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Christmas Ornaments in Motion

by Glynis Ward

Whirl Glo shades, auctioned on eBay in October 2000 for $16.01 by brothersii. Photo by Greg Lober.

Whirl-Glo light shades are tiny, spinning paper light covers, which create the illusion of whirling animated pictures for the Christmas tree! These enchanting creations were made by the Sail-Me Company in the mid-'30s. A small paper cone sits on top of Christmas bulbs. The cone is outfitted with a small metal tab, which touches the bulb. On the top of the cone is a metal spindle. The decorated cup balances on top of the spindle and spins to life when warmed by the heat of the bulb.

Cones with pins that attach to Whirl Glo shades and make them spin. Part of an auction on eBay in October 2000 by bik

Whirl-Glo shades came in boxes containing 4, 8 or 12 and were imprinted with a variety of designs such as a horse-drawn carriage, three wise men, carolers, Santa scenes, reindeer, dancing children, and a marching band.

Star Twinkler ornament made by Plakie Toy Co., auctioned on eBay in October 2000 for $15.38 by nantiques3

Similarly, Twinkler ornaments of the mid-1950s, made by the Plakie Toy Company, were also made to create motion on a Christmas tree. Taking a new twist on the spinning theme, Twinklers have a static plastic case, which hangs from a tree bough like other ornament. The trick is to hang these just above a light. The open bottom of the Twinkler encapsulates the heat. Inside the clear plastic middle section, a propellor tumbles and whirls when heated. The faceted propellor reflects and refracts light as it spun, creating a twinkling effect. Twinklers are highly prized because their plastic cases cannot withstand sustained heat and often melt. They are a little more difficult to find than the surprisingly resilient Whirl-Glo shades. However, sets of Whirl-Glo shades complete with the spindles are quite rare.

Twinker carousel shaped ornaments, auctioned on eBay for $200 in October 2000 by darbar

Twinklers are most often found in the carousel shape with pink, blue, yellow or red tops and bottoms embedded with glitter. The propellor casement is clear, and the propellors themselves are very bright and contrasting. Most unusual are star shapes, which are comprised of a colored plastic star with the clear casement and propellor, suspended in the middle.


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