A Great Place To Purchase Christmas Ornaments
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The resumption of manufacture, and purchase, of German glass ornaments began in earnest not long after World War 1. As events in the Nineteen Thirties began to demonstrate, however, perhaps another war would not be far off.
Businessmen involved in the German ornament trade had long had sales and import offices in New York, but one in particular, Max Eckhardt, could see that his business – and the supply of Christmas ornaments so important to American households just coming out of the Great Depression – was going to be greatly affected by possible hostilities. In the late 30’s he and a representative of F.W.Woolworth, the largest seller of Christmas ornaments in the country, got together to see if they could persuade the Corning Company of Corning,New York to determine a way to make American glass ornaments. Corning had a type of machine that ordinarily made thousands of light bulbs out of a ribbon of glass. Sensing an essentially guaranteed market, Corning agreed to see if its machine (one of which now resides at The Henry Ford, America’s Greatest History Attraction, in Dearborn, Michigan) could successfully turn out glass ornaments with sufficient popular appeal.
By 1940 Corning was making about 300,000 ornaments a day, compared with the perhaps 600 for a skilled German glassblower, and sending them to other companies for decoration.The largest customer was Max Eckhardt who by now had established an All-American company known as Shiny Brite. Initially Shiny Brite Ornaments were lacquered by machine on the outside and then decorated by hand.
The following year the ornaments were silvered on the inside so they would remain “shiny bright” for longer periods, but WWII intervened and material shortages caused the company to decorate the clear glass balls with simple thin stripes in pastel colors which didn’t require as much metallic oxide pigment. Corning, moreover, was able to alter its machines to produce a greater variety of shapes and sizes of glass ball without using scarce war material.
But the necessities of war persisted and the sturdy metal cap that held the little hook for hanging the ornaments had to give way to cardboard and often you had to provide your own hanging device – yarn, at our house– to replace the less prevalent hooks.
Today, Christopher Radko, the entrepreneur who discovered and recreated many of the historic glass ornament molds from Germany and Czechoslovakia, has recreated much of the Shiny Brite ornament
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