Friday, November 6, 2009
In 1935, a Mr. Carl Otis filed a patent for a bubbling light idea. These were specifically designed to use on Christmas trees. Benjamin Franklin was the first person who had thought of the concept. Mr. Otis' patent was for an "Ornamental Illuminating Device" as he called it. In time, he applied for several more patents for variations of the same light. However, there were others who claimed fame to even other variations of the light. Unfortunately, Mr. Otis finally lost his patent rights to the light and along with it, his royalty payments from the Christmas lighting companies.
Due to the 1929 depression, between 1930 and 1940 few people had enough money to spend on anything unnecessary, and certainly not Christmas lights. Therefore, they used what they had in order to save money. In an effort to relieve some of the effects of the depression, in 1933, President Roosevelt came up with an idea called the National Recovery Act. Any lights that were sold between 1933 and 1935 were required to carry the NRA symbol on the box. (Discussing this era in history sounds a lot like the economic downturn and near-depression of 2008-2009 that we have been experiencing.)
Those who were still using candles in the 1900's were doing so because the cost of having electric lights made it impossible for them. Others hung onto the candle lighted trees simply because they loved the tradition and didn't want it to end. Those who were able to switch over were quite delighted with the rainbow of colors in the room. They also enjoyed the fact that the lights could stay on all day and evening. Having an electrically lighted Christmas tree was considered a status symbol back then, and was why some people wanted to go with the trend.
Their ritual was to have the children in another room on Christmas while the candles were lighted. Then they would be brought into the room to see the candle and then after just moments they were blown out. Once again in the evening, the children came back in to see the tree lighted once more for a few minutes. At this time, traditionally everyone in the family gathered to make holiday "wishes" for the upcoming year. And then the candles were extinguished again. Even though electricity was available long before, some were using candles on their trees into the 1900's.
Prior to 1800 and even later, everyone used wax candle on their trees inside the home, even though they knew they were a fire hazard. There were even candle chimes. The principle of how they worked was from an updraft of air that caused a type of propeller to turn. There were clappers inside that rang the chimes as the candle began to burn. They were often used as tree-toppers. Children loved the candle lit trees but were always disappointed when they had to be extinguished only a few minutes after being lit.