1912 hand-colored postcard of the H.W. McCandless factory in New York City, manufacturers of light bulbs, radio tubes, electric Christmas lighting outfits and other decorative lighting devices.
In the early part of the 20th century, there were many small companies engaged in the sale and manufacture of electric Christmas lighting outfits. Sadly, many of the early company records have been lost over time, but there is enough information available to provide names and locations of many of them, along with an idea of some of the products that they manufactured.
Prior to 1925, most of the small companies
involved with Christmas lighting sold general electrical products as
well as the
decorative lighting. Companies like the Owl Flashlight Company and
Miniature Electric Company sold all types of battery and mains powered
devices during the year, and added holiday lighting in the fall.
many of these companies joined forces and formed a trade association
National Outfit Manufacturer's Association, or NOMA for short. CLICK
HERE for a detailed history of the NOMA company. The Association
was founded with the intent of forming a
larger single company in the future, and was really an answer to the
strong competition from the M. Propp Company and a few other larger
companies as well. All of the businesses involved in the
Association held licenses for a device known as the "Tachon"
connector, a 1924 invention that allowed the easy interconnection of
strings of lights. Shown below is the patent drawing for the device.
(You also might want to visit the Lester
Haft and his 1924 Patent section of this site for additional
The 1925 trade association was most successful, and late in 1926 the companies involved officially merged to form the NOMA Electric Corporation, soon to overshadow the M. Propp Company and the other independents as the largest decorative lighting company in the world. Hugely successful, NOMA became a household name, and they offered a large and diverse line of quality lights and decorations, setting the standard for the rest of the industry. By the middle of the century, NOMA not only made holiday lights and decorations, but toys, electric motors and even large appliances.
The Company remained successful until the mid 1960s, when the effects of large amounts of imported goods and competition marked the beginning of very hard times and NOMA filed for bankruptcy. Bought and sold many times since then, the current trademark holder for the holiday division of NOMA is the Inliten Company, who still markets lights and decorations under the NOMA name.
For a bit more information about industry leader Morris Propp of the M. Propp Company, please see The Morris Propp Story page of this site. It is here that you will find a brief history of one of the important figures in the history of early American Christmas lighting, the future president of NOMA, and a true success story!
|Here is a chart of many of the known Christmas lighting companies in business prior to the formation of the National Outfit Manufacturer's Association in 1925:|
|COMPANY NAME||LOCATION||PRODUCTS MANUFACTURED||INVOLVED IN THE NOMA MERGER?||NOTES|
|The A.C. Mannweiler Company||Fort Wayne, IN||Tungsten filament Christmas lamps.||NO||One of the first companies to advertise tungsten filament lamps for Christmas light use. *See additional notes about this company BELOW!|
|American Ever Ready Company||New York, NY||Batteries, lighting devices, Christmas lights||NO
(after first merging with National Carbon Company, eventually became part of Union Carbide.)
| Still maker
of the famous Eveready batteries.
SEE NOTES BELOW
|Anderson Light and Specialty Company||Chicago, Il||Batteries, lighting devices, Christmas lights||YES||A very small company.|
|Anthony Wayne Lamp Company||Fort Wayne, IN||Decorative Christmas tree lighting, artificial trees||NO||Actually a division of the A.C. Mannweiler company described above. Candle shaped novelty lamps were a specialty of this company. ** See additional notes about this company BELOW!|
|Beacon Miniature Electric Company||New York, NY||Miniature batteries, bulbs, flashlights and Christmas lights||YES||Also an importing company|
|C.D. Wood Electric Company||New York, NY||Christmas lights, electrical devices, light bulbs||YES||Made a large assortment of lighting devices, sockets and extension cords and connection devices.|
|The Deal Electric Company||New York, NY and Chicago, IL||Christmas lights and electrical devices||YES||Only the decorative lighting division of this company merged with NOMA.|
|Diamond Electrical Specialties Corporation||Chicago, IL and Newark, NJ||Christmas lights and electrical devices||YES||A large maker of many varieties of Christmas lights.|
|Gacor||San Francisco, CA||Blinking light sets||NO||One of the first companies to offer twinkling Christmas lights.|
|The General Electric Company||Schenectady, NY||Light bulbs, lighting outfits||NO||Held the first patent on Christmas lighting outfits-later invalidated as unpatentable.|
|Gudeman and Company||New York, NY||Lighting outfits||YES||Sold Christmas light sets under the name: "Easiest Way Christmas Lighting Outfits".|
|The Henry W. McCandless Company||New York, NY||Christmas lights and electrical devices, licensed to manufacture and distribute Westinghouse-Mazda light bulbs||YES||Quite a large company at one time, but much smaller by the time of the NOMA merger. ***(see BELOW for more notes on this company)|
|International Trading Products||New York, NY and Chicago, IL||Christmas lights||YES||Marketed lights under the Real Lite brand name.|
|Interstate Electric Novelty Company||New York, Chicago and San Francisco||Christmas and novelty lights, flashlights batteries and lamps||YES||Marketed lights under the Franco and Yale brand names as well.|
|ISCO Products||New York, NY and Chicago, IL||Christmas lights||unknown||Sold mostly inexpensive eight light outfits.|
|Liberty Outfit Manufacturing Company||New York, NY||Christmas lights||YES||Sold mostly inexpensive eight light outfits.|
|M. Propp Company||Chicago, IL, Pittsburgh, PA and San Francisco, CA||Christmas lights||YES||Morris Propp, founder of the company, became the president of NOMA in 1929, and patented many of their products. Please see also The Morris Propp Story- a section of this website relating a brief history of one of the most important figures in the history of early American Christmas lighting, and a true success story!|
|Manhattan Electrical Supply Company||New York, NY||Christmas and novelty lights, flashlights batteries and lamps||NO||A large electrical supply source.|
|The Matchless Electric Company||Chicago, IL||Bicycle lamps, light bulbs, auto lamps, Christmas lights||NO||Would go on to make the famous Matchless Star Christmas lights.|
Bridgeport, Ontario, Canada
|Christmas lighting outfits and lamps, figural lamps||NO||Few outfits from this manufacturer exist today|
|Monowatt||New York, NY||Christmas lights and electrical devices||YES||Only the decorative lighting division of this company merged with NOMA.|
(Novelty Incandescent Lamp Company)
|(?), Pennsylvania||Novelty lamps and Christmas lighting outfits||NO||Mainly concerned with the manufacture of novelty lights, but sold boxed Christmas lighting outfits as well. Eventually became part of Sylvania.|
|The Owl Flashlight Company||New York, NY||Christmas lights, flashlights and electrical devices||YES||Made Christmas lights for only a short time.|
|P.R. Manufacturing Company||Detroit, MI||Christmas and Novelty lights||NO||A small company, not in business very long.|
|PH. Addison||New York, NY||Christmas and Novelty lights, automobile lamps, flashlights.||NO||Mostly an electrical supply house.|
|P&W Electric Company||Toledo, OH||Christmas and Novelty lights||NO||A small company, not in business very long.|
|Standard Electric Novelty Company||Chicago, IL||Christmas lights, flashlights, batteries Auto lamps||unknown||A large and prolific company.|
|Triangle Electro Trading Company||New York, NY||Christmas lights, flashlights and electrical devices||YES||Offered one of the first lighting sets with candle shaped lamps.|
|United States Electric Company||New York, NY and Chicago, IL||Christmas lights and electrical devices||YES
(but later dropped out)
|Sold Christmas lights under the USALITE brand|
|Walter G. Warren and Company||Chicago, IL||Christmas and Novelty lights||NO||A small company, not in business very long.|
The American Eveready Company: In 1886, the former Brush Electric Company executive formed the National Carbon Company, and by 1896, the company marketed the very first battery intended for consumer use. It was called "The Columbia", and was used to power telephones of the day. In 1898, Conrad Hubert formed the American Electrical Novelty and Manufacturing Company to sell battery powered novelties. AENMC changed it's name in 1905 to American Ever Ready, and it was that year that they first produced electric Christmas lights for consumer use. They offered both battery and mains powered lighting outfits. By 1914, American Ever Ready had merged with the National Carbon Company, which formed the only company then in existence that was making both batteries and lighting products. In 1917, The National Carbon Company merged with Union Carbide, and still makes Eveready and Energizer batteries.
*One of the wonderful things about the web is how it facilitates communication between people of common interests. Dick Cook visited this site recently, and wrote to offer the following details about the A.C. Mannweiler Company:
"I grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and the A.C. Mannweiler shop was up on the corner from where we lived. Mr. Mannweiler had passed away before I was born, but I knew his only daughter, and everybody called her Mrs. B. She and her husband took over the business after Mr. Mannweiler died. I remember as a child going to their store with my parents where I would get them to purchase some of the Mannweiler miniature based Christmas lamps. I believe Mrs. B and her husband continued to make at least some of the Mannweiler Christmas lamps into 1940 or 1941. As of August, 2001, the building where the company was still stands."
"After Mrs. B died, her only living relative gave me her personal papers which has some data pertaining to the Mannweiler Company, including advertising pamphlets and a photograph of Mrs. B as a child with her mother and father alongside a Christmas tree festooned with Mannweiler lamps. Among the papers was a patent number for a design patent for a Christmas candle lamp."
Here is a picture of that 1921 patent:
|**Dick Cook also shares with us this image of a brochure from the Anthony Wayne Lamp Company of Fort Wayne, Indiana, actually another operating name of the A.C. Mannweiler Company. The brochure discusses the company's new candle lamps and artificial feather trees, and lists their various lighting outfit offerings. Note the similarity of the candle lamps pictured in the brochure with the patent picture above. Also see the picture of an actual Anthony Wayne C-6 lamp below. Dick reports that he is in the process of developing an entire website devoted to the history of A.C. Mannweiler and the related companies. Once it is up and running, a link to the site will appear here. Be sure to look for it!|
*** The H.W. McCandless Company also manufactured the very first radio tube for Lee Deforest, who is considered to be the father of modern radio. Deforest invented the three element tube, called a triode, in 1907. This tube manufactured by McCandless had a candelabra size base and wires coming out of the top for extra electrode connections. It was a glass globe the same size as the round Glolite and Lighted Ice lamps General Electric manufactured in later years.
Manufacturer's Histories continues...