Christmas Tree Ornaments
For many of us at Christmas time, the centerpiece in our homes is the tree adorned with brightly colored and uniquely shaped glass, paper or wooden ornaments. This tradition began early in the 19th century in Germany. The early handcrafted ornaments were hard cookies and gingerbread baked in shapes of stars, angels or bells. Some trees were decorated with fruits or nuts to symbolize new life in the coming spring. In an area of Germany called Lauscha they began to make ornaments of colored glass sold exclusively at Christmas time.
During the Victorian Age, mid to late 19th century, Christmas festivities had a major surge. During this time the city of Dresden, Germany began production of handcrafted ornaments of pressed and embossed paper as well as tin. A famous photograph of Queen Victoria and her family posed around a beautifully decorated tree with bright and intricate ornaments circulated throughout England and the United States. This image was instrumental in expanding the tradition of decorating Christmas trees.
Decorated trees with hand-fashioned ornaments became a major aspect of Christmas. Many of these ornaments were featured in popular magazine with instructions. The most popular figures were children, angels, and elves. By the end of the 19th century, F.W. Woolworth, of Woolworth’s Five & Dime, began massive imports of ornaments from Germany and sold them throughout the United States. The industry continued to grow until the outbreak of World War I brought ornament production to a halt.
Even after World War I ended, anti-German sentiment was high. Enter Max Eckhardt, a German importer based in New York prior to the outbreak of war. Eckhardt teamed up with the Woolworth Company and convinced the Corning Company of New York to mass produce glass Christmas ornaments to sell at Woolworth’s called Shiny Bright. By 1940, they were mass producing thousands of affordable ornaments. Shiny Bright was innovative in using silver on the inside of the ornaments allowing them to retain their brightness longer. The practice ended with the advent of World War II and the ensuing material shortages.
For almost two centuries, Christmas trees and the ornaments that embellish them have been an integral part of our holiday traditions with many ornaments having special meaning to the people who place them on their trees. The PAST Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village has a unique collection of antique and vintage ornaments for sale. Visit The PAST Antiques on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to see our full selection of antiques and vintage collectibles.