by Paul R. Spitzzeri
There is a tradition, particularly in England, of leaving holiday decorations up until Twelfth Night, or 6 January, so who knows if that was the case for tonight’s highlighted artifact from the Homestead’s collection—this being a photo, dated 2 January 1927, and showing a decorated Christmas tree with open presents underneath it.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much information available about the image, other than the fact that the date and the word “Flashlight” are inscribed on the reverse. It’s hard to imagine that a flashlight would be a desirable Christmas gift–although the useful device, invented in 1899, was still relatively new because the use of tungsten filament lamps by the Twenties increased their longevity and reliability. So, who knows, maybe someone got one for the holidays and it’s under that tree!
In any case, the handsome tree, which looks trimmed as per standards of the day and has excellent proportions and symmetry, is laden with another popular decorative element of the day: tinsel. This is in strands hanging vertically from branches; in garland hung both in swags and vertically; and even in garland framed ornaments. Some trees were literally covered in tinsel because of how popular that material was at the time.
Other ornaments include large glass balls, bird figurines and some that appear to look like glass beads and/or icicles. There is also an impressive and attractive tree topper with a bulb base and a tall pointed end. It is unclear if there were strands of lights on the tree, though it wouldn’t be surprising if there weren’t any, because they could be pretty expensive.
As for those gifts, they’re hard to make out in detail because magnification doesn’t help much with respect to clarity, but it does look like there are some clothing accessories (perhaps handkerchiefs, ties and a watch can sketchily be made out), a hand mirror, and some decorative items in boxes. In the center is an ornamental bowl and behind this looks like a set of china cups.
What does appear to be conspicuous in their absence are toys, indicating that this Christmas tree was in a household of adults only. Still, this attractive tree and the panoply of presents is a nice representation of a late 1920s holiday. The museum’s holdings include a great snapshot of a couple of young girls holding presents by the family Christmas tree outdoors, so look for that one next holiday season!