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The Earliest Light Sets
Page Five


ca 1918: This outfit carries the unusual name of Blighty, a British term that came into common use as a fond nickname for Britain at the beginning of the First World War. It was coined by British soldiers fighting in France about 1915, and turns up in popular songs of the day, such as There’s a ship that’s bound for Blighty, We wish we were in Blighty, and Take me back to dear old Blighty. The use of the term as a brand name for Christmas lights is a mystery to this collector. Although the box states that the name is a registered trademark, no records of the registration can be found. Also unusual are the facts that the outfit is in a smaller box than others of its time, and the labeling for the product is found on the inside of the box lid.  The festoon is an example of the early use of composition material for the sockets. Composition was just beginning to be used during this time, proving itself to be a better product for socket material than porcelain or ceramic. It was lighter and far less brittle, and held up better during the decorating process. The set has a black and white porcelain screw type plug, and features American made painted carbon filament lamps. The lithography on the outside of the box is of very high quality.
ca 1918: This outfit from Zelco includes round tungsten lamps that have been dipped in colored lacquer. This coloring method was sometimes used on early Christmas light bulbs, but was not the most effective, for as the lamps went through repeated hot/cold cycles during use, the lacquer dried out, cracked and eventually flaked off. Inside the box shows the unusual end-of-cord connector. Although appearing on the surface to be typical of the times, this connector and festoon are rated for only 32 volts, indicating that this is a farm or "Delco" outfit. Some homes in rural areas, or homes located in city areas not yet hooked up to the local power supply, would sometimes utilize home generators. By far the most popular brand of these was Delco, hence the name for the set. Few of these sets survive in working condition, as uninformed later owners would plug these into 110 volt outfits, causing instant destruction. This outfit has survived the years unscathed, and still works perfectly. Editor's Note: Web site visitor Lu Green recently wrote to this collector, telling of a Delco generator system his parents had. Lu writes: A friend passed your site on to me.  I found the Delco 32VDC lights very interesting as my father and mother had two Delco generators in the basement each with it's bank of batteries on a wooden support bench built like stairs in an ascending set of rows.  Mom told me that they had lights, a radio, a toaster, and I think a vacuum cleaner.  Each week, Dad would take a battery (6V) to the barn that had some lights in it to make up for the line loss and the resulting dim bulbs there.  We also had a 90' wind tower with a 600W generator that never contributed much to the charging. We used this system until the REA (Ed. Note: Rural Electrical Association) came through our area and installed AC power delivery lines.  This is in Indianola, Illinois.
ca 1919: This set is by The Interstate Electric Novelty Company, later to become Franco. The box is stamped "Pinecone Lamps," but the set actually contains a charming mixture of early figural lights, including pinecones. It is unknown if these lights are replacements for burnouts, or if the set was actually sold this way. Many hardware stores offering Christmas lights would also offer an assortment of replacement lamps, including figurals.  Inside the box we see the festoon with ceramic sockets, and the lights. From left to right these figurals are all hand painted and consist of a white rose, a purple pine cone (sometimes referred to as a seed pod), a pecan, a mushroom, a red pine cone, another flower, an orange pine cone and finally a lemon. Most of these figurals have the exhaust tip, and most are marked Germany.
ca 1920: An outfit by ISCO shows early composition sockets. The scratches evident on the sockets indicate that this set was once used with socket clips, shown here in the far right picture. These clips allowed the socket to be secured to a tree branch, rather than having to wrap the wire around it. The lamps in the set are all Japanese true colored glass carbon filament type, indicating that the outfit was a less costly offering by ISCO. More expensive outfits would have featured Mazda type tungsten filament lamps of American manufacture.
ca 1920: Another early outfit featuring composition sockets, this time by the Triangle Electro Trading Company. The set has a warning within the instructions not to mix the two currently available types of Christmas lamps- carbon filament and tungsten filament. Mixing the two types would have caused premature burnouts due to the differing electrical characteristics of the two filaments.  A view inside the box shows the composition sockets which appear identical in every way to the ones in the ISCO set above, with the only difference being the type of screw plug the cords employ. Both cords have knots in them below each socket, indicating early manufacture. The knots formed a loop about three inches or so down from the socket, used to slip over the tree branch to make positioning the lights a bit easier for the decorator.
ca 1920: This charming little outfit from the M. Propp company was intended to be powered by batteries, and was sold to those households not yet wired for electricity. The lamps are the then brand new 4 volt tungsten filament cone shape, first offered by General Electric in this year.
ca 1920: In a surprisingly plain box, this Monowatt outfit says on the end label simply: "Decorative Outfit," with no mention of Christmastime use. The inner flap, however, mentions that the set will "add much BEAUTY to your Christmas-Tree." On the inside of the flap, we can see that the bulbs and cord included in the outfit match the illustration perfectly, giving the collector a rare opportunity to know for sure that this is the correct festoon for the outfit. The festoon also includes an early attachment apparatus, allowing one or more strings to be connected to it.
ca 1920: A very hard to find outfit, this offering from The Franco Electric Company has an unusual number of sockets in its festoon: 10. When run on a typical-for-the-times 110 volt electric circuit, each 15 volt lamp would only receive 11 volts, sharply increasing bulb life. The downside of this configuration is the brightness, which would typically be about two-thirds the brightness of a lamp operated at proper voltage.          


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