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Christmas Lights

            Christmas Lights used to consist of candles burning on real trees, if you can imagine the logistics and safety concerns in such celebration projects. After the 1879 invention of the light bulb by Thomas Edison, it was just a matter of a few years before an Edison-associate (Mr. Edward Johnson) would come up with the idea of a safer and more controllable method of lighting the Yuletide tree. It was President Grover Cleveland, in 1895, who sponsored the electrically-lit White House Christmas tree for the first time. By now, the public were eager to participate and anyone considered a member of high society could afford to host a party that featured Christmas tree lights. They were expensive and still out of the range of the average homeowner. 


             Armed with a copy of Popular Electronics, an experimental soul could decorate a tree with less-expensive batteries, the magazine providing the instructions for acquiring the wire, light bulbs, and sockets. In some cities, General Electric offered miniature light bulbs for rent, as buying the lamps was still too expensive. It wasn't until 1903 that General Electric offered a pre-assembled light kit at a considerably lower price, though still quite hefty for the average wage-earner at the time. Department stores came to the rescue for this newly-demanded trend by renting kits for the season for an even lower price. This festoon had pre-wired porcelain circuits, eight small colored Edison glass lamps, and a screw-in plug for attachment to a nearby light socket. 

               As the demand remained high, the annual season festival became more and more affordable, and yet remained a competition among home owners.   Lights moved from indoors to outdoors, all the better to demonstrate your Christmas spirit, or was it your faith, or was it just a question of keeping up with the Joneses?   Regardless, early sets are in limited supply and very much sought after, especially those in their original boxes. As these were items that were used even if only on an annual basis, they would deteriorate, often times as result of poor storage conditions as anything else. Just as easily, a one-time used kit, was perhaps safely packed away and forgotten. As a result, antique Christmas decorations are a true treasure if you have the right basement or attic to explore. 

          

            

 


      


      

 



 


 

 


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