The history of NOMA Electric Corporation is a complicated one. NOMA was the largest Christmas lighting company in the world for all of the years of its operation prior to 1965. Here is what I have been able to discover about the story of a company that began by revolutionizing the American electric Christmas lighting industry...
The early years of the 20th century saw a growing public interest in electric Christmas tree lighting. In the beginning the lights were considered just a novelty, but as more and more cities were wired for electricity, the advantages of electric tree lighting became obvious. General Electric offered the first sets to the public, followed closely by the National Eveready Company (still known today for their batteries). A man by the name of Albert Sadacca and his two brothers, Henri and Leon, had started a lighting company in about 1914, and their business was beginning to grow rapidly in the area of decorative Christmas lighting. Louis Szel, an executive with the Five Seas Trading Company, had been importing beautiful figural Christmas lights from Austria into the United States since 1909 and was also enjoying a good bit of success. Other companies in business at the time included the M. Propp Company, C.D. Wood Electric, The Interstate Electric Novelty Company (later known as Franco) and the Henry Hyman Company.
Prior to 1925, the American electric Christmas lighting industry was also made up of many smaller companies, who sold their own brands of decorative electric lights to an increasingly eager public. Trade magazines of the day are filled with wonderful advertisements, explaining to every hardware store owner who read those journals the virtues of selling the novel "new" electric Christmas lights to their customers. Many shop owners listened, and soon hundreds of expensive lighting outfits were being sold.
Commonly sold series lighting outfits of the day were available in sets of 8, 16, 24 or 32 lights. An eight light set was barely enough to light a table top sized tree, while various numbers of lights were required to accommodate other tree sizes. Lighting dealers were encouraged to carry all four sizes in order to offer the widest variety to their customers. The sets were quite expensive, and it was a bit of an economic gamble for dealers to carry a big variety and risk having a large quantity remaining unsold at the end of the season.
A crude form of extension box had been available for a few years which allowed sets to be adjusted for the number of light strings connected to it, but it was not the most practical of devices. The box allowed additional festoons of eight lights each to be added by opening it up, and connecting wires to the appropriate places. Here is a picture of a typical example, which is made of heavy green glazed ceramic and was called a junction box:
In 1921, Lester Haft of the C.D. Wood Electric Company filed a patent application for a device and method of allowing additional festoons of lights to be easily connected to one another. See Lester Haft and His 1924 Patent on this site for more information about this pivotal patent. The benefits of Haft's patent were immediately obvious, and most of the companies then in the Christmas lighting business either licensed the rights to incorporate the device in their own strings or defied the pending patent, hoping the application would not be approved. But Haft's patent was granted in 1924, a defining year for the Christmas lighting industry.
Note: OldChristmasTreeLights? and FamilyChristmasOnline? are trademarks of Breakthrough Communications? (www.btcomm.com).
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