Dec 20, 2006

Everything old is new again


The first Christmas trees were artificial.
Most early artificial trees used feathers. The 1913 Sears, Roebuck catalogue offered feather trees ranging in size from 17 to 55 inches. Stores also sold trees with needles made of raffia, a fiber derived from the leaves of a tropical palm. According to The Guinness Book of World Records, the oldest artificial Christmas tree still on active duty is a small raffia tree from the 1830s owned by a family in Wiltshire, England.
Small, conical “bottle brush” trees used materials such as boar bristles or horsehair and typically came with built-in ornaments and a factory-applied coat of simulated snow. In the 1930s manufacturers of Christmastree lights (themselves an artificial substitute for the traditional candles) sold pre-lit tabletop trees made with cellophane and, later, Visca, a type of rayon fiber. Around the same time, the Addis Brush Company, which manufactured toilet brushes (and is still in the brush business), began making large artificial trees using its toilet-brush equipment.

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