Morris Propp

Page Two


In the early 1920s, many small companies sought to capitalize on Morris Propp's successes and the public's increasing interest in electric Christmas lights, and there were many offerings of these sets, most of them quite similar to each other. Here are some 1921 advertisements from just a few of the competing companies:

1921 Diamond 1921 Liberty 1921 Owl 1921 Triangle

As you can see, most of the companies had their own forms of "interconnecting" devices, which allowed multiple strings of lights to be connected together. Almost all of the Propp Christmas light sets from the early 1920s and onward included the "One-4-All" connectors, allowing their use with just about any other company's brand of attachments. This allowed Morris' sets to be instantly compatible with those offered by his competitors, and sales increased even more. Propp outfits were always "approved by the Underwriters," while some of the sets from the competition were not.

ca. 1920 Propp Battery Powered Outfit


By the time the ad pictured on the left ran in the November 1921 issue of The Electrical Record, the Propp brothers were in offices at 524-528 Broadway in New York City, having moved from 108 Bowery Street. Greatly expanded offices and manufacturing facilities were the fruit of Morris' extensive advertising campaign, and by now the Company was well on its way to becoming the largest manufacturer of Christmas lighting outfits the world had ever known. It was hard to imagine that little more than a decade had passed since Morris Propp was running his small gas light fixture operation.


Pictured below is the classic offering from the Propp brothers, and is circa 1924. Santa Claus himself appears prominently on the front cover of the box, proclaiming "FOR SAFETY SAKE, DEMAND PROPP ELECTRICAL DECORATIVE SETS."  The safety warnings were more against the use of "unapproved" electrical outfits rather than candles, but it is still interesting to note that even by this time, electrical illumination was far from universal in the United States. Electrical mishaps were almost as common as were accidents caused by open flame illumination, and those manufacturers who really wanted to sell their electrical wares were wise to conform to the Underwriter's standards for manufacturing and safety.

1924 Propp light set, outside view

Inside view of the same set

In 1925, many of the smaller decorative lighting companies formed a trade association they called the N.O.M.A. (See The NOMA Story for more information). The name stood for the National Outfit Manufacturer's Association, and the association members were hopeful that in joining together, they could pool advertising resources and purchasing power, thereby proving to be an effective competitor to Morris and his company, as well as other Christmas lighting manufacturers.

The years 1925 and 1926 were quite  successful ones for the NOMA consortium. In 1926, the members voted to form a single operating concern: The NOMA Electric Corporation. In 1927, the corporation sold stock on the open market for the first time. Although NOMA Electric was now technically a bigger operation than was the M. Propp Company, the Propp name was still forefront in the public's mind when it came to quality electric Christmas lighting outfits. The NOMA brand was only a year old, and during their first years of operation the company was selling out of the stock of the smaller businesses that were involved in its formation.


Starting in 1927, Morris again showed his shrewd business savvy by quietly buying large amounts of NOMA stock on the open market. His brother Louis did the same, and they continued to operate their company, increasing their advertising and holding their own against NOMA Electric, until they owned a full 20% of NOMA stock. Due to this stock ownership, Propp became a part of NOMA, but was operated independently by the brothers. But as time progressed, it became obvious that the bigger company would soon be able to sell their light sets at a lower cost than could the Propp's. In 1929, Morris and Louis Propp agreed to sell to NOMA Electric. The brothers received a huge block of NOMA stock in the sale, and combined with their previous holdings, now owned a major interest in the company that was originally competing against them. Morris Propp became the President of NOMA Electric in 1931, and held that position until his death of a brain tumor in 1933.

524-528 Broadway, New York City.  This is the old Propp Building.
Look closely, and you can see the NOMA name at the
 top of the red colorized building, placed there
after Propp and NOMA merged.


Morris Propp was not only a most effective businessman, but was a devout Jew and philanthropist. Besides helping many of his family members as they immigrated to America for a more promising life, he established the Propp Foundation "to aid and assist charitable and religious corporations, and religious schools and institutions that aid and support the sick and the poor." The foundation also supported scholarships and aid to students and universities, and continues to this day. Another organization, the Morris and Anna Propp Sons Foundation, is also still in operation.

Both Morris and Louis Propp were well respected by their family and by the community. It has been written that Morris "enjoyed the highest reputation for character and integrity" and of his brother, Louis, that "he spent a lifetime showing concern for and making unselfish contributions to his fellow man..."


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