Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas Ornaments at Benton County Museum

Holiday greetings!  I’m a Christmas tree fanatic and have one in each room of my house.  Some are small and I store them already decorated.  I’m now in the process of decorating the large one in the living room which takes several days as I have so many ornaments, many of which were hand-made by my mother.  I thought you might enjoy seeing some of the ones in the Benton County Historical Museum’s collection.

Originally Christmas tree lights were actual candles, which created a fire hazard.  Strands of electric lights for the trees were first offered commercially in the early 1900s. 
Hexagonal Christmas tree light bulb
Early lights such as this one worked fine until one bulb in the set burned out.  Then all the lights would stop working.  You had to test each one until you found the burned out bulb! I found the hexagonal shape of this one unusual.
"Bubbler" Christmas tree light bulb
Lighted Ice Christmas bulb
When bulbs such as the candle-shaped one got hot, the liquid in them bubbled.  Bubble lights were the big hit of the 1946 Christmas season. In the first two years they were on the market, over 25 million sets were sold. Another type of specialty lights were the “lighted ice” bulb produced by General Electric.  I still have some of each from the trees of my postwar childhood. Unfortunately, they don’t work with the more efficient modern lights strings. 

The first Christmas trees were decorated with food such as gingerbread men and apples.  The tradition of mold-blown colored glass balls began in Lauscha, Germany in the late 1840s and became popular in the United States in the 1890s.  Here are three from the museum’s collection. 
This Victorian ornaments is made of pink celluloid with a metal mesh.
This clip-on tulip is large and rather heavy.  I wonder how it stayed upright!
This glass ball has been hand-painted.
By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon

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