Memories of Christmas Past – Shiny-Brite Ornaments

Christmas Exhibit - by Barb 186The Shiny-Brite company produced the most popular Christmas tree ornaments in the United States throughout the 1940’s and ’50s. In 1937 Max Eckhardt established “Shiny-Brite” ornaments, working with the Corning Glass Company to mass produce glass Christmas ornaments. Eckhardt had been importing hand-blown glass balls from Germany since around 1907, but had the foresight to anticipate a disruption in his supply from the upcoming war. Corning adapted their process for making light bulbs to making clear glass ornaments, which were then shipped to Eckhardt’s factories to be decorated by hand. The fact that Shiny-Brite ornaments were an American-Made product was stressed as a selling point during World War II. Dating of the ornaments is often facilitated by studying the hook. The first Shiny-Brite ornaments had the traditional metal cap and loop, with the hook attached to the loop, from which the ornament was hung from the tree. Wartime production necessitated the replacement of the metal cap with a cardboard tab, from which the owner would use yarn or string to hang the ornament. These hangers firmly place the date of manufacture of the ornament to the early 1940’s. Following the war, Shiny-Brite introduced a line of ornaments with a newly designed metal hook that provided the user with two lengths of hanger. This arrangement was designed to allow the ornament to fill sparsely limbed areas of a natural tree. The increasing popularity of the aluminum Artificial Christmas tree, first manufactured in 1958, made this device far less attractive to the consumer, as an artificial tree had no gaps to be filled. The added expense of the lengthy hanging wire coupled with the diminishing need caused this feature to be discontinued in 1960. The demand for glass ornaments waned as plastic ornaments became more popular, ultimately bringing the Shiny-Brite company to close its doors in 1962.