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Reflecting on Christmases Past: The Aluminum Tree at the Johnson County Museum

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Lindsey Foat – The Hale Center for Journalism

Walking into the 1950s All-Electric House is a sensory experience somewhere between visiting your grandparents’ house and a virtual time warp. Around the holidays, that nostalgia factor goes into over-drive when the Johnson County Museum staff erects a six-foot aluminum Christmas tree – complete with a rotating color wheel – in the house’s living room.

“Aluminum Christmas trees became very, very popular for Christmas [in the 1950s],” said Andy Davis, Education Assistant at the Johnson County Museum. “Some of the Christmas decorations were kind of futuristic and sci-fi. I mean all this shiny metal reflects the space race that is getting ready to start in the 1950s and 1960s.”

Forward thinking technology and modern design are at the heart of the house, which was built in 1954 by Kansas City Power and Light as an electric showpiece.

“The house was designed by Kansas City Power and Light to be a house of the future,” Davis said. “This was a chance for them to show off all their latest research and new ideas.”

Between 1955 and 1994, five different families lived in the house before it was donated, moved from Prairie Village, Kan., and painstaking restored by the Johnson County Museum in Shawnee, Kan.

“[The aluminum tree] is definitely one of the crown jewels of the tour,” Davis said. “And it’s a fun time for us, because we get to look through our collections and figure out what might be something fun to set under the tree.” 

This year presents include a “Howdy Doody” doll, a Lionel train set, a Davy Crockett comic book and a Scrabble board game.

The aluminum Christmas tree will remain on display at the 1950s All-Electric House through Jan. 6, 2014.

Do you have memories of a gleaming aluminum Christmas tree from Christmases past? Perhaps there is one in your home for Christmas present? Share your thoughts below in the comments section or send us a photo via Facebook or Twitter using #CuratorsChoice. 

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0 thoughts on “Reflecting on Christmases Past: The Aluminum Tree at the Johnson County Museum

  1. When I was little I dreamed of getting a silver tree. I bought one, complete with rotating color wheel and original boxes and sleeves for my first apartment. I use it ever year!

  2. I just bought at auction a 4 1/2 ft silver and blue aluminum Christmas Tree. It was made by US Silver
    Tree Co. Scranton PA. Model A452. Can anyone tell me anything about this tree.

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