Lighted table top trees were an important
line for most of the major Christmas lighting companies in the late
1930s and throughout the 40s, 50s and 60s. In fact, a few lighted
trees were offered as early as 1925 (see patent number 1,623,086 in the Patents
Pages), which were simple metal cones with shapes cut out for light to
shine through, but they were not big sellers. It took the development
of the light transmitting glass rods, invented by John Frei (patent
numbers 1,921,614, 2,080,259 and 2,125,906) to bring the
multicolored lighted table top tree into its own. Soon after the Glo
Lite trees became popular, NOMA introduced their line of electrically
lit trees, and when they presented Bubble Lites to the world, it was
only a short time before the trees sported bubbling lights upon their
branches. Paramount/Raylite had been selling lit tabletop trees since
1937, and when they began selling their version of bubbling lights in
1947, soon offered bubble light trees as well. Here are some examples
of what was available over the years:
|In their 1937 catalog,
Paramount pictured this tabletop sized bottlebrush tree, complete with
a Kristal Star topper and their well known "Rosette" type lights.
The catalog description reads as follows: "Snow Covered Tree,
illuminated by eight Rosette lamps, with an attractive Kristal Star on
top. The tree is dark green, covered with glistening snow, set into a
well matched base that is finished in Chinese red. Different and
are close up pictures of a
Kristal Star topper
and a Rosette lamp
(right). Both of these lamps are made from painted and glittered metal
and glass, and were imported by Paramount (and other companies) from
Japan in the 1930s. The lamps are plentiful, but I have
never seen a surviving example of this tree.
|Here is a small, Glo
Lite tree, circa 1948. All of the multicolored plastic rods are lit
from within by a single standard base 25 watt light bulb. The base is
white plastic, and the form under the Visca tree branches is cardboard.
Earlier versions of this tree, made before 1940 or so, used glass rods
instead of the plastic.
|Here is a very
interesting variation of the Glo Lite tree shown above. This one
is from the collection of Chris Cuff, and is made of blue
cellophane rather than Visca. Quite small at only about 10" tall, the
tree body is cardboard, and the little lites are glass "globs" attached
to the ends of cardboard cones. The color is on the bottom of the
glass, and everything is lit from inside with a 10 watt Mazda bulb in a
"Deal" brand socket. The socket is permanently fastened into the white
plaster base with tar. The tree is from the mid 1930s.
|This early offering from
NOMA is circa 1941, and is a simple 14" high artificial tree with nine
miniature base series wired light sockets. The tree came with 10 cone
shaped lamps in assorted colors. The base is white plastic, and the
close up photo shows how the cardboard cone forming the tree fits onto
it. Originally, the little tree was a bright, pure white, but time has
taken its toll and the tree is now a soft beige in color.
|Here is an example of
one of the first bubble light trees available. This is from NOMA, and
is circa 1947. Instead of having complete, individual bubbling lights
on the tree, the entire unit is heated and lit with a single 25 watt
bulb. The base of the tree is a metal cone, and the bubble tubes simply
fit into slots in the cone. The advantage to this arrangement is that
the unit could last virtually forever, as one would only have to
replace the single internal lamp when it failed. This is a very hard to
find bubble light tree. All of the NOMA electric trees came in simple
non-decorated corrugated boxes like the one shown here. The
Paramount/Raylite Company also offered a similar unit.
|From 1948, these NOMA
bubble light trees feature 9 of the "new" saucer style bubbling lights.
These lights were series wired, so the failure of a single lamp caused
the entire tree to go dark. The foliage on the 18 inch high trees is
made of Visca, a soft plastic-like material that sadly becomes brittle
with age and eventually sheds. These pictures are from the 1948
|Also from the 1948 NOMA
catalog are these 18 light trees, identical in construction to the ones
above except for their size (26 inches high). These larger trees are
both more desirable for collectors and much harder to find.
|This is a large NOMA 32
light tabletop tree shared with us from the collection of Jim Sloss.
Displayed upon the tree is part of Jim's large collection of
glass Matchless Stars, including the exceedingly rare Matchless Star
tree topper. Trees like this, with horizontally mounted sockets instead
of the more traditional vertically mounted ones are very hard to find
today, and were originally intended to hold small round G-4 lamps. When
lit, the little lamps would resemble holly berries. The picture
was taken in a darkened room to make the fabulous colors of the lights
more visible, but notice that this tree is a beautiful white example,
and in extremely good condition. So many of these Visca covered trees
are now sadly discolored and shedding badly, but this example retains
all of its original charm and grace.
|This tree is a hard to
find multiple wired example from NOMA, and is circa 1949. The unit has
nine candelabra base bubble lights, and contains a very hard to find
solid color base bubbler (the green light on the bottom right of the
tree). It was common practice for NOMA to mix the colors on their
bubble light bases, and only rarely would a solid color example slip
through the factory.
|Also from the collection
of Chris Cuff is this circa 1950 bubble light tree from Royal. This is
an eleven light tree, wired in the usual series configuration. With
eleven lights in the series, the lamps will have an extremely long
life, and Chris reports that all of the lamps appear to be original.
Quite a feat, considering that this tree is 51 years old! Sadly, the
Royal Christmas division of their manufacturing plant burned in 1955,
and the company sold their molds and other salvageable equipment to
NOMA and a couple of other companies, choosing not to remain in the
Christmas business. Royal still makes non-decorative electrical items
to this day.