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Mid-20th Century Christmas Decorations, Part 2

by Linda Ferguson

The era of mass production began in earnest in the post-war years of the late 1940s. Christmas ornaments were not overlooked. During this period, materials for Christmas decorations went beyond the traditional metals and paper. Decorations made of plastic became the rage.

Variety of plastic ornaments, 1950s.

Appealing to consumers because of their low cost and longevity, plastic ornaments shaped like Santa, reindeer, icicles, and other traditional Christmas shapes and icons were popular in the 1950s. Some of the more innovative plastic ornaments were the type that had a small propellor inside that made the ornament spin when close to heat (such as the heat from a Christmas tree light).

6-foot Aluminum Trees
Price trends for 6-foot aluminum trees auctioned on eBayTM from July 1999 to February 2000 (293 items)

That is not to say that ornaments made of traditional materials were no longer produced. On the contrary, glass ornaments were as popular as ever. Ornaments with flocked and glittered scenes were numerous. Also popular during this time were the cardboard village sets manufactured in Japan and sold in catalogs and dime stores.
Plastic reindeer ornaments, 3 1/2" high, sold in sets of 9 for $1.29. From Montgomery Wards catalog, Fall and Winter 1959.

Christmas trees themselves were now man-made using materials such as plastic, vinyl, paper, wood, and metals. The most well-known of these artificial trees is the aluminum tree. These came in many sizes and shapes, from small to large, with skinny branches or of the bushy-end pom-pom type.

A museum honoring the aluminum Christmas tree is located in Brevard, North Carolina.

Many Christmas trees were illuminated with flood lights or "color wheels". This was for effect and also because putting lights on artificial trees could damage the trees. One of the more popular brands of color wheels was Penetray. Depending on the condition and shape of the base, Penetray wheels with the original box can fetch anywhere from $35 to $120. Trees were placed on revolving tree stands so that both the tree and the lights moved!

Color Wheels
Price trends for color wheels auctioned on eBayTM from July 1999 to February 2000 (884 items)

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