Old strings that were in warehouse storage before the War began were sold for as long as the stock lasted. After that, Americans had to make their old sets last a few years longer, just as they had to do during the previous decade in the Depression. This probably accounts for the large variety and quantities of vintage lights that are available to the collector today. Lighting outfits were carefully packed away in their original boxes for use in future Christmases, often with interesting little notes hand-written inside the boxes as to what room or window they went in. Bubble lights, soon to become the best selling Christmas lights in the world, were actually invented in the late 30s, but NOMA, the purchaser of the patents on the lights, had to wait until after the war before they could be manufactured. This section will cover both the carry-over lights from the Depression era, as well those outfits marketed until stock finally ran out.
NOMA, the world's largest lighting company, issued their product catalog as usual in October of 1941. In it, they featured several new products, including their illuminated treetop angel. "She's New! She's Beautiful," the catalog proclaimed. Geared up for a heavy selling season despite the war raging in other countries, most of the lighting companies had a good supply of stock on hand, and the 1941 selling season promised to be a good one. Then, disaster struck.
On December, 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked the United States Naval Base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and the next day, President Roosevelt declared war on Japan.
The United States was in a state of confusion, caught off guard by Japan's attack. Needless to say, American's holiday spirits were severely dampened. The Christmas 1941 selling season was a dismal one for the lighting manufacturers, and it was only the beginning.
By 1942, almost all American manufacturers were involved in making supplies and ammunition for the war effort. Supplies were desperately short, and all unnecessary items, including Christmas lights, were no longer made. Among the materials that Americans experienced huge shortages of were rubber, most metals including copper, and gasoline and heating oil. Purchasing a bicycle required a permit from the local ration board. Citizens could buy just four gallons of gasoline a week, which was reduced to three gallons by 1944. Civilians were even urged to keep long distance telephone calls to a minimum, so as to leave the lines open for soldiers. The paperback book was invented by struggling publishers, scrambling for paper supplies, as they used less than a third of the paper that a "regular" book did. The most coveted wartime gift was ration stamps.
Trade ads of 1942 touted the manufacturers' involvement in the wartime production efforts, while at the same time reminding the mothers left at home alone with the children that the little ones still deserved a good Christmas. NOMA began the production of wooden toys, whose manufacture did not use up precious raw materials. Called NOMA Woodies, the Plain-Jane toys were good sellers.
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