The Tookany Valley Chronicles:
Aluminum Christmas Trees
December 24, 2018
For centuries, the term “Christmas Tree” always referred to a live evergreen tree that was typically cut and brought into one’s home. (A few people brought the whole tree – roots and all – into their homes; most people, though, used freshly-cut evergreen trees.)
The major differences in Christmas Trees were whether the trees were pines, spruces, or other types of evergreen trees.
In the 1950’s, an alternative to live Christmas Trees came into mass production – the Aluminum Christmas Tree.
Typically silver in color, these trees had certain benefits.
Aluminum Christmas Trees never needed to be watered, did not shed needles on the floor, and could be re-used year-after-year. All of these benefits led to an overall lower cost compared to buying freshly-cut Christmas Trees each year.
One of the first mentions of an Aluminum Christmas Tree in the news media was a news article dated December 15, 1956, in the Fort Lauderdale Daily News. The focus of this news article was a 40-foot high Aluminum Christmas Tree being installed by Palm Beach Towers in Palm Beach, Florida. The news article indicated that this tree would include 5,000 Christmas lights in the colors of white, pink, and green. The tree reportedly cost $10,000.00.
(Please note: Few people actually put electrical lights on Aluminum Christmas Trees. It was – and it is – a fire hazard to hang electrical lights on Aluminum Christmas Trees.)
The first advertisements selling Aluminum Christmas Trees to the general public started to appear in newspapers in about the fourth quarter of 1958.
In its edition dated October 8, 1958, The Arlington Heights Herald of Illinois published an advertisement for the Mark Walgreen Agency Drug Store that was selling 6-foot and 7-foot Aluminum Christmas Trees. The 6-foot tree sold for $14.77; the 7-foot tree was selling for $16.88. A layaway plan was available for Aluminum Christmas Tree purchases.
A few weeks later, the Westgate Walgreen Agency Drug Store also advertised a 7-foot Aluminum Christmas Tree for $16.88. The advertisement, in the edition of the Arlington Heights Herald dated October 29, 1958, specifically stated “Why pay $49.95?” Evidently, in metropolitan Chicago, other retailers were selling Aluminum Christmas Trees for $49.95.
According to a news article dated November 18, 1958, in The Daily Times of Davenport, the Village Shopping Center in Davenport, Iowa, was to be the site of a new 50-foot Aluminum Christmas Tree. An advertisement in the same newspaper dated December 4, 1958, highlighted the installation of that 50-foot Aluminum Christmas Tree.
Fox & Company advertised a variety of Aluminum Christmas Trees in an advertisement in the December 12, 1958, edition of The Hartford Courant. Prices ranged from $34.98 for a 4-foot Aluminum Christmas Tree, while a 7-foot Aluminum Christmas Tree was priced at $79.98.
In the October 9, 1959, edition of The Tampa Tribune, Kress in Downtown Tampa advertised a 4 ½ feet high Aluminum Christmas Tree for $9.95 and a 6 ½ feet high Aluminum Christmas Tree for $15.95.
The Dayton Daily News, in its edition dated October 19, 1959, included an advertisement for Aluminum Christmas Trees being sold by Kroger. Prices at the supermarket ranged from $8.95 for a 4 ½ foot high Aluminum Christmas Tree to $14.95 for a 6 ½ foot high Aluminum Christmas Tree.
On October 28, 1959, Kresge’s in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, advertised several types of Aluminum Christmas Trees in the Bristol Courier and Levittown Times. The prices ranged from $3.98 to $15.95 for 3 ½ foot high to 6 ½ foot high Aluminum Christmas Trees.
Aluminum Christmas Trees were also given away as prizes for other purchases.
For example, people who bought an RCA Whirlpool appliance at Gerhard’s at 290 Keswick Avenue in Glenside received a free, 4-foot high Aluminum Christmas Tree according to an advertisement in the December 8, 1959, edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The same offer was made for purchases of RCA Whirlpool appliances at Adams Brothers at 72 North York Road in Willow Grove.
This Aluminum Christmas Tree was one made by a family member of Ms. Suzanne Sprycha. “The Tree was made in 1965 by my Grandma, Julia Sprycha, when she worked for Revlis, which used to be located on Western Avenue in Blue Island, Illinois. It’s a cherished and much loved, family heirloom.”
While most Aluminum Christmas Trees were silver in color, some Aluminum Christmas Trees were manufactured in other colors. A bluish-green Aluminum Christmas Tree is seen in the above photograph, while a green Aluminum Christmas Tree is seen below.
Whimsical decorations have been a common element seen in Aluminum Christmas Trees.
A living room scene with two Aluminum Christmas Trees.
A smaller Aluminum Christmas Tree decorated with ornaments in shades of pink.
An Aluminum Christmas Tree decorated with blue bows and ornaments with images.
A variety of styles of glass ornaments were used to decorate this Aluminum Christmas Tree.
A close-up of one of the glass ornaments on this Aluminum Christmas Tree.
An owl and a snowman are among the various ornaments of different shapes and sizes that decorate this Aluminum Christmas Tree.
Intricate glass ornaments were utilized to decorate this Aluminum Christmas Tree.
This is another take on how to display an Aluminum Christmas Tree in a unique fashion.
The pom-poms alternate in red, green, and silver colors.
Beyond individuals and families putting up Aluminum Christmas Trees in their homes during the Holiday Season, there is an annual display of multiple Aluminum Christmas Trees.
The Transylvania Heritage Museum, located in Brevard, North Carolina, is the site of the annual ATOM - Aluminum Tree and Aesthetically Challenged Seasonal Ornament Museum and Research Center. The Museum describes the ATOM as “A collection of vintage Aluminum Christmas Trees decorated in whimsical themes.”
“Begun as a private collection with one lone donated aluminum tree in 1991, it now boasts an active membership organization whose volunteers annually assemble and decorate [more than] 25 vintage trees each decorated with its own whimsical theme,” according to a statement from the Transylvania Heritage Museum.
Photographs of a few of the Aluminum Christmas Trees that were part of the displays at the ATOM follow.
These Aluminum Christmas Trees are part of the ATOM Display that occurs annually at the Transylvania Heritage Museum.
Each of the trees was decorated in a different theme.
One of the more modern takes on decorations of an Aluminum Christmas Tree.
This tree was one of many on display this year at the Transylvania Heritage Museum.
One of the Aluminum Christmas Trees at the Transylvania Heritage Museum in 2017.
Note the smaller Christmas Trees as well as the glass ornaments of various colors.
The second photograph is provided courtesy Ms. Suzanne Sprycha.
The third photograph is provided courtesy of Mod Shawn, 2011.
The fourth, ninth, tenth, and thirteenth photographs are provided courtesy of Mod Shawn, 2012.
The fifth photograph is provided courtesy of Ms. Amy Abshier, 2008.
The sixth photograph is provided courtesy of Cricket, 2011.
The seventh photograph is provided courtesy of Cricket, 2008.
The eighth photograph is provided courtesy of Ms. Kat Barnes, 2007.
The eleventh photograph is provided courtesy of Ms. Rita Lane, 2014.
The twelfth photograph is provided courtesy of Ms. Sara Tomko, 2007.
The fourteenth and fifteenth photographs are provided courtesy of the Transylvania Heritage Museum, 2018.
The sixteenth photograph is provided courtesy of the Transylvania Heritage Museum, 2018.
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© 2018 Richard McDonough