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Page 3

Editor's Notes about the 1950s-1970s Old Christmas Tree Lights Pages:

This chapter and the ones that follow are attempts to reconstruct of Bill Nelson's original chapters on Christmas lighting in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Unfortunately, they were lost when Bill passed away and his brother George took over the site in 2004. In addition, Bill was just learning FrontPage, and he often made mistakes that caused his photos not to link up properly when he changed servers, so a number of his photos went missing during his lifetime. In many cases, only the thumbnail survived; in some not even that. We have done an exhaustive search for the missing photos and restored them when we could. But to make these pages more readable, we have deleted descriptions of photos that are not shown. If you are researching this period and wish to see even those descriptions, please visit the 2003 version of this site.


Chris Cuff, a frequent contributor to this website, has recently started collecting Italian and American miniature lights from the late 50s, 60s and 1970s. Inspired by his experiences, he shares his thoughts and part of his collection with us on this page.

Mini Light: "Illuminus Annoyus"

A Nest of mini lites, shown in their natural state,
seconds after removal from their box.

Mini lites truly have a mind of their own. As you see above, as soon as they are removed from the box when new, they cling together in a "hive", resisting any attempt to free them. Here are some observations:

Shaking them. This annoys the mini lites very much. It makes them cling even tighter, until the only method of untangling is a pair of scissors. Should you be lucky enough to actually free them, the strands fall to the floor, immediately running for cover under your feet. (This is witnessed by the sound similar to cracking a walnut.) The little clear petals that used to surround each lamp are now burrowing into the carpet, only to be found by bare feet at a later time.

Once the lights are untangled, the cat becomes VERY interested in them. I believe it is the Tuna flavored wire that they use. No matter, because before they can get to the tree, the cat will have chewed through the cord in 6 places. If you have the pretty tinsel or plastic stars around your lights, don't worry- the cat has plans for those, too.

Well! you made it this far! The lights somehow make it to the tree. You of course pre-tested them, so they will work. What you fail to realize, is that the mini lites are not going to fail until they are on the tree. Everyone knows that.

This all being said, I wish to show some of the sets that have been available since the late 50's on up to the 70's.. Bear with me- It's a long road! I will begin with a series of pictures, showing the many types and style of bulbs used in mini lite sets. It is fascinating to see the progress of these lamps through a relatively short time frame.


The 2 mini lamps shown above, next to a standard C-6 bulb (to give you an idea of how small they are!) remain a mystery to me. The glass is actually colored glass, not painted. The threads are not the same as standard Japanese lamps, and quite possibly could be of European or American design.


Here we have an assortment of early screw based mini lites. The top row is from a 1958 Amico 20 lamp C-6 light set. The bottom row shows the many different styles that were made for the sub-mini sets from 1960 to around 1964.. Note the Sub mini Gibraltar "Kristal Glo" lamp bulb.


The earliest Italian lights were hand made, blown glass, noted by the irregular shape of the glass. This lamp was permanently wired into the string, with the wires merely twisted around the cord, and not soldered. No UL labels here! but note the protective hard shell. Paint flaking and fading was a big problem back then, yet the filaments lasted a LONG time.


This picture shows the evolution of the now common "Push-in" mini light. From the left, the earliest (1960) Italian push in, very small base, followed by a squared off base (1961) lamp, then a rounded base with locator grooves (1962-1963). Next is the first of the Noma/World-Wide push ins, with a very hard plastic shell (1964).Lastly, the common vinyl style of today.

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This is a lovely set of Italian Rose lamps on a chenille garland, from 1962

This is a set of Gibraltar Lantern mini lites, featuring screw-based bulbs. A very complicated set to replace the lamps, as the lantern bottoms thread in and the tiny chimney is also separate. From around 1959. Here we have a set of 35 Italian lamps, of unknown manufacture. This set features permanent lamps, multi-colored, and is brand new from 1962! These were part of a trunk full of sets that came from an import/export business in Kansas This set is most fascinating! It was meant to be hung on a wall or door, and the large globes hung down at random lengths. The wires are wrapped individually in colored cloth!
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Here is a most unusual set, made by GE circa 1959, in the USA. It used their short-lived Bi-Pin plug in lamps. Now, you may think the mini lights are relatively new, but click HERE to go back to a prototype set from 1937! A trio if Italian light sets. On the left, A Silvestri permanent lamp set from 1959, in the middle, a Satar set from 1963, and on the right, a 35 lamp set by "D.M." A Noma/ World Wide set from circa 1961. This uses hard plastic push in bulbs, and was of good quality, Made in Japan. A 20 lamp set by Pencor, circa 1963. This set features sub-mini screw-based bulbs, and is of very high quality, made in Japan.
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This set is perhaps one of my favorites- A set of Grape cluster lights, from around 1963. Very good quality set from Italy, with replaceable lamps. This set of grape lights is my own doing. I liked the Italian ones so much, I wanted to make my own set, including my own wiring. Instructions for building a set of these lights will be coming in our future "Project Page" This is a set from England, from around 1958. The mini screw in lamps say "Empire Made" on their tiny brass bases, and the cord set is understandably heavier, due to the use of 220 volts. Another 1962 sample set from Italy, with lovely metal petals, enameled with metal flake paint. The set has never been used, as the cord is still stapled to the cardboard, and the permanent bulbs have perfect paint.
This is a delightful little "Charlie Brown" pre-lit aluminum Tree recently acquired at an eBay auction. It was made in Japan, in 1960, using 2 strings of 10 lamps each of the mini screw based mini lights. The wiring is wrapped under a vinyl "bark", and the bulbs are long crystal coated lamps. Amazingly enough, every bulb still works!

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This Radiant set is new to my collection. It is one of the last sets to feature screw-based mini lights, and was made about 1966. Note the box where it states "String made in the USA". The lanterns are very pretty lit up, and it is an obvious attempt to cash in on the success of the Italian sets that look so similar.

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My newest addition- An "Ever-Lite" Twinkling star set by Julius Kupfer of Long Island, NY, circa 1959.

This set uses 48 mini lites set into stars as shown. They have a random twinkle effect that is truly wonderful.

The string is a standard 8 light C6 string with Gilbert electrical fittings.

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I would ask anyone that visits these pages, that if you know anything about the manufacturer or supplier of these light sets, please email me HERE


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