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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
||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!
|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.
|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
|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.
|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
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