This article was recovered from our way-back machine, and updated with the most current information.
I was “discussing” the month of December with a friend on Twitter the other day. She was wishing for a hasty finish so we could move on to January. If she had her way, we would just skip Christmas and move on to the more mundane months of winter. Skip Christmas? In my opinion, it’s the best time of the year.
In this instance however, my friend was explaining to me that she was “Modern and unique” because she didn’t have a Christmas tree. Not quite understanding how this made one “Modern and unique” and not just rebellious, anti-hope, love, joy and peace. I suggested that if she wanted to be truly Modern (retro) and unique she should consider a Christmas tree of the aluminum variety.
She promptly told me she wasn’t (gasp)…that tacky.
I don’t know how anyone could call this standard of retro, mid-century holiday kitsch, tacky. Aluminum trees are beautiful reminders of time when American astronauts walked on the moon and everyone thought they would be living like The Jetsons by the turn of the century. It was a time when your Christmas tree was a testament to your connection to everything space-agey and cool (ironically, the Jetsons had a real tree.).
I did a little research for those of you who, like me, appreciate this type of holiday trim, and found out that the Aluminum Specialty Company in Manitowoc, Wisconsin was the first to manufacture the aluminum tree. It was called the “Evergleam” (of course). It is estimated that this company made more than four million trees in a 10-year period between 1959 and 1969 and they came in silver (most popular), red, blue, gold, green and the most rare and now, most expensive, pink. At the time, the trees averaged about $25 each, and now you’ll be shelling out at least $3,000 for a vintage pink one.
The trees were made of a central wooden pole that the branches attached to. Each branch had aluminum “needles” woven into it, and had to be stored in individual sleeves to prevent them from bending. Because putting electric lights on the tree would cause a short circuit or electric shock (awesome!), manufacturers sold rotating wheels of colored lights. If you were really cool, your tree would rotate too. Check out this time-lapse of one going together.
When this article was originally published in 2012, aluminum Christmas trees were collector’s items and could only be found on Ebay or through a limited number of e-sellers like YuleTide Expressions (who have since gone out of business). Trees ranged in price from $19.99 for a used tree to over $800 for new one. Now, a quick internet search will give you more options than you’ll know what to do with. Macy’s, Wayfair and even Walmart all have offerings at a variety of price points. While they might not be perfect replicas of the original, they put off the same vibe without the risk of electrocution (woot!).
Ok, so this would never replace my beloved live tree, but I think these trees are beautiful in their own 1960’s way. In the right setting, like the one on this mid-century Modern Christmas card, it would seem right at home.
For tips and ideas on how to decorate the rest of your home in MCM holiday swag, check out our blog from last year.