The residents of Hawthorne did not disappoint with the Christmas light display for 2019. Whether you enjoy the traditional white lights or are festively colorful, the need for all types of lights and displays is in full swing this year.
The history of the Christmas light dates back to the early 1880’s when Edward Johnson, who worked with Thomas Edison, used a homemade string of lights to decorate his own tree. Electricity was not widely available; many people still used candles to decorate their trees.
In 1895, President Grover Cleveland decorate the official White House Christmas tree with electric lights and the rage of electric bulbs on a tree soon caught on.
After the turn of the century, the Ever-ready Company in the United States offered a string of electric lights to the public – but they were expensive. 28 bulbs and sockets were sold for $12 in retail stores. The average week’s pay at the time was $10.
Fancy figural Christmas light bulbs hit the market in 1909 being produced in Austria and marketed in Europe and America. The beautiful, hand crafted bulbs, from Kremenetsky Electric Company represented animals, birds, flowers and even vegetables to light the tree.
In 1910, the more common ‘round ball’ bulb was produced. They lasted longer, burnt brighter and were more durable than that of the fancy figural bulbs. But American’s weren’t giving up their fancier bulbs and they were still being produced up until the onset of World War I in 1917.
Japan picked up the manufacturing of bulbs after the First World War as did General Electric in the United States. These bulbs were mass produced and included stars and Santa’s. These bulbs were sold at a lower cost and allowed people to up their holiday usage of electricity.
Japan and America began to get competitive over the Christmas light business and a group of American based light makers formed the National Outfit Manufactures’ Association (NOMA). NOMA appeared on every box of holiday lights produced in the USA. In 1928, NOMA ran a magazine advertisement in color to promote their “string of color” lights:
“How little eyes will open wide as they see their glorious tree—the gift supreme—radiantly, safely trimmed with Norma Strings of Color Lights.” NOMA also offered a booklet by mail on how to decorate with colored lights.
As the years progressed, lights evolved to parallel lights and even more figural bulbs such as Betty Boop, Dick Tracy and Humpty Dumpty. Plastic shades were made to cover the lights with such comic cartoon stars as Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse.
Bubble lights came out after World War II into the later 1940’s and was a coveted light in many homes. Designed on a basic metal screw-in base. Above the base a candle-shaped tube of glass contained a methylene chloride liquid and as the base was heated, the liquid would bubble. Complemented with the twinkle bulb lights, the bubble lights remained a best seller into the early 1960’s when string lights and basic evergreens were replaced with rotating colored discs, spotlights and artificial aluminum trees.
Today, people are taking a great interest in collecting the Christmas bulbs and lights of their childhood.
The fact is that Christmas lights, either past or present, make the holidays bright.