's, and because of this it can be difficult for the collector to accurately date some outfits.

In 1933, President Roosevelt, newly elected and attempting to relieve the effects of the Depression, called for emergency legislation—the National Industrial Recovery Act—which in turn set up the National Recovery Administration (NRA). The administration was to work with American businesses to set prices, rates of pay, hours of work, and other "codes of fair practices" for each industry. The NRA itself was attacked as being both communistic and authoritarian. Although it was voluntary, only businesses that complied with the industry codes could display the NRA’s blue or red eagle symbol in their windows or on their packaging. Those who did not display it were made to seem unpatriotic and selfish. Since the codes were drawn up mainly by the largest companies, small businesses were hurt. In May 1935, the Supreme Court declared the NRA unconstitutional on the grounds that it improperly delegated legislative powers to the executive branch of the government and that the constitution granted to the federal government only the power to regulate interstate commerce, not intrastate commerce. Christmas lighting outfits that bear the NRA symbol can therefore be dated quite accurately to a manufacturing time between 1933 and 1935. Earliest boxes with the symbol are simply rubber-stamped, while later issues carry the printed logo shown here to the right.

These 1920s-era outfits, among others, were sold in identical boxes in the early 30s. Only the string and lamps inside were changed.


Date Manufacturer Notes Outside of Box Inside of Box
1930 Unknown Judging by the number of this outfit still in existence today, quite a few of these outfits were sold in the early 1930s. This collector has seen them with both Japanese and Mazda lamps. Either way, they were always C-9 intermediate base lamps.
1930 Good Lite Circa 1930, this outfit from the Good Lite Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut is a typical offering from that company. The lamps are outside coated Japanese C-9 intermediate base examples, and the cord is marked Good Lite, which is uncommon. Most Good Lite offerings were economy sets, with low quality cords and inexpensive imported lamps. This set is no exception, as the cord lacks the typical weatherproofing usually evident on more expensive sets. Note the box art, which is quite primitive when compared to the competition's offerings. Many Good Lite sets are this way.
1930 Paramount This box style from Paramount was used for the company's C-9 intermediate base lamp sets. The sets sold throughout the 30s.
1932 Paramount This box housed Paramount's C-6 light sets in the early 1930s.
1932 Royal Although this box, which houses a C-9 intermediate base lamp set, closely resembles the box pictured above from Paramount, the two companies are not related.
1932 Crest-O-Lite

This is an outdoor outfit using intermediate base C-9 lamps, and is weatherproofed for outdoor use. It was produced throughout the mid 1930s. Crest-O-Lite was a small New York State company, and was not in business very long.

As the Depression years dragged on, Christmas lights sales were less than half of what they had been at the end of the last decade. Lighting companies started introducing a large variety of new designs and novelty lights, in an attempt to spur sales. The vast majority of these lights were of Japanese manufacture.

1932 General Electric

General Electric first sells "bell lights" to the Christmas lighting industry. Although not shown here, green and red colored bells were sold as well. The unusual purple color is quite hard to find. The company continued to sell these lamps up until the beginning of World War II.

1932 Reliance Although unmarked, this offering is from Reliance. Normally sets sold under this brand name used imported lamps, but in this case the only bell shaped lamps available at the time were American made GE Mazdas.
1932 Royal Royal Electric also offered the new bell lights in their outfits. This is a typical box from that company, and is almost identical to the 1930 Paramount offering.
1932 NOMA The cover of this NOMA set of C-9 outdoor lights gives no clue as to the unusual variation in the contents. A over pasted white label on the inner flap describes the use of spring loaded sockets, a new development for NOMA. The set is well weatherproofed for outdoor use, including the berry beads, which are plastic instead of the more common wood. The inner flap of the box describes the set as a model 3000, but the end of the box says it is a 3005. A look through the NOMA catalogs reveals that this outfit is a first year (1932) issue, as by 1933 the sets did not incorporate the berry beads and were referred to by NOMA as "red cap" outfits, whereby the wires passed through the sockets at the bottom, rather than up into and then back out. Also, 1934 and later sets had a properly printed inner flap with no over paste label. It is unusual to be able to date an outfit to a specific year of manufacture.


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