Between 1999 and 2008, Bill and George Nelson created a remarkable resource that catalogued the history of Christmas tree lighting with hundreds of examples. When George's final version of the site abruptly disappeared in early 2010, we contacted as many Nelson family members and fellow collectors as we could to see if any had plans to keep the site going. Sadly, none had time, and/or ability to undertake this task. So, based on permissions George had given Paul when he was in good health, we dove into a massive undertaking.
Preserving and RestoringThe first part of this project was literally a race against time, to capture as many of George's materials as possible from temporary internet buffers and archives, before they disappeared altogether. Through many tedious searches, some very clever detective work (if I say so myself), and a couple of huge lucky breaks, we were able to preserve about 97% of George's materials.
That said, "restoring" the site was not simply a case of finding and reposting the original materials. Every HTML (web) page had to be significantly revised and every illustration had to be reformatted to get them to work properly with modern browsers. We also rebuilt the directory structure and corrected thousands of links.
In other words, most of the words on this site are Bill and George's, and most of the illustrations are based on illustrations they provided. But much of what you can't see when you go through these pages was my original work, which explains the dual copyright notices at the bottom of the page. So please don't imagine that you can simply copy these pages and illustrations to your web site and republish them without violating the copyright on the material and updates I've provided. I'm very generous with permissions, in case you want to reuse bits here and there, of course.
About "Missing" ResourcesSoon after we started this effort we realized that George was in the middle of a big reorganization when he had to stop working on the site. He had removed many of the illustrations that were provided by other collectors, although he left the links in place. He was in the middle of taking down Eric Holzenberg's pages about candle-powered chimes as well, which is why we don't have all of those pages on our version. So much of what I thought was "missing" from the archives of the 2008 site was actually removed by George himself in preparation for another revision.
Fortunately, Eric Holzenberg was able to send me a complete copy of George's site as it existed in 2006. In addition, other collectors have sent me other "missing" resources. So I should be able to work the "missing" material back into our restoration version as time permits.
Even better, I learned that Eric was working on an expanded version of his own pages about candle-powered Chimes. In early 2011, I was able to finish that task and get the new version of Eric's pages posted for him. You won't see THESE pages anywhere else, folks. To see Eric's updated Whirligig Christmas pages, click here.
Remaining ArchivesIn the meantime, if you want to see Bill and George's original work, a few archives are available. Unfortunately what I said about a "race against time" proved to be true. Several of the sources I used when I started this project have shut down, and others have shrunk, losing more files every day.
Much of George's 2008 version of the site is posted at the "Wayback's" web archive. If you want to try using this site, get online early in the morning. When too many folks get onto the web.archive.org site (no matter which archive they're looking at), the archived site starts freezing up and sometimes redirects you to the unrelated page now sitting at George's old URL.
Update for 2011 - Bill's Site Restored as Well!
While this attempt is first and foremost an effort to restore George's latest and greatest version of the brothers' sites, we have also been tracking down content from Bill's site, especially content and photos that George had deleted from later iterations of the site. We got a break in this effort when we discovered Tom Elmore's nearly-complete archive of Bill's site, circa 2003.
As we discovered, when George began reformatting the site in 2004, Tom Elmore saved what he could of the original site and created a working reconstruction. Like Paul's effort in reconstructing the 2008 version, Tom spent hundreds of hours reconstructing the 2003 version, so it's not only an archive - it's the most complete and functional archive ever made of Bill's pages. (There's also a lot of Tom's work buried in the HTML code, so please don't imagine these pages are public domain.) Tom made his reconstruction available to his readers at telmore.com for several years. However, seeing our efforts to protect the 2008 version of the site, Tom has graciously allowed us to share his reconstruction of Bill's 2003 site on these pages.
Initially you might think that posting both the 2003 and 2008 site would be redundant. But the brothers had different approaches to the content, different organizational and writing styles, and even different content. So we believe it is for everyone's benefit to present both versions.
Tom and Paul used different resources when they reconstructed these sites, so some elements missing in Bill's version are in George's and vice versa. Keep in mind, too, that neither site was ever 100% functional, even when the brothers were supporting the sites - they were constantly adding, removing, or moving things around. If we have time, we'll go back and plug in some of the "missing pieces." But in the meantime, Tom's archive of the 2003 version gives you an alternate, and entertaining resource for information about the delightful products and the companies that made them.
About PermissionsAs a favor to future readers, Tom Elmore and 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.
I would ask, however, 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:
For More Information:
Keep in TouchWe'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.
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
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.
Note: OldChristmasTreeLights? and FamilyChristmasOnline? are trademarks of Breakthrough Communications? (www.btcomm.com).
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