I had been looking for a vintage aluminum Christmas tree locally forever with no luck – so I finally broke down and recently bought one on eBay. I don’t know why I have waited for so long – after all, aluminum Christmas trees are like “must-have” item for any mid-century modern enthusiasts! My aluminum Christmas tree is a 4.5’ “Silver Forest” model by Arandell Products Company out of Philadelphia. I noticed there were so many different brands and models of the vintage aluminum Christmas trees while shopping around, so I decided to do a little research on the history of aluminum Christmas trees.
The very first Aluminum Christmas trees were custom made by a company called Modern Coatings, Inc. in Chicago. The company held a patent on their trees, which were retailed for around $80 (for a six-foot tree). In 1959, the Aluminum Specialty Company in Manitowoc, Wisconsin acquired a license from Modern Coatings to begin mass production of aluminum Christmas trees, the “Evergleam,” which retailed for $25. More than one million Evergleam trees in a variety of sizes and colors were produced by the Aluminum Specialty Company between 1959 and 1969. Many other companies manufactured their own version of aluminum Christmas trees throughout the 1960’s and into early 1970’s. The aluminum Christmas trees were at the height of their popularity during the mid-1960’s.
Aluminum Christmas trees came in variety of sizes and colors. The sizes varied from a two-foot miniature to an eight-foot deluxe. The eight-foot model did not sell well, because very few homes had ceilings higher than eight feet. Silver was the most common color, but other colors such as pink, gold, blue, and green were available as well. Regardless of the sizes and colors, aluminum Christmas trees simply consisted of a center pole and metal branches featuring shimmering foil needles. Aluminum branches were attached to the center pole that had pre-drilled holes at angles to form a tapered tree shape.
Due to fire safety concerns, electric light strings could not be used with aluminum Christmas trees. Rotating color wheels were used to illuminate them instead. A typical rotating color wheel featured a spotlight that had a rotating colored plastic wheel attached in front of it. The colored wheel consisted of three or four different color segments. The rotating color wheel was usually positioned under the tree, projecting an array of colored lights that reflected onto the aluminum branches. The effect of this color show was often further enhanced by using a rotating Christmas tree stand or turner.
Lightweight glass or plastic ornaments were commonly used to decorate aluminum Christmas trees. The tinsels that made up the tree’s “needles” were thin and fragile. Therefore heavy ornaments could not be used on aluminum branches without tearing the tinsel.
Today, vintage aluminum Christmas trees can be found on many sources, online auction such as eBay being the most common. Prices vary depending on the sizes (4’-6’ being most common) and colors (silver being most common). Needless to say, colored trees are more expensive and rare on the resale market. When you are shopping for a vintage aluminum Christmas tree, be sure that all of the branches are intact. Branches should be wrapped in the paper sleeves to prevent damages. It may be a good idea to ask the seller for a picture of the finished tree, so that you can see what the tree will look like when put together.
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