This year marks the 60th anniversary of the first mass-produced aluminum Christmas tree hitting the U.S. market in 1959 – the Evergleam – created in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
The Aluminum Tree and Ornaments Museum in Brevard, North Carolina– “the world’s only museum dedicated to vintage aluminum Christmas trees”– has many on display. Its exhibits are also showcased at the Transylvania Heritage Museum in Ashville, North Carolina, every year.
The Aluminum Specialty Company of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, was the first among many companies in the U.S. to manufacture a commercially successful non-green artificial Christmas tree on a large scale.
“In the decade that followed, aluminum trees became wildly popular in American homes, and the Evergleam was the most popular of all,” the Wisconsin Historical Museum in Madison states.
At its height of popularity, employees at the Aluminum Specialty Company spent ten months of the year manufacturing the tree. In one decade, the company produced more than 1 million aluminum trees.
The Evergleam retailed for $25 and wholesaled for $11.25.
The silver tinsel-like leafed tree was made from aluminum foil. Lights could not be strung on the aluminum branches due to the potential of causing a short circuit and fire. Instead, the tree came with a floor-based color wheel placed under or next to the tree.
When plugged, a strobe light effect hit the tree and illuminated the room with bright colors, “evoking the glitter of the space age,” according to several news reports and marketing descriptions from the era.
The museum’s “Ever Gleaming: 60 Years of America’s Aluminum Christmas Tree” exhibit features original trees varying in sizes and colors, artifacts, clips from classic films, popular television commercials and important headlines from 1959.
It also “spotlights the rare trees that collectors seek out today.”
The museum says the exhibit was designed to showcase “the creativity of the people at the Aluminum Specialty Co. to try a new idea” and to inspire guests “to create their own innovations.”
The museum replicates a living room for visitors to experience the mid-1960’s era in which they can take a “throwback holiday picture.”
Few other museums highlight the aluminum Christmas tree than those in Wisconsin and North Carolina.
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis has on display a vintage aluminum Christmas tree and color wheel in its collection.