Much can be learned from early
advertising. Presented on these pages, in a rough chronological order, are some of
the ads this author has used in his research.
|1890- Thomas Edison published a
small, 28 page promotional brochure/catalog that included within its pages
what might well be the first commercial mention of the use of electrically lighting a
Christmas tree. On page 14, the catalog reads:
few forms of decoration more beautiful and pleasing than miniature
incandescent lamps placed among flowers, or interwoven in garlands or
festoons; for decorating Christmas trees or conservatories..."
|1900- The earliest known
advertisement for lamps to be used on Christmas Trees,
sponsored by General Electric. It appeared in the November 28, 1900
edition of Scientific American Magazine. Notice that Edison's
advertising offered to rent the light bulbs for Christmastime use!
|1901- General Electric advertisement promoting sale or rental of Christmas light bulbs, from the
November, 1901 issue of McClure's Magazine. The ad refers to a leaflet
by the company which included instructions on hand wiring a tree for
|1904- Ink Blotter
advertising General Electric's new pre-wired sets
of Christmas lights. The artwork is a direct copy of General
Electric's cover art for their 1904 booklet advertising their first set of Christmas
1905- GE Advertising
brochure for their set of decorative lights. See A Brief History of
American Christmas Lights, page two for
|ca. 1905- Front and back
views of an advertising postcard that General Electric supplied to
its distributors and commercial customers. The card could be
imprinted with the selling company's name, and then mailed out to
potential retail customers. This card, from John Wanamaker's famous
New York City department store, was never mailed.
1906- General Electric's
Edison Miniature Lamp catalog of November 8, 1906. Images of all 10
pages of the booklet are provided. Page 1 is upper left, going
through page 10 at bottom right.
|In November of 1906, the Elblight Company
advertised a special lamp and cable combination that allowed the
lamps to be placed anywhere on a special cable. The ad shows the
lights strung from the ceiling of the Siegel-Cooper Company in New
York City. It was quite an effective display. A different
publication from 1906 featured a short article on the lamps and
cables and is featured here as well. These products were
manufactured at least until 1910, possibly longer. The lamps were
manufactured for the Elblight company by General Electric. Lamp
pictures courtesy of light bulb collector Tim Tromp.
advertisement promoting a
battery operated winking (blinking) light set
from the Excelsior Supply Company. This is the earliest ad for
blinking lights this collector has found. The set advertised is
battery powered, and as such, must have been wired in parallel.
|1910- While not actually
an advertisement, this short article appeared in Scientific American
Magazine in 1910, introducing figural Christmas lamps to the
CHRISTMAS TREE LAMPS"
lighted tree is now a feature of the holidays in many homes. This
year, some new kinds of miniature incandescent lamps are available
which should make the electrically lighted Christmas tree more
artistic and beautiful than ever. The bulbs of the new lamps,
instead of being mere "pocket editions" of the ordinary incandescent
bulb, are shaped and colored to resemble fruit, flowers, birds and
animals. Commercially, they are classified under five heads as
Small fruit: including apple, blackberry, gooseberry, lemon,
mulberry, orange pear, peach and strawberry.
Large fruit: including apple. orange, peach and pear.
Nuts: including acorn, pine cone and walnut.
Flowers: including lily, rose and thistle.
Animals: including canary, clown, dog, owl, snow man, and Santa
It is doubtless somewhat embarrassing to Santa Claus to be
classified as an 'animal', but there seems to be no alternative. The
bulbs are colored by hand with waterproof paints by professional toy
makers. The realistic effect is considerably heightened when the
lamps are lighted. As far as the base and filaments are concerned,
the miniature incandescents are just like the conventional
decorative lamps used in the past (and still available) for
Christmas tree illumination. They have 3/8 inch miniature screw
bases, and are designed to be burned eight in series on circuits of
from 100 to 120 volts. By using a bell ringing transformer they may
be burned in multiple, but while the arrangement has the advantage
that the burnout of a single lamps does not extinguish others, the
cost of equipment is considerably greater than with the series
system. The bulbs contain one candlepower filaments, but the
coloring material absorbs a large percentage of the light and
softens the remainder by diffusion. Whether festooned on the
Christmas tree or used to decorate the room or table, these
fascinating little lamps add a touch of light and color that
harmonizes with the yuletide spirit."
|1914- Catalog by
The Electro Importing Co., New
York, which includes an assortment of electrical goods suggested as
Christmas gifts, including electric Christmas lights. The catalog
proudly states that "all goods are made in the United States."
The forward in the catalog says that this "represents the first
attempt made by any concern in America, to list between two covers,
a representative line of Trade Marked Electric Holiday Goods, both
for pleasure as well as utility." The Electro Importing Company sold
a large line of experimental and standard radio parts, including
radio kits for young boys.
|1917- The Vac-U-Rite Lamp
Company offered this unusual and quite patriotic lamp for the
Christmas season of 1917. Patriotic trees were all the rage, and
this lamp would have fit in well with a red, white and blue tree.
|Here's an ad, dated 1917,
from the Lumino Electric Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This
collector had not previously heard of the company before discovering
|1917- This ad by the
Columbia Electric Novelty Corporation shows their Christmas lighting
outfit, equipped with unbreakable composition sockets.
|1917- An early ad for
Christmas lights by the M. Propp Company, a prolific maker of light
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