History of Electric Christmas Tree Lights (1920s)

Electric Christmas tree lights were still a novelty in the 1920s – and this was especially true for private homes. Here’s an article from the Herald Journal (1925) with instructions – and warnings – about how to properly install the new-fangled electric lights on indoor Christmas trees.

Danger of fire resulting from illuminated Christmas trees has been ended with the increasing popularity of electric Christmas tree lights, according to C.B. Kendrick, loca lelectrical inspector. The only possible objection to the electric lights for Christmas trees is that they might possibly be installed improperly, Mr. Kendrick says in a statement issued yesterday which follows:

Users of Christmas tree lights connected to the house lighting, are advised to follow a few rules as a precaution against electrical fires during the holiday season. These suggestions are not to be construed as advice against the use of small electric lamps for decorating the Christmas tree, as there is little risk in their use if properly installed. Opiates properly used administered by a physician are beneficial, improperly taken they become destructive.

If possible, get your electrician to connect up and test out your Christmas tree lights: he can see that everything is in proper working order and may save you the disappointment of having the lights go out just at the time you want them to burn. Buy as good an outfit as you can afford; they are safer and can be used several seasons if taken care of.

Proper connection

In event the lights are installed by the home electrician, see that they are connected to a circuit of the house wiring that is protected y a fuse not larger than 10 or 15 amperes. The reason for this is in event bare wire becomes crossed in any manner the fuse will instantly and automatically open the circuit, preventing the arc formed at the cross remaining long enough to ignite flammable material. See that the wires placed in your Christmas tree are rubber covered as the rubber is usually found next to the wire and an outer braid of cotton properly colored.

Some of the outfits sold for Christmas tree lighting hav only a cotton-braid covering on the wires and this is not sufficient protection to wires that are connected to the house lighting system.

Usually the wires used for decorative lighting are made up of a number of very fine strands of copper to give flexibility in handling. The strands sometimes break and the ends can easily project though insulation of cotton only and if it comes in contact with a broken strand of the other wire an arc is formed that may ignite the insulation.

See that all joints on your wiring are made tight and are soldered and taped with two layers of rummer tape and an equal amount of electrician’s adhesive tape. If there is a baseboard or floor receptacle in your home, connect Christmas tree lighting to it rather than the chandelier in the center of the room. This avoids the possibility of overloading the small wires in the fixture that are in many cases supplying current for tow or six lamps. In placing wires in the tree be careful not to cause kinks or to have wires lying on the floor where they will be tramped upon or lying on radiators or iron pipies of any kind.

Replace Dead Bulbs

Many of the Christmas tree lighting outfits have the lamps connected in series using a low voltage lamp. If yours is this type it is advisable to have two or three extra lamps on hand because if one lamp burns out on the series circuit is broken and all the others will be out. The burned-out lamps will have to be replaced before any of the others will burn.

The electrical inspection section of the department of public safety will make inspection of wiring installation placed in Christmas trees. If you are in dout about your wiring call the electrical inspector and remember hat if the laws governing the use of elecricity are obeyed you reduce to a minimum the danger of fire or accident.


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