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VINTAGE ADVERTISING

Much information can be gleaned from vintage advertising. Public attitudes and decorating preferences are often reflected in the types of articles advertised in popular magazines of the day. Additionally, new products available on the market often were seen first in advertising just as they are today. This category presents some examples of advertising for early electrical decorating products. It is interesting to note that the cost of these items was extremely high for their era, often so high as to be unaffordable to the average American family. As a result, items we consider common today, Christmas light bulbs, for example, were frequently rented rather than sold.

 

This is a page from an 1898 Western Electric catalog showing their socketless series lamp, often used for early storefront window decorating, and sometimes used on Christmas trees. These lamps retailed for fifty-five cents each in colored glass, the equivalent of about $10.00 today. As you can see, an average Christmas tree containing just twenty of these lamps would cost $200 just for the lamps, let alone the cost of getting electricity to the house. Add to that the expense of hiring a wireman to connect everything, and you can immediately see the prohibitive cost of early electric trees.

From the November 24, 1900 edition of Scientific American, here is a very early example of an ad especially for electric Christmas lighting. Notice that the ad mentions renting the lamps, and also lists bulbs designed to operate on 50 to 60 volts, a common voltage for "home generated" electricity. For homes not connected to the city mains, portable generating plants were available to those who could afford to purchase them. They used gasoline engines to generate the power, and were both noisy and smelly. But during the time of this ad, electricity was still considered by many to be only a novelty, and even large cities were slow to install electric distribution facilities.

Produced in 1903, this advertising booklet from General Electric extols the virtues of electric Christmas lighting. Color printing was quite expensive in 1903, but General Electric was heavily advertising their new decorative lighting products, and considered the expense justified. The Edison Miniature and Decorative Lamp Division of GE was one of the first major manufacturers of electric Christmas lighting.

Here is an advertisement for "Winking Fairy Lights for Christmas Trees". The ad was placed in the December, 1907 issue of Hardware Dealer's Magazine, a publication for store owners. I have not seen any earlier ads for blinking Christmas lights, and the information provided in the piece is fascinating. The set advertised is battery operated, and it appears from the ad that the set is intended to light a table top sized tree. Click on the thumbnail to the right to see the ad. The file is a bit on the large size, but I wanted to assure clarity when viewing.

This ad is from a 1918 Sears, Roebuck and Company catalog, and shows a very typical lighting outfit of the time. Notice the porcelain junction box located at the top of the tree, that allows additional festoons of lights to be added to the outfit. This piece has kindly been shared with us from the collection of Gordon Thompson.

This interesting ad is from the collection of David Neely. It shows the extremely rare Detectolite set, that has a rotary shorting switch. This switch, when turned, shorts out one socket at a time to aid in finding the burnt out light bulb. Not really practical due to both its bulkiness and expense, the outfit was not offered for long. this ad is circa 1923.

 
(High resolution photo-extended download time)

This circa 1924 advertisement from Warner's shows the dramatic cost difference between American made lamps that carried the MAZDA name, and "ordinary" imported tungsten filament lamps. A set of eight MAZDA lights with a festoon costs $1.49, but the same outfit with fancier looking but actually more cheaply made imported pine cone shaped lamps cost only .98. This ad is from the collection of Kyle Sund.

 

Vintage Advertising continues...

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CLICK HERE FOR THE TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE AND LINKS TO ALL PAGES ON THIS SITE

TABLE OF CONTENTS       HISTORY       THE TIMELINE       MANUFACTURER'S HISTORIES       THE PATENT PAGES      

  THE PRE-ELECTRIC ERA      VINTAGE ADVERTISING         THE LIGHT SET GALLERIES         RELATED LINKS         

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

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