User:IvoShandor/Artificial Christmas trees
Artificial Christmas trees are artificial pine and fir trees manufactured for the specific purpose of use as a Christmas tree. The earliest artificial Christmas trees were wooden, tree-shaped pyramids or feather trees, both developed by Germans. Most modern trees are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) but many other types of trees have been and are avaiable, including aluminum Christmas trees and fiber optic Christmas trees.
The first artificial Christmas trees were developed in Germany during the 19th century, though earlier examples exist. These "trees" were made using goose feathers that were dyed green. The German feather trees were one response by Germans to continued deforestation in Germany. Developed in the 1880s, the feather trees became increasingly popular during the early part of the 20th century. The German feather trees eventually made their way to the United States where they became rather popular as well. In fact, the use of natural Christmas trees in the United States was pre-dated by a type of artificial tree. These first trees were wooden, tree-shaped pyramids lit by candles, they were developed in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania by the German Moravian Church in 1747.
Types of artificial trees
Feather Christmas trees, originally of German origin, became popular in the United States as well. Feather trees were initially made of green-dyed goose feathers which were attached to wire branches. These wire branches were then wrapped around a central dowel which acted as the trunk Feather Christmas trees ranged widely in size, from a small 2 inch tree to a large 98 inch tree sold in department stores during the 1920s. Often, the tree branches were tipped with artificial red berries which acted as candle holders. The branches were widely spaced, to keep the candles from starting a fire, which allowed ample space for ornamentation. Other benefits touted for feather trees included: the elimination of the trip to the tree lot and feathers do not shed needles.
In 1930 the U.S.-based Addis Brush Company created the first artificial Christmas tree made from brush bristles. The company used the same machinery that it used to manufacture toliet brushes. The trees were made from the same animal-hair bristles used in the brushes, save they were dyed green. For a time, the brush trees were immensely popular, with large numbers exported to Great Britain, where the trees also became popular. These brush trees offered advantages over the earlier feather trees. They could accept heavier ornamentation, and were not nearly as flammable.
Aluminum Christmas trees are a type of artificial tree that was made largely from aluminum. The trees were manufactured in the United States, first in Chicago in 1958, and later in Manitowoc, Wisconsin where the majority of the trees were produced. Aluminum trees were manufactured into the 1970s, and had their height of popularity from their inception until about 1965. That year, a television Christmas special aired that is credited with ending the era of the aluminum Christmas tree.
Most modern artificial Christmas trees are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or other plastics. The manufacture of PVC requires petroleum and despite being plastic most artificial trees are not recyclable or biodegradable. PVC trees are fire-resistant but not incombustible. Many of these trees are made in China; from January to August 2005 $69 million worth of artificial trees from China entered the United States.
Plastic trees come in a variety of different styles. Some have become more and more lifelike over the years and may contain polyethylene in their branches for further realism. Pre-lit styles have become increasingly popular as well, including models that are "frosted" or designed for outdoor use. Plastic trees can come in a variety of different colors, and one type came with built-in speakers and an MP3 player.
Companies such as Mountain King, Barcana and the National Tree Company have marketed increasingly realistic PVC trees made to closely resemble Douglas fir, Ponderosa pine or other common types of Christmas trees. During the 1990s trees not only began to appear more realistic but some also smelled more realistic. Many of these more modern models came with pre-strung lights and hinged branches which simply had to be snapped into position.
Trends in artificial tree consumption have constantly evolved and a number of designer and other types of artificial Christmas trees have appeared on the market. Fiber optic trees come in two major varieties, one resembles a traditional Christmas tree. The other type of fiber optic Christmas tree is one where the entire tree is made of wispy fiber optic cable, a tree composed entirely of light. David Gutshall, of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, received a patent for the latter type of fiber optic tree in 1998.
One Dallas-based company offers "holographic mylar" trees in many hues. Tree-shaped objects made from such materials as cardboard, glass, ceramic or other materials can be found in use as tabletop decorations. Upside-down artificial Christmas trees were originally introduced as a marketing gimmick; they allowed consumers to get closer to ornaments for sale in retail stores as well as opened up floor space for more products. There were three varieties of upside-down trees, those bolted to the ceiling, stand alone trees with a base, and half-trees bolted to walls.
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Sales and usage
Artificial trees became increasingly popular during the late 20th century. Users of artificial Christmas trees assert that they are more convenient, and, because they are reusable, much cheaper than their natural alternative. Between 2001 and 2007 artificial Christmas tree sales jumped from 7.3 million to 17.4 million.
In 1992, in the United States, about 46 percent of homes displaying Christmas trees displayed an artificial tree. Twelve years later, a 2004 ABC News/Washington Post poll revealed that 58 percent of U.S. residents used an artificial tree instead of a natural tree. The real versus artificial tree debate has been popular in mass media through the early 21st century. The debate is a frequent topic of news articles during the Christmas holiday season. Early 21st century coverage of the debate focused on the decrease in natural Christmas tree sales, and rise in artificial tree sales over the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The rise in popularity of artificial trees did not go unnoticed by the Christmas tree farming industry in the United States. In 2004, the U.S. Christmas tree industry hired the advertising agency Smith-Harroff to spearhead an ad campaign aimed at rejuvenating lagging sales of natural trees. A 1975 poll by Michigan State University showed the reasons why consumers were beginning to prefer artificial over natural Christmas trees. The reasons included safety, one-time purchasing, and environmental responsibility but the biggest reason respondents gave pollsters was no messy needle clean up.
The debate about the environmental impact of artificial trees is ongoing. Generally, natural tree growers contend that artificial trees are more environmentally harmful than their natural counterpart. On the other side of the debate, trade groups such as the American Christmas Tree Association, continue to refute that artificial trees are more harmful to the environment and maintain that the PVC used in Christmas trees has excellent recyclable properties. One researcher at Kansas State University called the idea that artificial trees are eco-friendly and "urban myth".
Lead, often used as a stabilizer in PVC, and its use in Chinese imported artificial trees has been an issue of concern among politicians and scientists over recent years. PVC was used in some of the 2007 recalled Chinese toys. A 2004 study found that while in general artificial trees pose little health risk from lead contamination, there do exist "worst-case scenarios" where major health risks to young children exist. The lead author of the 2004 study, Dr. Richard Maas, noted in 2005: "We found that if we leave one of these trees standing for a week, and we wipe under the tree we’ll find large amounts of lead dust in many cases under the tree".
In 2007, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) asked the Consumer Products Safety Commission to investigate lead levels in Chinese imported artificial trees. Lead-free artificial Christmas trees do exist, for example, one U.S.-based company uses barium instead of lead as a stabilizer in its PVC trees. A 2008 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report found that as the PVC in artificial Christmas trees aged it began to degrade. The report determined that of the 50 million artificial trees in the United States approximately 20 million were 9 or more years old, the point where dangerous lead contamination levels are reached.
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