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After the War
page 2


In 1946, NOMA first mass-marketed their famous Bubble Lites in the book-type box pictured below.  As we mentioned before, Carl Otis, an accountant at Montgomery Ward, actually "invented" the bubbling light in 1938. (CLICK HERE for the complete story). He sold the rights to NOMA later that same year, but the Company was unable to market them in any quantity until after the war in 1946.

Consisting of a glass tube filled with a chemical called methylene chloride and a plastic base that holds a light bulb in close contact with the tube, the units bubble merrily whenever heated. The chemical has such a low boiling point that it will even bubble from the heat of your hand or the sunlight entering through a window. The liquid in the tubes comes tinted in several colors, with purple being the rarest as it was only sold for the first three years of production. While collectors desire this purple color due to its rarity, the fluid is usually so dark that it does not show the bubbling action to best effect.

As shown in the close-up picture below, the earliest bubble lights have glass slugs within the tubes, to help activate and spread out the bubbles. Soon it was discovered that the slugs were not really needed, and after 1949 they were no longer used. Lights without the glass tubes, however, do tend to have larger and unevenly produced bubbles. Bubble Lites quickly became the best selling and most profitable Christmas lights of their day. CLICK HERE for a cutaway view of a NOMA production Bubble Lite, and  for a cutaway of the earlier NOMA prototype bubbler, CLICK HERE.



First NOMA Bubble Lite
box style, 1946
Inner Flap of book-style box Contents of box, showing
9 lights, cord and clips
Close-up of 1946 NOMA
Bubble Lite


   Although not shown in the patent drawings, the prototype NOMA biscuit style Bubble Lites were originally intended to have an easily replaceable bulb. The top and bottom halves of the lights were held together with metal clips, which allowed for disassembly. These prototype bubblers had round globe light bulbs made by the Matchless Company, while later production lamps were supplied by General Electric and were flat topped. The base halves of these prototypes were made of a very different plastic than NOMA used for the production lights, and were actually leftover stock from the Glo Lite glass candles, acquired when NOMA bought the Glo Lite company (center picture). You'll easily be able to spot the difference-the early plastic has a satin finish and large rectangular holes where the metal support cone for the Glo Lite glass candle was intended to be fastened, while the later NOMA plastic is quite shiny and has small, round ventilation holes.  The picture above on the left is the complete prototype Bubble Lite, showing the base clip, and the right picture is a close up of the prototype bottom half with bulb. The early plastic is of a much deeper color than is the later material.


Heavily advertised in 1946, NOMA's Bubble Lites were THE thing to have for a properly decorated tree. Other lighting companies were taken by surprise, but by 1947 were offering their own sets of bubbling lights in an effort to capitalize on the phenomenal sales being enjoyed by NOMA.


Date Manufacturer Notes Outside of Box Inside of Box
1947 NOMA

A set of replacement bubbling lights, advertised to encourage the consumer to replace their "ordinary" light bulbs with these. this particular set has several of the very rare NOMA base half colors: pink (far left), cobalt blue (second from left), blood red (third from left) and white (fourth from left).

1947 Paramount

The outfit pictured here is from Paramount, and is an example of their attempt to circumvent NOMA's bubble light patent. The lights were originally called Kristal Snow Animated Candles, but Paramount soon changed the name of their lamps to "bubbling lights"-close to NOMA's "Bubble Lites". The tubes are filled with oil and pumice instead of the methylene chloride used by their competitor, and the oil bubbles with very fine, tiny bubbles that are pretty when seen up close, but the effect is lost on a Christmas tree when seen at a distance. As a result, these lamps were not at all popular and are very hard to find today.

1947 Goodlite Shooting Star bubbling lights were offered in 1947-1948 by Goodlite, in an attempt to circumvent NOMA's patents. The tubes offer a unique bubbling action, due to the two different liquids they contain. The bubbles rise rapidly through a thin liquid, then slowly fall through the thicker liquid at the bottom. The effect is strikingly similar to fireworks display, but sadly is lost on a large tree. The lights were not good sellers, and as soon as NOMA lost their patent on bubbling lights, Peerless changed their chemicals to the standard methylene chloride. Genuine "shooters" can be identified by the two distinct liquids in the tube, similar to the appearance of oil and water. These lights are extremely rare, and are highly sought after by collectors today.
1947 Peerless This set by Peerless is an example of candelabra based Shooting Stars. The color in the shooting liquid is most often found faded to clear, and this set, which has managed to retain its color, is exceedingly rare.
1947 Royal First offered for sale in 1947, these bubbling lights by Royal were good sellers. Royal took great pains not to step on NOMA's patents by calling their offering "Sparkling Royalites", rather than bubble lights. The plastic bases are shaped similarly to NOMA's product, but a close look reveals several differences in the base shape. The earliest lights, offered in the red box, came with loose spring clips to attach to the tree, but the springs had a tendency to twist on the tree and upright positioning was difficult.
1948 Royal Later Royal offerings like these in the blue box came with clips permanently attached to the sockets. These lights originally sold for $2.69 and were somewhat less expensive than NOMA's Bubble Lites, but were of lesser quality as well. Production runs for the first few years featured non-matching color base parts as shown above, while later issues were made with solid base halves.
1948 Royal Here is Royal's offering of candelabra based bubbling lights, referred to by collectors today as "Royal Crowns." Commonly sold with the solid color bases as featured in this set, collectors are always on the lookout for those lights that have mixed base colors like the example shown to the right.  Few boxes for this set survive today, and this example is an outfit which has weathered the years fairly well. To this collector's knowledge, the outfit was offered only in red boxes.      
1948 Miller The Sylvania fluorescent light bulbs were incorporated into outfits by several lighting companies. This set is from Miller, and is quite hard to find.
1948 Royal This fluorescent outfit by Royal is easier to find than is the set directly above.


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