The Fab Fifties
The 1950s was a decade when America enjoyed the world's highest standard of living. We were living with the bomb! Fear of nuclear annihilation was real!. We were "technically" at peace. At the same time we were in a "police action" in Korea.
Christmas became the time to pray for peace. President Truman said a prayer in 1951 when he lit the National Christmas Tree. By 1954, the National Christmas Tree Ceremony had become the "Christmas Pageant of Peace," and included a life size nativity scene as well as eight reindeer from Alaska!
It was during this decade that big department stores in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and other cities raced to outdo the others to attract sales. Elaborate Christmas window displays cost almost $100,000... a lot of money in the 50s!
Glass ornaments from Germany became available again in the 1950s. But they were not as popular as before, either because Americans refused to buy ornaments manufactured by their former enemy, or it could be we were just looking for a new style of ornaments. Plastic decorations were the rage; people loved the fact that these ornaments were practically indestructible. By the end of the decade, a new American fad was emerging: decorating Styrofoam balls with sequins, rhinestones, ribbons, and miniature beads. One could purchase these ornaments as a kit to make, or buy them already made. We still have several of the tree that Sue made in the mid-1950's!
Live trees were plentiful in the fifties with 30+ million sold by mid 1950's. Artificial (read aluminum) trees were popular for people with a limited amount of space. By 1959 American manufacturers produced a much more realistic artificial tree with removable branches.
Aerosol-dispensed snow showed up in 1952... we snowed windows in December and spent six months getting it off! People were infatuated with flocked trees, and this new invention made flocking simpler than the earlier methods. "Sensational Snow-Flock" was a snow-flock gun which fit onto your vacuum cleaner. This product was advertised to last 30 days without falling off and was fire retardant. You could color your tree white, pink, or blue for $4.49. It was a mess!
The middle of the 50s saw the invention of the " aluminum" tree , the ultimate in artificial trees. These were created in response to the foil Christmas tree decorations that were so popular in the 1940s.
WWII was over a we were in a land of plenty!
Displays were given an overhaul in the 1950s, with canopies installed above the Christmas counters to allow calendar and gift bows to be displayed, and to make them clearly visible from the store front, even though displayed in the middle or rear section of the store. Bold wall features of single sheets of wrapping paper in the early 1950s gradually made way for folded sheets in flat packs.