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

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MANUFACTURER'S HISTORIES, page 2

  

1916 photograph of the Matchless Electric Company building in Chicago, and a badly damaged picture of one of their local delivery trucks.

After the formation of NOMA, the competitive field was narrowed down a bit-at least temporarily. As the buying public snapped up more and more lighting outfits, their hunger for new and different forms of electric Christmas lighting grew considerably. It was apparent to any good businessman that the market was now huge-and there was money to be made. Despite the devastating effects of the Great Depression, the late 20s and early 30s saw the formation of several large decorative lighting companies in addition to NOMA, and the variety of products offered was staggering. Below is a partial listing of some of the companies in business after 1930.

     

COMPANY LOCATION OTHER BRAND NAMES OFFERED NOTES APPROXIMATE YEARS OF OPERATION
Beacon Electric Boston, MA ACLA
(American Christmas Lighting Associates)
A distributor for the leftover stock of the NOMA, Paramount and Royal companies. Was in business starting in the early 1970s. 1970-?
Belco New York, NY none Also produced small electrics and door bells. 1940-1960
ClemCo Hillside, NJ none A family owned business 1920-1950
Dependable Electric
Manufacturing Company
Brooklyn, NY Jewellite, Gleemlight Also manufactured electrical accessories such as fuses, cube taps, etc. ?
Iron Fireman Company Portland, OR none Introduced the "On-A-Lite" outfits- patent rights purchased by NOMA. 1946-1955
Kas-Kel New York, NY none Mainly a plastics manufacturer 1948-1960
LECO

New York, NY,
Florida, NY,
Dallas, TX

Ring-A-Lite, LECO (bubble light sets) and Ritz brand.

LECO was a full manufacturing company, making their own products.

1946 - ???*
(see notes below)

Miller Pawtucket, RI none Sold leftover Royal stock after Christmas division of that company closed. unknown-1965
Muter Chicago, IL none A small company, not in business very long. 1948-1958
NOMA New York, NY Propp (after 1927), Real-Lite (after 1927), Glolite, YuleGlo, Amical, Amico, World Wide, International Once the largest manufacturer of  Christmas lights in the world. World Wide and International were names used after the NOMA bankruptcy in the 1960s. 1926-present
Paramount New York, NY Sterling, Pennant, YuleLite and Gibraltar Parent company was named Raylite 1928-1970
Peerless New York, NY Charm, Good Lite Maker of the shooting star bubbling lights. 1927-1968
Polly New York, NY none A small company, and maker of high quality outfits 1935-1950
Reliance New York, NY XL, Kristal Star, Spark-L-Lites, The New York Merchandise Company  A large company. 1938-1958
Renown New York, NY Radiant, Gem, Everlite, Santa Lights Prolific in the late 1940s 1930-1965
Royal Pawtucket, RI Royalite, Royalites NOMA's biggest bubble light competitor. Still in business as an electrical device manufacturer, but no longer in the Christmas business. 1937-1955
Snap-It Providence, RI none Primarily an electrical device manufacturer-offered the unusual Sleigh-O-Lights outfits 1920-present

                Superior

            Summit, NJ

             unknown

Very high quality sets, made much use of multi-colored cloth wire.

       Circa 1938- 1955

TIMCO New York, NY Thomas Imports Almost always offered imported lighting outfits. Assembled many private label lighting outfits for other companies. 1938-1965

 

Many of the major lighting companies used "sub brands" for their imported products, and used the main company name for their American made offerings. A good example of this is NOMA, who proudly placed "Made in the U.S.A." on all of their NOMA branded products, but used a different name, Amico, for their import line. Because of import laws, the country of origin had to be marked on any item that not of domestic manufacture, and most of the large lighting companies did not want it to be public knowledge that some of their products were imported. Additionally, the imported products were less expensive, and by keeping the product lines separate, the sales of one did not affect the other.

Almost all of the major companies had their own import lines of merchandise, which is why, especially with regards to lighting outfits from the early 1950s, there are so many different brand names available. Few of these outfits have any identifying marks or information as to who the actual maker or parent company was, which can make things a bit frustrating for the collector who likes to research his holdings.. 

HERE ARE SOME INTERESTING NOTES ABOUT A FEW OF THE MANUFACTURING COMPANIES:

NOMA: By far the largest of the lighting companies, NOMA has a long and colorful history. Along with Christmas lighting, NOMA made a very comprehensive line of children's toys and games, along with electric motors, appliances like washing machines and vacuums, and even bombs during World War II. In the early 1970s, some of the very companies that the United States bombed in Japan during the War were strong competitors to NOMA-strong enough in fact to cause the Company to file for bankruptcy. Although the NOMA name can still be found on Christmas lights, it is no longer the same company and the name is now a trademark only. The company went through many owners, and at times was called NOMA Worldwide, simply Worldwide, and NOMA International. There are now two remnants of the Christmas lighting company remaining, one in Great Britain and one here in the US. See the links page for the websites of these two companies. The NOMA name can now even be found on lawnmowers and snow blowers, remains of the 1940s divisions of the company that manufactured the electric motors and appliances. Also see the bubble lights section in the 1940-1950 Lighting Outfits pages of this site for the fascinating story of the introduction of these most popular lights.

THE INTERSTATE ELECTRIC NOVELTY COMPANY: This company, one of the 15 that later merged to become NOMA, was one of the "biggies" in the early history of electric Christmas lighting. Formed in 1912 by the merger of the Franco-American Electric Company and Alfred Wolfe and Company, they made and distributed many forms of decorative lighting, including regular and figural Christmas lamps. In 1920, the Company changed their name to The Franco Electric Company and sold the Yere-Round line of decorative lights. In 1923 their name was changed to Yale Electric, then in 1925 to Premo Electric. I personally have not seen any lighting outfits with the Yale name on them, but there are examples of Franco and Premo brand outfits. By 1926, the company was a part of NOMA. CLICK HERE to see a 1913 advertisement by the Interstate Electric Novelty Company. UPDATE: I have finally been able to add a Yale light set to the collection. CLICK HERE to see it!

ROYAL: The Royal Company is still in business today, although they are not making Christmas lighting or decorations anymore. Once NOMA's largest competitor in the bubble light market along with Paramount, the NOMA Electric Company actually ended up purchasing Royal's old stock when they went out of the Christmas lighting business. A devastating fire broke out in 1955, which totally wiped out the Royal factories that manufactured their Christmas products. Residents of Pawtucket, Rhode Island where the factory was located, reported that for months afterward pieces and parts of Christmas lighting products washed up on the shore of the Blackstone River. Not all of Royal's factories were destroyed in the huge blaze-just the Christmas products buildings. Their huge factory complex is pictured above, taken from a 1940s era Royal box of Christmas lights. Royal decided A NOMA product, issued inb leftover Royal packaging.not to rebuild the factory, and sold all of their remaining stock first to NOMA and then to Miller Electric. The well known Royal Santa and Snowman were sold by NOMA well into the 1960s,Bubble Snowman.jpg (10511 bytes) indistinguishable from their earlier Royal incarnation. To the Bubble Santa.jpg (12512 bytes) left is a picture of a NOMA made set offered in Royal brand packaging. These NOMA/Royal items are easily identified by the address on the package-Saint Joseph, Missouri, the location of the NOMA production facilities at the time. The stock lasted through the mid 1960s for both Miller and NOMA. Miller boxes of this era show pictures of Royal products as well. It can be quite confusing until you realize that most of the stock was originally Royal-produced merchandise. It is also interesting to note that, unlike most of the other major manufacturers, when they were in the Christmas decoration business Royal produced all of their own products and materials, including packaging, purchasing only light bulbs from an outside source (General Electric).

LECO- (This information has kindly been written and shared with us by Chris Cuff. Amazingly, Chris works in the very town that the LECO company enjoyed their major successes.)   The LECO Company was started in 1946, in The Bronx, New York by two gentlemen by the name of Mr. Neustadt and Mr. Cohen. The company did well from the beginning, and in 1950, at the suggestion of their wire supplier (Chester Wire & Cable of Chester, NY) the two men looked around the farm land of Orange County, NY for a peaceful setting to grow and manufacture their products. They settled in the tiny village of Florida and opened up shop in the lower floor of a vacant storefront. Continuing their success, this space was soon outgrown as well. During the time immediately after World war II, the company's Christmas light manufacturing efforts flourished. The United States economy was enjoying major growth, and the country was just returning to normal after the War. Citizens needed light sets to replace their ageing cloth strings, many which were literally being held together with Band-Aids to carry them through the War years, when no light strings or lamps had been manufactured. In 1951, the partners opened a new factory on Roosevelt Ave in downtown Florida. Soon, LECO was operating on a 24 hour a day schedule, with SIX automatic bakelite injection machines pumping out sockets and plugs. 

Mr. Neustadt told me in a phone interview that a lot of their success was due to the fact that his company would only build the highest quality sets, and made sure every single connection was soldered by hand. The early Ringalite sets proudly included domestic made Westinghouse light bulbs.

In October of 1953, a devastating fire tore through the factory, right at the height of the busiest season. Millions of lamps were inside, and people can remember to this day seeing the sea of lamps flowing out of the windows of the factory, floating on all of the water the fire company was pumping into the building. . This was not the end, however- the partners rebuilt, and the factory still stands  today, although it is now vacant. Continuing their success despite the fire, in 1955 a second manufacturing facility in Dallas, Texas was started, all the while keeping the Florida, NY operation going. The Florida factory closed around 1966 or so, while the Dallas operation remains in business to this day.

Here is a picture of the earliest set of Ring-a-Lites I have found, from the New York City operation. There will be more to come!

Ringalite outside.jpg (110192 bytes)

ca 1946 C-7 set of Ringalites

Manufacturer's Histories continues...

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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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