The quintessential Christmas ornament is without any doubt, the Christmas ball. You could easily decorate a Christmas tree with nothing but balls, and it would be perfectly acceptable. Be they glass, the traditional choice, paper, plastic or foam, a Christmas tree isn’t a Christmas tree without some balls. This is a tribute to vintage Christmas balls of catalogs past. As ususal, I’ve combed through the archives at Wishbookweb.com to find pages from our classic all American department stores, Sears being the primary.
As always, click any image for the full page scan.
The first few pages from the early 1940s are in black and white. That’s odd to me, since many of these catalogs have some color pages. I know they had to pick and choose pages to print in color due to the cost of color printing back then, but it seems like the Christmas ornaments would have been a priority, as color is everything with Christmas! They printed the fruit cake pages in color but not the glass ornaments?
Aparently, during World War 2, due to metal rationing, glass ornament manufacturers in the United States were forced to switch the metal cap (which held in the hook) with cardboard. Yet all the war year catalog images here seem to depict the ornaments with metal caps.
Montgomery Ward vintage Christmas balls. I like the high contrast of their black and white. Here’s an interesting fact: Montgomory Wards still exists. I had no idea! Yeah, it looks like they’re an online brand only these days, but the name is still out there. Another fun fact: Back in 2008, the Montgomory Ward brand was purchased by Swiss Colony, Inc! Swiss Colony is the finest purveyer of Sausage and Cheese gift packages. Sausage and Cheese gift packs are just about my favorite thing in the world. I’m a big fan of Swiss Colony, and especially their beef rope.
Shiny Brite Brand was the king of glass Christmas ornaments in the 1940s and 1950s. It’s no surprise, really. They’re incredibly beautiful. I did a search to see if Shiny Brites were still being produced, and they are. They’re now being released by Chistopher Radko and many of the classic designs are rereleased. That’s got to make it difficult for collectors of Vintage Christmas Balls, since I’m guessing it would be challenging to tell the difference between the originals and Radko’s. Still, it’s nice to know that I could get some of these. I actually have some originals on my tree, but it seems like I have fewer every year. Damn cat.
‘Faceted balls’. Um, I think you mean ‘disco balls’. I know they weren’t called disco balls in 1962, as disco hadn’t been invented yet. Maybe ‘mirror ball’ would have been more common back then. It doesn’t matter. They’re hidious.
Shiny yarn covered Christmas balls. these are not my favorites. Not necessarily because they aren’t pretty. I mean, they’re nice enough to look at on a tree. No, the reason I don’t like them is because we had a bunch of them at my dad’s office when I was growing up. I’d help decorate the office each year, and I remember the yarn pulling out something awful. All the balls would be mixed together in the box, along with the ornament hooks. The hooks would get burried in the yarn and pull it out and make a big mess. I hated those things.
Hello florescent Christmas balls! Well, I guess it’s better than the Earth-tones that were right around the corner in the 1970s.
So as we move into the 1970s, Christmas balls take a big back seat to other forms of decorations. Here in 1971, the only balls we see are these white and orange ones. Very minimalist, very dull. It gets worse. From this point on, even into the 1980s, most of the time, if you see a Christmas ball being sold, is if it has a cartoon character or a bird on it. I found a few exceptions, but not much.
We have some of the aforementioned bird balls on the right, and terrifying effigies of Santa and Mrs. Claus carrying bundles of those terrible yarn wrapped balls.
Glass balls, with shrink wrapped illustrations. No thanks.
Some very simplistic red and silver balls. It’s better than nothing!
Also Check Out….
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out my other Department Store Christmas catalog tributes. More to come in over the next few weeks.
That colorful and tasty Christmas Hard Candy!
Those wonderfully tacky Sausage and Cheese gift packs!
The gift that everyone dreads, the Christmas Fruitcake!
Is it wood? Is it wire? The illustrated Artificial Christmas Tree!
And don’t forget to visit Wishbookweb.com! It’s the best place to make the fantasy Christmas list that the 11 year old you would approve!