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Note from Editor: Actually tabletop trees were the most common kind in Europe and North America until about 1900. By then, the Christmas tree farms in the United States had been offering bigger trees, suitable for standing on the floor, for several decades. Somewhere between 1890 and 1910 the balance tipped toward floor-standing trees, though both were common.

Most artificial trees, however were still table-top size, including feather trees. With advent of useful electric lighting for Christmas trees, it was inevitable that the companies making the lights would eventually make electrically-lit artificial trees. New materials such as celophane imitated needles better than feathers had, so feather trees eventually disappeared.

Though many other kinds of table-top trees have been manufactured and sold over the years, this page, which Bill Nelson started in the early 2000s, focused mostly on trees made by companies that were already manufacturing lights.

We now return you to Bill's original content, as tweaked and reformatted by George Nelson around late 2004 - Paul.

Lighted table top trees were an important line for most of the major Christmas lighting companies in the late 1930s and throughout the 40s and 50s. In fact, a few lighted trees were offered as early as 1925 (see patent number 1,623,086 in the Patents Pages), which were simple metal or papier mache cones with shapes cut out for light to shine through, but they were not big sellers. It took the development of the light transmitting glass rods, invented by John Frei (patent numbers 1,921,614, and 2,125,906) to bring the multicolored lighted table top tree into its own. Soon after the Glo Lite trees became popular, NOMA introduced their line of electrically lit trees, and when they presented Bubble Lites to the world, it was only a short time before the trees sported bubbling lights upon their branches. Paramount/Raylite had been selling lit tabletop trees since 1937, and when they began selling their version of bubbling lights in 1947, soon offered bubble light trees as well. Here are some examples of what was available over the years:

In their 1937 catalog, Paramount pictured this tabletop sized bottlebrush tree, complete with a Kristal Star topper and their well known "Rosette" type lights. The catalog description reads as follows: "Snow Covered Tree, illuminated by eight Rosette lamps, with an attractive Kristal Star on top. The tree is dark green, covered with glistening snow, set into a well matched base that is finished in Chinese red. Different and individual." The collector today will find the lamps are plentiful, but I have never seen a surviving example of this tree.

Kristal Star Tree Topper and Rosette lamp as used on the Paramount bottle brush tree.

Here is a very early version of the GloLite tree. This one is from the collection of Chris Cuff, and is made of blue cellophane rather than the more usual Visca. Quite small at only about 10" tall, the tree body is cardboard, and the little lights are glass "globs" attached to the ends of cardboard cones. The color is on the bottom of the glass, and everything is lit from inside with a 10 watt Mazda bulb in a "Deal" brand socket. The socket is permanently fastened into the white plaster base with tar. This tree is circa 1936.
Here is a small, GloLite tree, circa 1948. All of the multicolored plastic rods are lit from within by a single standard base 25 watt light bulb. The base is white plastic, and the form under the Visca tree branches is cardboard. Earlier versions of this tree, made before 1940 or so, used glass rods instead of the plastic.
This early offering from NOMA is circa 1941, and is a simple 14" high artificial tree with nine miniature base series wired light sockets. The tree came with 10 cone shaped lamps in assorted colors. The base is white plastic, and the close up photo shows how the cardboard cone forming the tree fits onto it. Originally, the little tree was a bright, pure white, but time has taken its toll and the tree is now a soft beige in color.  
Here is an example of one of the first bubble light trees available. This is from NOMA, and is circa 1946. Instead of having complete, individual bubbling lights on the tree, the entire unit is heated and lit with a single 25 watt bulb. The base of the tree is a metal cone, and the bubble tubes simply fit into slots in the cone. The advantage to this arrangement is that the unit could last virtually forever, as one would only have to replace the single internal lamp when it failed. this is a very hard to find bubble light tree. All of the NOMA electric trees came in simple non-decorated corrugated boxes like the one shown here. The Paramount/Raylite Company also offered a similar tree.  
From 1948, these NOMA bubble light trees feature 9 of the "new" saucer style bubbling lights. These lights were series wired, so the failure of a single lamp caused the entire tree to go dark. The foliage on the 18 inch high trees is made of Visca, a soft plastic-like material that sadly becomes brittle with age and eventually sheds. These pictures are from the 1948 NOMA catalog.  
Also from the 1948 NOMA catalog are these 18 light trees, identical in construction to the ones above except for their size (26 inches high). These larger trees are both more desirable for collectors and much harder to find.  
This is a large NOMA 32 light tabletop tree shared with us from the collection of Jim Sloss. Displayed upon the tree is part of Jim's large collection of glass Matchless Stars, including the exceedingly rare Matchless Star tree topper. Trees like this, with horizontally mounted sockets instead of the more traditional vertically mounted ones are very hard to find today, and were originally intended to hold small round G-4 lamps. When lit, the little lamps would resemble holly berries. The picture was taken in a darkened room to make the fabulous colors of the lights more visible, but notice that this tree is a beautiful white example, and in extremely good condition. So many of these Visca covered trees are now sadly discolored and shedding badly, but this example retains all of its original charm and grace. The tree is circa 1949.
This tree is a hard to find multiple wired example from NOMA, and is circa 1949. The unit has nine candelabra base bubble lights, and contains a very hard to find solid color base bubbler (the green light on the bottom right of the tree). It was common practice for NOMA to mix the colors on their bubble light bases, and only rarely would a solid color example slip through the factory.
Also from the collection of Chris Cuff is this circa 1950 bubble light tree from Royal. This is an eleven light tree, wired in the usual series configuration. With eleven lights in the series, the lamps will have an extremely long life, and Chris reports that all of the lamps appear to be original. Quite a feat, considering that this tree is 51 years old! Sadly, the Royal Christmas division of their manufacturing plant burned in 1955, and the company sold their molds and other salvageable equipment to NOMA and a couple of other companies, choosing not to remain in the Christmas business. Royal still makes non-decorative electrical items to this day.

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