The aluminum tree had a short but dazzling run. In 1958, a toy sales manager saw a metal tree in a store window and brought back the idea to his company, Aluminum Specialty Company, in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The company worked to develop a light, cheap aluminum tree they dubbed “Evergleam” in time for Christmas in 1959.
The price point was $25, and the company produced several hundred trees with only a hunch that they would sell.
The trees were a huge success, and had become a design trend by the early 1960s. They were available in various colors, including silver, green, yellow and pink. Homeowners often paired them with color wheels, which rotated to throw colored light onto the tree. The public liked them because they had an atomic, Space Age feel. They were clean, easy to deal with and generally “automated.”
Unfortunately, it was the 1965 A Charlie Brown Christmas that helped fuel the decline of aluminum trees. Despite Lucy’s instruction to Charlie Brown to “get the biggest aluminum tree you can find” and “Maybe paint it pink,” Charlie Brown goes with the sad, but very real, tree, and doomed the popularity of aluminum trees.
By 1969, Evergleam had stopped producing their trees, and by the early 1970s, aluminum trees were virtually non-existent on the market. However, they’ve come back in style as collectors items, especially with vintage and MCM lovers.
If you want to highlight Christmas with an aluminum tree, look carefully for the vintage piece. Before you buy, make sure it comes with paper sleeves to protect he branches. The cost of an aluminum tree can range anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars. Silver tends to be the least expensive, and pink the most expensive—a recent rare pink tree sold for over $3,000.
And don’t forget to pick up a color wheel too. Some companies make them new, and you can get them as low as $35. But if you want an authentic vintage color wheel, they’ll be closer to $100. Look for pieces that come with their original box. They’ll probably be in better condition—the owner who preserved the box will likely have taken good care of the color wheel.
If you like the idea of adding a midcentury vibe to your Christmas home this year, check out our sister magazine’s annual special, Vintage Holiday. It has information on Christmas collectibles and home tours to get your MCM inspiration flowing.