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Antiqe Christmas Lights

Watch HD Videos of thes various Lights

Bubble Lights
The Matchless Star
Outdoor Christmas Lights
120V Indoor Christmas Lights
Carbon and Tungsten Lights

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This 10-foot tree was purchased in 1981 in order to demonstrate the different types of lighting that have been developed during the 20th century. It had to be fireproof so that real candles could also be used, and strong enough to support several bushels of wire. This combination could only be found in Nuremberg. It took solid steel German engineering. The tree is controlled by a 10-channel dimmer board.

For the beginning of electric lighting, from 1900 to 1922, 24 carbon lamps are displayed. Then about 90 C6 series lights invented at GE in 1922. Next,82 glass Matchless stars made from 1935 to 1941 in Chicago. Series C6 bubble lights of various types 1942 to 1956. Sylvania Fluorescent bulbs made from 1946 to 1950. Hundreds of the familiar little white lights, originally from Italy during the late 1950s. A huge variety of the 120 volt C7 indoor lights made from 1934 to the present. Mini lights with colored plastic covers invented by Dick Malinowski at GE in 1973. For the singing of Rudolph the tree lights up with deep red inside painted C9 outdoor lamps. This process was invented by Marvin Pipkin at GE in 1932.


These carbon filament lamps were the first type of incandescent bulb, invented by Thomas Edison in 1879. They were used on Christmas trees as early as 1882. These lights were very expensive and complex to wire up. So they did not become very widely used. There were some special occasions when many were attached to a tree. One of these times was at a New York hospital for the Christmas of 1891. A wealthy benefactor paid electricians a small fortune to have several hundred colored bulbs attached to a large tree in the children's ward.

The first manufactured light strings were made by the Ever-Ready Electric company in 1903. By this time Edison's lamp works had been purchased by a company called General Electric. In 1907, Ever-Ready started making the eight light series string. This became a standard that lasted for 58 years. Carbon Christmas lamps were made in North America, Europe, and Japan until and a bit beyond 1930.

These four Christmas lights have tungsten filaments developed at GE in 1916. They burned brighter and cooler than Carbon lamps. This round shape was only made for six years.

These new cone shaped Christmas lights were introduced by GE in 1922. They had the cool tungsten filaments that would allow for beautiful colored shellac paint to be applied. These were the lamps that started the revolution of giving up on candles. In 1928, a set of eight lights cost 23 cents. GE sold 24 million of them that Christmas. About that time a mold with flutes was made at GE. Over the years several fluted designs were used. In 1970, GE made the last bulbs of this type at their plant in Mexico.

In 1926, Marvin Pipkin was a chemist at GEs NELA park lamp research lab in Cleveland. He invented the inside frosted bulb. His next project was to develop a colored coating that could be sprayed on the inside of a 25 watt lamp. All light bulbs had the colored paint on the outside, which tended to fade in the sun or peel off. It took over a year to make this wet colored silica dust process work. For the Christmas of 1927, Marvin put his magic in outdoor C9 Christmas lights. GE was the only lamp company with this type of light for many years. It gave them a huge boost in the Christmas business.

Pictured is a set from 1948 with this interior paint.

In 1934, the C7 115 volt filament was invented at GE. It was incorporated into a Christmas light bulb for indoor use. These were more expensive than the series lights and took a while to catch on during the Great Depression. After WW II in 1946, they surged in popularity. This basic light is still in use today in various shapes. Here is a set from 1938.

The crystal Matchless Wonder Star was designed and assembled in Chicago. The glass points were made in Czechoslovakia. They were sold for only six years, 1935 to 1941. They came in four sizes and in double or single row. The stars never really made any money for the Matchless electric company, but everyone loved them.

In 1938, Carl Otis of Albany, New York, came up with the idea of a bubbling Christmas light. He sent rough prototypes out to 10 companies in the business. Only one responded, It was NOMA. This decision proved to be the smartest thing they ever did. In 1942, during WW II, they managed to make enough parts for a small test run. They wanted to know if people would buy these after the war. So about 68,000 lights were made. They were only sold in Illinois and New York. All of them were gone in a week. So, they had no hesitation pouring money into production equipment for these lights in 1945. We know that a few were made then. The NOMA Bubble Light was formally introduced in 1946. They proved to be the biggest hit in Christmas lighting in history. NOMA alone sold 150 million series bubble lights in five years. This is a set from 1946.

COPYRIGHT Thomas H. Carlisle, All rights reserved