Click to return to the Old Christmas Tree Lights Table of Contents Page
Click to return to the Old Christmas Tree Lights Table of Contents Page

Editor's Notes about the "Original" 2008 Old Christmas Tree Lights Pages:

The history of Christmas lighting, and especially Christmas tree lighting was an avocation for authors, collectors, and brothers Bill and George Nelson. Bill Nelson started a site about antique Christmas tree lighting about 1999 and maintained it until health issues overtook him. In 2004, Bill's brother George began adding significant upgrades additions. But by early 2008, health problems caught up with George, and he, too, stopped working on the site.

It's worth noting that both Bill and George created remarkable resources, considering that they were self-taught webmasters. So, this site is a tribute, not only to early Christmas tree lights and the folks who made and marketed them, but also to Bill and George's hard work, which was almost lost. For more information about the extensive efforts to restore and preserve these resources, please visit our Restoring the Resources page.

All of the links below link to materials that George Nelson had on his version of the site between 2006 and 2008, though they weren't all on the site at the same time - George was constantly moving things around, adding topics about things he liked, and removing topics that he didn't think related.

Update for 2015 - The content and graphics on this page and the pages it links to are all from George's 2008 version of the site, although we had to rebuld each page "from scratch" to give you the most authentic version of George's "masterwork." That said, George deliberately omitted several of Bill's original pages when he created his version. We wish to restore those pages as we have time, but we do not with to destroy the authenticity of this restoration. So as of March 5, 2015, this page and the pages it links to will be "frozen," except for site maintenance requirements. If you wish to see the expanded version, with Bill's "missing" pages restored, please click here.

About Permissions

As explained in our Restoring the Resources, every file on this site has been updated to work with modern browsers, etc. As a favor to future readers, I have removed the "please ask for permission" scripts on every page. So if you want to download a photo for your personal use, you don't have to jump through hoops.

However, this site is NOT public domain, and I would ask that you not copy and repost whole sections or pages. Any bit you do reuse on your own web pages should have a reference such as the following:

    Source: Bill and George Nelson's Antique Christmas Lights Museum. For more information, see

For More Information:

  • If you have questions about antique Christmas lighting, try the collectors' sites in our links page, which I hope to update soon.

  • If you have any questions, comments, criticisms, additions, about this site itself, please contact us, and we will try to get back to you soon.

Keep in Touch

We're always glad to hear from readers so contact us as often as you think of anything worth passing on to us or your fellow readers. Sadly, we don't have a mailing list for this site, but we do have one about Christmas stuff in general, including crafts, music, and memorabilia. If you would like to subscribe to the Family Christmas Online Newsletter, click here.. Right now we only send out 2-3 a year, but we're hoping to improve on that as our mailing list grows. Keep in touch. Sign up for the Family Christmas Online™ Newsletter

As we say on the Family Christmas Online page, our hope is that our resources can continue helping you and your family (as Dickens said of Scrooge):

    Honor Christmas in your heart, and
    "try to keep it all the year."

In the meantime, may God grant you joy and wonder every season of this year,

Paul Race, Family Christmas Online(tm)

For more information, please contact us.

To Return to the Overall Site Table of Contents Page, please click here.

To Jump to the Old Christmas Tree Lights Discussion Forum, please here


Preface: Christmas Tree Lights Without Electricity
A brief glimpse of what American Christmases were like without electricity. This section includes some interesting
and early candle holders and devices.

Timeline: A Timeline of Major Events in the History of the American Christmas Lighting Industry

Chapter One:   Early History of Electric Christmas Lighting in America

Information about how the electric Christmas lighting industry got started, a picture of the first electric Christmas tree,
and more about the earliest days of electric Christmases in America.

Chapter Two:   The Earliest Light Sets 1900-1920
Pictures of the oldest lighting outfits in the collection, both battery and household mains powered.

Chapter Three:  The Roaring Twenties 1921-1929 
It is here that the Christmas lighting industry in America really got off the ground. Box art hit a peak during this time, and some of the most colorful boxes the collector can find come from this era. You'll find a huge number of outfits both pictured and discussed in this section.

  • Page 1- 1921-1924: An introduction, and pictures of carbon filament sets and smooth cone outfits.
  • Page 2- 1925-1926: More smooth cone outfits, and the earliest ribbed cone sets.
  • Page 3- 1926-1928: Some of the most colorful boxes ever produced are on this page, along with the beautiful outfit from Woodwin-one of this collector's favorite boxes.
  • Page 4- 1928-1929: The last sets made before the effects of The Great Depression are felt.
  • Page 5- 1929-1930: The Great Depression begins. Some early treetop stars are pictured and discussed, along with the NOMA Dresden figural lighting set and a few outdoor lighting sets.
  • Also in this chapter: Lester Haft and His 1924 Patent
        The NOMA Story
    The Morris Propp Story
     The Bert Messervey Story

                                           The NILCO Company Story

Chapter Four:   The Depression Years 1930-1940 
As the American economy faltered, lighting outfits were made more economically, in an effort to appeal to even the poorest of families. Low cost Japanese imports became much more common.

Chapter Five:   The War Years 1941-1945 
The United States enters the War, and the American lighting is forever changed because of it.

  • Page 1- 1941-1943:The beginning of World War II, and its affect on the Christmas lighting industry.
  • Page 2- 1944-1945: War-era box art, the end of Christmas lighting for a few years, and the Sylvania Fluorescent Christmas lights of 1945.

Chapter Six:   After the War 1946-1950 
The postwar economic boom changes forever America's perception of the "traditional" Christmas tree and the way it was lit.

Chapter Seven:  A Look Beyond the 50s...
A brief look at electric lights offered after 1950 and a short history of the aluminum Christmas tree.

Chapter Eight:   NOMA, the World's Largest Christmas Lighting Company 
A detailed history of this incredible company.

Chapter Nine:   The History of Bubble Lights, Once the World's Most Popular Christmas Light 
An interesting history, and discussion of the major legal battle that accompanied the introduction of this popular light.

Chapter Ten:   Lighted Figures and Novelties
Three pages of lighted candles, figures and other novelty items from the early 1920s through 1950.

Chapter Eleven:  Lighted Tabletop Trees
A brief look at lighted table top and bubbling light trees from the 30s, 40s and 50s.

Chapter Twelve:   Just For Fun, a Few Pictures of Christmas Past 
Presented here is a small collection of photographic memories of Christmas as it was in Great Grandmother's time.

Chapter Thirteen:   Just For Fun, some Music of Christmas Past
This page presents some very vintage recordings of turn-of-the-nineteenth-century Christmas music,
recorded on Thomas Edison Cylinder records. - Newly Restored! To my knowledge this content is
unavailable anywhere else, even on archive sites.

Chapter Fourteen:    Christmas Memories 
Some charming glimpses into past Christmases, shared with us by visitors to this site.

Chapter Fifteen:   A Collection of Interesting Facts
A list of interesting bit of information about American Christmas lights, in no particular order.
My parents would have called these "useless facts", but I find them quite intriguing...

Chapter Sixteen:   Frequently Asked Questions  
A discussion of some of the most asked questions by site visitors. More is always being added.

Chapter Seventeen:   Vintage Advertising
A lot can be learned from early advertising, and these pages present many of the ads that this collector has used for research in preparing this web site.

Chapter Eighteen:   A Combined Glossary of Terms and Index of Manufacturers 
An explanation of the terms used on this website as well as information on many of the Christmas lighting manufacturers from the first half of the twentieth century.

Chapter Nineteen:   The Patent Pages
A presentation of interesting Christmas related patents filed over the years.

Chapter Twenty:  A Listing of Manufacturers
A list of manufacturers divided into two sections- Before the formation of NOMA and after the formation of NOMA.

Chapter Twenty Two:   References and Related Links 
Where to find more information, and links to other informational sites.

Welcome Page   

Note: OldChristmasTreeLights™ and FamilyChristmasOnline™ are trademarks of Breakthrough Communications™ (
The original subject matter content and illustrations on™ are Copyright (c) 2008 by George Nelson.
All updated HTML code, editorial comments, and reformatted illustrations on this web site are Copyright (c) 2010, 2011, 2013, 1014 by Paul D. Race. Reuse or republication without prior written permission is specifically forbidden.
Old Christmas Tree Lights(tm) is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

For more information, please contact us.

Update for December, 2013 - Discussion Forum Rollout! - Every so often, I get contacted by a reader who has a comment about a light set, or is looking for some particular piece, or needs to repair some family heirloom. I've been doing this long enough to know that for every person who asks a question, there are a dozen with the same question who don't bother to ask. I don't have time to go back and make changes to all the affected sites each time new information comes our way, though. By setting up a discussion group, I hope to get more people involved, and allow folks who've been contributing behind the scenes to contribute more consistently.

From this point on, when we receive a question, photo, answer, tip, or other new content, we'll post it in the discussion forums first. That way other folks will be able to see the same content as soon as it becomes available, instead of waiting for me to get around to updating the various sites. You won't have to register to see the questions and answers, but you'll need to register to post directly to the forums. We are taking extraordinary measures to make certain only well-meaning "real people" sign up, so you shouldn't have to worry about the unpleasantness you occasionally see on other forums.

If you're interested in seeing the forums, click here.

If you're interested in signing up for the forums, click here.

Click to visit the Discussion Forums
Click to sign up for the OldChristmasTreeLights Discussion Forums

Keep in touch. Sign up for the Family Christmas Online™ Newsletter

Click to see more Christmas features, including stories, music, and craft resources.

Check Ebay Listings

Click to see sturdy Lionel(r) trains that are perfect for your Christmas tree.

Click to return to the Old Christmas Tree Lights Table of Contents Page
Jump to the OldChristmasTreeLights Discussion Forum
Visit our affiliated sites:
- Christmas Memories and Collectibles -
Visit the FamilyChristmasOnline site. Visit Howard Lamey's glitterhouse gallery, with free project plans, graphics, and instructions. Visit Papa Ted Althof's extensive history and collection of putz houses, the largest and most complete such resource on the Internet.. Click to return to the Old Christmas Tree Lights Table of Contents Page Craft and collectibles blog with local news of Croton NY.
Click to visit Fred's Noel-Kat store.
- Family Activities and Crafts -
Click to see reviews of our favorite family-friendly Christmas movies. Free, Family-Friendly Christmas Stories Decorate your tree the old-fashioned way with these kid-friendly projects. Free plans and instructions for starting a hobby building vintage-style cardboard Christmas houses. Click to find free, family-friendly Christmas poems and - in some cases - their stories. Traditional Home-Made Ornaments
- Music -
Carols of many countries, including music, lyrics, and the story behind the songs Wax recordings from the early 1900s, mostly collected by George Nelson.  Download them all for a 'period' album.
Best-loved railroad songs and the stories behind them.
Heartland-inspired music, history, and acoustic instrument tips. Own a guitar, banjo, or mandolin?  Want to play an instrument?  Tips to save you money and time, and keep your instrument playable. Own a guitar, banjo, or mandolin?  Want to play an instrument?  Tips to save you money and time, and keep your instrument playable.
- Trains and Hobbies -
Return to Big Indoor Trains Home page
Return to Family Garden Trains Home page
Big Indoor Trains Primer Articles: All about setting up and displaying indoor display trains and towns. Garden Railroading Primer Articles: All about getting a Garden Railroad up and running well
On30 and O Gauge trains to go with indoor display villages and railroads
Big Christmas Trains: Directory of Large Scale and O Scale trains with holiday themes
Visit Lionel Trains. Free building projects for your vintage railroad or Christmas village. Click to see Thomas Kinkaded-inspired Holiday Trains and Villages. Big Christmas Train Primer: Choosing and using model trains with holiday themes Visit Howard Lamey's glitterhouse gallery, with free project plans, graphics, and instructions. Click to see HO scale trains with your favorite team's colors.

Click to trains that commemorate your team!