Wednesday, November 28, 2012

As I began putting up my artificial Christmas tree this afternoon, I was thinking about the history of Christmas trees. A lot has been written about real trees. Evergreen has a long, glorious tradition dating back centuries. But what about the artificial trees? Who thought them up besides some housewife tired of picking pine needles out of floor cracks all spring? Here are some interesting facts:

The very first artificial trees were made by the Germans in the 1880s or 1890s and created of feathers. According to several articles I read, the thrifty Germans made the trees in part to prevent deforestation due to massive cutting of trees at Christmas.

I’m unsure how the first feather trees were made because I came upon two different methods. The first has green dyed feathers wound onto sticks, which were then drilled into a wooden pole. The second has goose feathers dyed green, which were attached to wire branches. The wire branches were wound on a wooden pole. Either way, the branches were widely spaced so candles wouldn’t start fires. But as you can imagine, they were a bit flimsy and quite flammable.

The feather Christmas trees were brought to the United States by German immigrants and sold by department store in the early 20th century. One article says the first feather tree was sold by Sears and Roebuck.

In 1900-1920 the Addis Brush Company made a brush Christmas tree that sounds similar to those sold today. They used the same animal hair bristles that they used to make their toilet brushes—only they dyed them green.  

In 1958, metallic artificial trees were introduced. They were made of aluminum attached to metal rods, and supported on central pole made with aluminum or wood. Some of the trees were made with aluminum coated paper, and were extremely flammable.

So my lovely artificial tree has a history, too, though not as long and glorious a fragrant real tree. Yes, I love real trees. The way they smell, the way they look. Even the romance of hunting for the perfect specimen. But come the first on the year, I’ll be mighty glad for my tree. I can pull it apart, stuff it in its box, and store it away until next year. And I won't be picking needles out of my carpet for months.


  1. Now we the Germans to come up with that one. I like your Charlie Brown tree. Reminds me of one year when I spent Christmas with friends in Connecticut. One of the girls in the family insisted on a real pine tree. They're scraggly at it took alot of decorations, but it was lovely when we were done...and of course the scent was wonderful.

  2. Linda, I love a tree with character--like the Charlie Brown tree.

  3. I did not know any of that about artificial trees. We got ours about 9 years ago and while I miss the smell of real trees, I don't miss the pine needles, the watering and the fear it will dry out before Christmas!


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