On the Porch
By: Jennifer Andries
The aluminum Christmas tree is a type of artificial Christmas tree that was popular in the United States from the 1950s to the mid-1960s. The tree is made of aluminum, featuring foil needles and illumination from below via a rotating color wheel. The museum has a couple of aluminum Christmas trees in its collection along with a color wheel. Two of the aluminum trees, are on display in the Heritage Room exhibit. The trees, along with other antique and vintage holiday items and toys, will be on display at the museum through the month of December.
Aluminum Christmas trees were first commercially manufactured sometime around 1955. The largest manufacturer of aluminum Christmas trees were produced in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, by the Aluminum Specialty Company. In that decade the company produced more than one million aluminum trees. The trees, including the company’s flagship product the “Evergleam”, retailed for $25 and wholesaled for $11.25. The trees were either left undecorated or decorated with sets of brightly colored glass ornaments made by manufacturers such as Shiny Brite.
The first aluminum trees could not be illuminated like real Christmas trees or other artificial trees. Fire safety concerns prevented lights from being strung through the tree’s branches. The common method of illumination was a floor-based “color wheel” which was placed under the tree. The color wheel featured various colored segments on a clear plastic wheel; when the wheel rotated a light shone through the clear plastic casting an array of colors throughout the tree’s metallic branches.