Editor's Note: Between 1999 and 2003, Bill Nelson catalogued the history of Christmas tree lighting in his web page. Sadly, Bill died about 2004. Though Bill's brother George took over the web page and expanded it, some of Bill's content wasn't continued. In fact, some of Bill's fans just plain liked Bill's site better. This archive of Bill's site circa late 2003 was painstakingly reconstructed by Tom Elmore. Tom kept this version online for several years, then made it available to us in November, 2011. So what you are seeing is an archive - Bill's labor of love frozen in time since 2003, as preserved by Tom Elmore's diligent effort.

The rest of these pages are in Bill's own words, not ours, That said, if you have any comments, corrections, concerns, or questions about these pages, please contact us through our Contact page.

Please note that the site authors Bill and George Nelson collected and catalogued the lights and related products shown on these pages - they did not sell them, and we don't either.

As Bill often said, "Thanks for stopping by."

All titles in blue are hyperlinks-just click, and away you'll go...

Below, you'll find the table of Contents for this site, listing all of the subjects presented here.


Home Page-  An introduction and overview of what this site is all about.


  • A Brief History- Information about how the electric Christmas lighting industry got started, a picture of the first electric Christmas tree, and information about the earliest days of electric Christmases.

  • An Illustrated Timeline- A listing and description of many of the major events in the history and development of electric Christmas lighting.

  • Page 1- Events from 1881-1921

  • Page 2- Events from 1922-1970

  • The Pre-Electric Era- This section is devoted to some of the devices used to light Christmas trees before the dawn of the Electric Age.

  • The Mazda Lamp Story- A brief history of the General Electric Mazda Christmas lamp in the United States.

  • The Morris Propp Story- A brief history of one of the most important figures in the history of early American Christmas lighting, and a true success story!

  • The Bert Messervey Story- An interesting history of an early Canadian importer who brought a fair variety of Christmas lighting outfits to Canadians and Americans in the early 1920s.

  • Lester Haft and his 1924 Patent- Details about the incorporation of add-on connectors to Christmas light strings.

  • Manufacturer's Histories- This section provides information about many of the major Christmas lighting manufacturers, and is illustrated with vintage photographs of some of the early factories and shops.

    • Page 1- A chart of many of the pre-1925 companies in business.

    • Page 2- Post-1930 companies and some interesting facts about some of the major companies.

    • Page 3- Pictures of early electric lighting dealers.

    • The NOMA Story- A detailed history of the world's largest Christmas light manufacturing company.


The Patent Pages- Here you'll find information on a lot of the patents for early electric Christmas decorations and lights, as well as tree stands and a few other Christmas related inventions. Also images of Edison's patent for the first practical light bulb-the one that started it all! Each of the patents has a clickable image of the inventor's drawing with it.

  • Page 1- Patent numbers      72,506 to 1.350,710

  • Page 2- Patent numbers 1,351,562 to 1,895,656

  • Page 3- Patent numbers 1,905,500 to 2,174,446

  • Page 4- Patent numbers 2,248,117 to 2,453,178

  • Page 5- Patent numbers 2,453,695 to 2,569,078

  • Page 6- Patent numbers 2,683,210 to 2,936,144


The Light Sets-Picture and Information Galleries- By far the largest division of this site, this is the place to come to date and identify the lighting outfits in your collection. Profusely illustrated and constantly growing, the lighting outfits are presented in the approximate order of their arrival on the market. The pages and sections are divided into specific time periods for your convenience.

1900 TO 1920

  • 1900-1920, page 1- The earliest lighting sets, rental outfits, and wooden boxed light sets.

  • 1900-1920, page 2- The National Ever Ready Company, Battery outfits, and the earliest figural lights.

  • 1900-1920, page 3- More on figural lights, carbon light bulbs and colors, and various socket styles for lighting festoons. More on early sets.

  • 1900-1920, page 4- A catalog of Eveready brand figural lights, battery operated lights and more.

1920 TO 1930

  • 1920-1930, page 1- Cardboard boxed lighting sets of the early 1920s-with many pictures. 

  • 1920-1930, page 2- More boxed sets, with pictures, descriptions and dates.

  • 1920-1930, page 3- Still more boxed sets, the earliest twinkling lights, and the first outdoor lamps and outfits.

  • 1920-1930, page 4- Celluloid lights, NOMA Dresden lights, and early electric tree toppers.


  • 1930-1940, page 1- A bit on Matchless Stars, Kristal Stars, NOMA Detector outfits and hints on dating your outfits

  • 1930-1940, page 2- Lots of 1930s era boxed sets with pictures and descriptions, and ornament lights.

  • 1930-1940, page 3- Lots more boxed sets, and Mazda Bells.

  • 1930-1940, page 4- XL light sets and GE's experimental disposable light string.

  • 1930-1940, page 5- Plastic Character bell lights, Mickey Mouse, Popeye, etc.

  • 1930-1940, page 6- (Learn More About: Matchless Wonder Stars) The history of Matchless Stars.


  • 1940-1950, page 1- Christmas lights and World War II, NOMA wooden toys, Wartime box variations and Paramount Star Lites.

  • 1940-1950, page 2- NOMA bubble light sets, fire retardant chemicals and Christmas lights, lots of pictures. 

  • 1940-1950, page 3- Rare NOMA bubble light colors, Paramount oil bubble lights, Goodlite and Peerless Shooting Stars, Royal Bubble Lights.

  • 1940-1950, page 4- Sylvania Fluorescent Christmas light bulbs, Royal and Miller fluorescent sets, NOMA Glo Ray outfits, and lots of boxed light sets from the 1940s. 

  • 1940-1950, page 5- (Learn More About: Bubble Lights) The history behind the invention of bubble lights.


  • 1950-1960 - An introduction to the 1950s.

  • 1950-1960, page 1- Pictured in this section are lots of lighting sets that were produced and/or sold in the United States during the 1950 to 1960 time period.

  • 1950-1960, page 2- More lighting sets from this era-including the Italian Fairy lights.

  • 1950-1960, page 3- Interesting twinkling light sets from NOMA and others.

  • 1950s and 60s NOVELTY ITEMS- This is sort of an unclassified section, where you can find decorative electrical items that really do not fit into any of the lighting categories. Here you'll see motion lamps, lighted scenes and decorative figures, and creative electrical tree top items.


  • 1960-1970- An introduction and information about lighting outfits sold in the US during the turbulent 1960s.

  • 1960-1970, page 2- Mirostar lighted arrangements.

  • 1960-1970, page 3- More sets from this era.

  • 1960s Aluminum Decorations- Presented separately are those items that embrace America's fascination with the colorful and glittery aluminum decorations so typical of the Kennedy era. Here's what you'll find in this section:

    Page 1- Aluminum Christmas Trees and their history
    Page 2- Some pictures of typical aluminum trees
    Page 3- The Color Wheels


  • 1970-1980- An introduction to the 70s, and pictures of some 1970s era light sets, including the highly collectible Bradford Celestial Lights tree topper.

  • 1970-1980, page 2- More light sets, General Electric's Satin Bright lamps, and a bit of information on a 1984 set of figural lights sold by Avon, the cologne and cosmetics company.


 This section of the site presents pictures and descriptions of many of the replacement Christmas lamps available over the years.

  • Page 1- The earliest lamps ever used for Christmas lighting, along with more common Edison pear style lamps and some Japanese imports.

  • Page 2- Lamps available from the mid 1920 onward.


Here you'll find pictures and information on the myriad lighted figures, wall plaques and novelty lighted objects available during the years 1930 to 1950. This section also covers the highly popular bubble light trees!


  • Canadian Lighting Outfits- This page, due largely to the courtesy of fellow collector Fred Fox, will show some of the lighting outfits from our neighbor to the north-Canada.


I call these the "Learn More About:" Pages- These special sections will help you to learn more about two special and highly collectable types of Christmas lights:


Vintage Advertising- A lot can be learned from old advertisements, and this section presents images of ads for some very early lighting outfits as well as some of the many wonderfully-colored offerings from the 1940s.

  • Page 1- Starting at 1898, advertisements for the earliest outfits and lamps.

  • Page 2- Colorful advertisements from Propp and NOMA.

  • Page 3- More from NOMA, and ads from Edison and Sylvania.


Vintage Photographs- A small selection of some wonderful pictures of Christmas trees from the first half of the 20th century-just for fun!


FAQ'S- Here are the answers to many of the questions I've been asked since the previous version of this site went online on September 7, 2000. This section is updated frequently, so check back often.

  • Page 1- Here's help with values of your old lighting sets, parts, and a large section on fixing (or relamping) your bubbling lights.

  • Page 2- The continuation of the bubble light repair information, plus some general bubble light questions and a few more technical issues, including determining base sizes of your lights.


Hints and Helps on Dating your Lights is a compilation of much of the information presented elsewhere on this site that will help you to assign an approximate date of manufacture to your vintage lighting collectible. This feature has been requested by many of this site's visitors, and is now available! 


Interesting and Related Links- Did you know that Christmas lights are still manufactured under the NOMA name? The links page will help you get to NOMA's websites in both the United States and Great Britain, as well as to other companies who sell lights. You'll also find links to antique dealers specializing in antique Christmas lights, other collectors, and to some of the authors of well known Christmas collectibles books!


The Interesting Facts page presents, in no particular order, some of the fascinating bits of information about America's unique contribution to the Christmas tree-electric lights!



The Christmas Memories page of this site shares with you some of the wonderful letters I have received from website visitors, sharing with me pictures and childhood memories from past holiday seasons. Some of these stories are touching, while others are charming glimpses into the past. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have.


Contributor's Pages- One of the biggest thrills I get from hosting this web site is all of the information and discussion I get from site visitors. Many have websites of their own, which can be found on the Interesting and Related Links page. Other collectors who do not have sites are invited to share their collections with the world through the pages hosted in this section.

  • Chris Cuff's Pages Chris shares some of his 50s, 60s and 70s mini light collection with us.

  • Chris Cuff's Project Pages Chris shares some of his repair and restoration techniques, as well as a wonderful project for a reproduction bubble light tree.

  • Fred Fox's Pages- Fred, a Canadian collector, has shared so many of his sets with us for this website that almost the entire Canadian section of the site is illustrated with sets from his collection. Fred has some great outfits!

  • Don Lachie's Pages- Don takes this opportunity to share with you some of the favorite items in his collection.

  • Joseph S Pilliteri's Pages- Joseph mainly collects Christmas lighting from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. He shares some of his light sets and information with us on these pages.

  • Gordon Thompson's Pages- Gordon, also a Canadian collectors, shares some of his collection with us on these pages.






This archive of Bill Nelson's web site was created by Tom Elmore and is sponsored by

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