In December of 1958, a metal Christmas tree caught the eye of a sales manager with Manitowoc-based Aluminum Specialty while visiting a store in Chicago. That display model, made by a company called Modern Coatings Inc., was too big and expensive for the mass market, but Aluminum Specialty’s engineering team was able to create a smaller, cheaper one. By 1960, they were selling the shimmering trees to consumers under the name Evergleam.
The two companies entered into a licensing agreement within a couple of years, and the era of the aluminum Christmas tree was soon in full swing, with Evergleam accounting for 60-65% of the market. The trees could be seen in homes and storefronts all over the country.
A metal tree craze might sound odd now, but those were the days when futuristic things were all the rage. Movies and magazines predicted that robot maids and flying cars would soon be the norm for American families. Aluminum Christmas trees were simply the first space-aged item ready for that sleek, button-laden home, which was also due to arrive very soon.
Well, it’s been the future for quite a while now. And, sadly, we still don’t have household robots unless you count those silly vacuum cleaner things, and our cars rarely ever fly outside of a stunt show setting. Even aluminum Christmas trees proved to be a passing fad rather than a benchmark of the brave new world that was promised. Turns out their popularity peaked around 1965 and fizzled out by the early 70s. Other companies had jumped on the trend, and the novelty wore off quickly.
But the story of the aluminum Christmas tree didn’t end there. It turns out that, thanks to the superior engineering that Wisconsin companies are famous for, Evergleam trees hold up well in storage and have found new life on the secondary market. Thanks to the Internet, what’s old is new again. Or, at the very least, it’s ironic.
Now, you can find Evergleam trees fetching big prices on eBay and appearing in the Instagram feeds of collectors and tastemakers.
So, in a way, the aluminum Evergleam tree did turn out to be a peek into the future for the people of the 1960s. Granted, in the least cool way possible. They really should have flying cars by now.