Saturday, December 3, 2016

"Christmas waves a magic wand

over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ” 
~Norman Vincent Peale


I thought of this line as I sorted through an auction purchase of Christmas balls.  While I was researching for this, I found an article about "updating" old or faded ornaments, and I thought...why?  There is something in the charm of the faded paint...why get out the glue gun and "update"!

Christmas has enough new about it from technology to sale after sale after sale.  What is wrong with a little old-fashioned touches among the 21st century madness.

Christmas balls are from the late 1800s since decorations were handmade and the only ornaments available in the market were German hand-cast lead and hand-blown glass decorations. But the 1880s saw many German entrepreneurs seriously thinking of manufacturing ornaments on a mass scale and selling these strictly as Christmas ornaments. The idea was soon translated into reality.
 The glass firms around Lauscha, the hub of the glass ornament trade in Germany, had produced glass articles such as bottles and marbles and soon began to create little glass toys like molds of children, saints, famous people, animals and other forms and released them in the market. This new type of Christmas ornament was an instant success and was met with a huge demand. Soon, nearly every family in and around Lauscha became involved in some way or other in the creation of Christmas glass ornaments working either in a factory or in a home-based foundry.
In the 1920s, Japan challenged Germany's dominance over the world market by producing ornaments on a huge scale. (Japan used to do what we get upset with China for doing now!) They brought in newer, more colorful designs and began to bite off the German market. Later, Czech Republic also entered the competition with an impressive amount of fancy Christmas ornaments. By 1935, more than 250 million Christmas tree ornaments were being imported to America.
World War I impacted production in Germany, but Max Eckhardt, a US businessman associated with the glass ornament trade felt that his business could be greatly affected by possible hostilities brewing in Germany.  This made him think of a way of producing glass ornaments right in the heart of America. He knew that the Corning Company of Corning, New York, had a type of machine that ordinarily made thousands of light bulbs out of a ribbon of glass. Now what he needed was only to persuade the Corning Company to determine a way to make American glass ornaments.

In the late 1930's, Eckhardt teamed up with a representative of F.W. Woolworth and succeeded in doing just that! Sensing a golden opportunity, the Corning Company agreed to see if its machine (one of which now resides at The Henry Ford, America's Greatest History Attraction, in Dearborn, Michigan) could successfully produce glass ornaments and meet with popular demand. And this was soon worked out successfully.

The Corning produced glass ornaments met with a resounding success. By 1940, the company was making ornaments on a much larger scale than the manually produced German items, and sending them to other companies for decoration. The biggest customer was none other than Max Eckhardt who by now had established an All-American company known as Shiny Brite.

Then the World War II broke out in 1939 which caused severe material shortages and forced Corning to do away with the earlier practice of making the inside of the ornaments silvered on the inside (to make them shine brightly for longer periods) and instead decorate the clear glass balls with simple thin stripes in pastel colors which required much less metallic oxide pigment. Fortunately, Corning was able to alter its machines to produce an increased variety of shapes and sizes of glass ball without using scarce war material. But the war crisis resulted in a forced replacement of the sturdy metal cap (that held the little hook for hanging the ornaments) to a cardboard one.
Post World War II, F.W. Woolworth's highly popular "Five-and-dime stores" were the main source of Christmas ornaments and decorations. The end of the Second World War also found most of Germany's Lauscha's glassworks turn into state-owned entities. The production of baubles in Lauscha ceased. The fall of the Berlin Wall resulted in most of the firms being reestablished as private companies. Only about 20 small glass-blowing firms are active in Lauscha today.

So, as you decorate your tree, think of the history behind each ball as it graces a branch...and remember...
“Christmas is forever, not for just one day,
for loving, sharing, giving, are not to put away
like bells and lights and tinsel, in some box upon a shelf.
The good you do for others is good you do yourself.”
                                   ~ Norman Wesley Brooks, “Let Every Day Be Christmas

1 comment:

Hayden James said...

Nice article the glass decorations really looks beautiful on Christmas and I thin the Glass Working Companies work really hard to make such beautiful things. I want to appreciate you for sharing such interesting article :)