LIGHTING OUTFITS: 1920-1930
During the early years of this time period, the American Christmas lighting industry "found its own" so to speak. The public was slowly beginning to embrace the idea of lighting their trees electrically, and as many more towns and cities were wired for electricity the variety of lighting outfits on the market grew dramatically. The advertising efforts of Morris Propp, the founder of the M. Propp company were instrumental in bringing the idea of electric Christmas lights to the forefront during this time. Store shelves featured a mixture of both the "old fashioned" carbon lamps and the new tungsten cone bulbs, but tungsten filament cone shaped lamps were the standard for the high quality sets by the late 20s. These series wired outfits (when one lamp burns out they all go out) were soon to be common in American homes.
concerns brought about the formation of national standards for
"decorative" lighting, which were overseen by the infant Underwriters
Laboratories. By 1930, most homes were using the now-standard two
plugs, making decorating with electricity all the more convenient. The
Electric Corporation, which was shortly to become the largest
manufacturer of Christmas
lighting in the world, was formed during the late 20s, changing forever
decorative lighting industry. Below you'll find many examples of
outfits from this era, presented in the
approximate order of their appearance on
|Date||Manufacturer||Notes||Outside of Box||Inside of Box|
A set of unbranded or "generic" lights from the mid 20s. Note the ceramic junction box used to allow the addition of more festoons to the outfit. These junction boxes were used before the invention of the "Tachon" type connector.
An interesting set that uses an early form of the Tachon connector to facilitate the addition of more lights.
This outfit demonstrates an early use of tungsten pine cone shaped lamps that were hand painted. Messervey's also operated across the Canadian border. The company mainly distributed figural lights, and was not in business very long. The box art used on their containers was quite "generic", and can be found on later boxes by other manufacturers as well.
Here is a set of figural lights from Messervey's of Buffalo, New York. These lamps were the company's main product during their short period of operation. The set includes a Santa Claus figure, a snowman, banana, bulldog on a ball, a frog, a man smoking a pipe, a pear and a fish.
This set is extremely rare. A very early "multiple wired" outfit, the set contains 7 candelabra based 120 volt lamps with carbon filaments. These lamps burn at a very high temperature, which makes them a bit too dangerous to be effective Christmas lights. Despite the advantage of independently burning lamps, sets of this type were not big sellers. Multiple wired outfits did not become popular until later, when in 1927 GE developed lamps that used coiled tungsten filaments which burned at a far lower temperature.
|ca 1922||Franco||This outfit contains 8 smooth cone carbon filament General Electric Mazda lamps. Carbon filaments are exceeding rare in American made smooth cone lamps, and were offered only during the two or three years when GE was sponsoring the transition from carbon filaments to tungsten filaments in their Christmas lamps. (The Japanese manufactured smooth cone carbons for a period of about eight years or so in the 1920s.) The outfit retains its original lamps, and even has the cover cap for the end of cord add-on connector. Note that the lamp colors are not duplicated within the string, and include an uncommon shade of yellow as well as pink and purple. The box art suggests other uses for this "Yere Round" set, which include Porch Parties, the 4th of July, Lawn Parties Halloween and House Parties.|
|ca 1923||Propp||A classic outfit by Propp, by far the most prolific early lighting manufacturer. Note the use of the Tachon connector, complete with screw on cover. This is the standard series wired miniature base outfit.|
|ca 1923||Solite||Manufactured by Solite circa 1923, this interesting outfit uses carbon filament lamps and has a picture of a Lionel train on the box cover. It is unusual for one company to advertise the product of another company on their own box, and this is the only example of such a practice I've found on Christmas lights. Perhaps the two companies are somehow related, but I have no solid facts to support this theory.|
|ca 1923||Propp||This Propp set includes figural lamps from Japan, including (from left to right): a monkey, fish, strawberry, pine cone, banana, frog, Santa, and a dove. All these lamps have carbon filaments. The red sockets on the festoon are quite rare and are not often seen.|
|ca 1923||Yale||I recently was able to add this Yale lighting outfit to the collection. It is circa 1923, and includes eight carbon filament German pine cone lamps and an eight socket string with porcelain sockets. This seems to be a late use of that material, as by the time this set was offered, composition was the favored material. This may also be an example of the use of leftover stock, as the Yale Electric Corporation was a later incarnation of the Interstate Novelty Company, an early and prolific manufacturer of Christmas lighting outfits.|
|ca 1923||Owl||A typical inexpensive set of series wired miniature base lights in a colorful box.|
|ca 1923||Onyxlites||This outfit comes with carbon filament pinecone lamps from Germany.|
|ca 1923||Monowatt/Starlight||This is an unusual light set that demonstrates a very early use of the new tungsten cone shaped lamps. The outfit also includes a set of eight cardboard glitter-covered reflectors, used to increase the brilliancy of the electric lights. The kit dates to 1924.|
|ca 1927||NOMA||A great example of how NOMA continued to use up old stock after its formation in 1926. Note that the only difference between this set's cover and the one above is the NOMA name in the half circle. Also note that this outfit does not include the cardboard reflectors.|
|ca 1923||Rainbowlites||A very rare find, this circa 1923 outfit from Rainbowlites is in absolutely mint condition and has never even been taken out of the box. The cord is still factory wrapped, and all of the smooth cone Mazda light bulbs are original to the outfit. The set is in the best condition of any on this site. The lights were found in a packed shipping box, ready to mail, in the far back of a local department store's attic. For some reason, it was never mailed, and has been protected in the shipping box since 1923.|
|ca 1924||USALITE||This is a late use of carbon lamps, probably to get rid of old stock.|
|ca 1925||Brite Lites||Another typical miniature base series wired outfit from the 1920s.|
|ca 1925||Dealites||Although in a box nearly identical to the one from Brite Lites above, these two companies are not connected in any way.|
|ca 1926||Dealites||This is a battery outfit, intended to run from radio storage batteries or liquid filled battery jars. Sets like these were sold to farm families who did not have city electric power. The set uses the same box cover as above. The lamps are 6 volts each, and the sockets are wood.|
This set by Dealites features their newly-patented "constant Contact" spring loaded sockets, that reduced set failures because of loose bulbs. The close up to the left is from the box lid, and shows the details of the new socket.