Spanish Colonial Tin Lithograph Dollhouse
Decorated for a mid-century modern Christmas during a Wee Winter Wonderland as part of Holidays Around the World and Through Time.
“GET THE BIGGEST ALUMINUM TREE YOU CAN FIND CHARLIE BROWN, MAYBE PAINTED PINK.”
- LUCY VAN PELT, A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS
The evergreen tree has been the centerpiece of winter celebrations for centuries. Germany introduced the idea of bringing a tree into the home and decorating it with ornaments for a Christmas celebration beginning in the 16th century. The trend spread throughout the World and was a common practice in the United States by the 1850s. The first artificial Christmas trees actually date back to the mid-1800s and were made from duck and goose feathers dyed green to mimic a fir tree.
Christmas tree styles reflect the trends of each era. By the end of the 19th century the idea of a snow covered Christmas trees was simulated by wrapping strips of cotton batting around leafless branches. In 1937 Popular Mechanics magazine suggested spraying aluminum paint on your Christmas trees so that it appears "fashioned of molten silver". During the 20th century a variety of materials were used to create artificial Christmas trees including crepe paper, visca (a rayon fiber), fiberglass, vinyl and aluminum. Aluminum Christmas trees were first manufactured around 1955 and reached their height of popularity in the mid-1960s reflected the futuristic taste of the space-age.
The branches of the earliest aluminum trees were made from finely cut foil derived from WWII chaff (strips of metal dropped by planes to scramble enemy radar) attached to a central pole made either of aluminum or silver-painted wood. Since stringing lights would be a fire hazard, a floor standing color wheel was used to illuminate the tree. The color wheel was made up of a disc with colored plastic segments through which light was projected up onto the tree’s reflective branches. A rotating Christmas tree stand could also be used to enhance the sparkling effect of the light on the tree. Since these trees were essentially gaudy, ornaments were simple and usually consisted of blue, red and green balls. Some trees came decorated with blue balls or pompoms on the ends of each branch.
The 1965 airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas came at the height of aluminum Christmas tree production. The popular Peanuts cartoon proposed that the aluminum Christmas tree was a symbol of the over-commercialization of Christmas and may have influenced the decline in popularity of this trendy holiday tree.