I’m not sure where my obsessive collecting habits span from.
I’ve never been satisfied with just a few of anything. If I collect something…hold on to your butts, because I am going for the gold. Why stop at ten or twelve, when I can have several dozen? As a child, I couldn’t have just the main characters in action figure form, I wanted every single one…. plus extras for “back-ups”.
Tin globes, large letter postcards, Polish glass ornaments, western belt buckles, conversational ties, Zuni fetish…..the list goes on and on.
A few short years ago, about the same time I joined the Golden Glow of Christmas Past, I was introduced to these little gems,
Milk glass figural bulbs.
I was immediately smitten and because they are priced pretty inexpensively, (I can usually buy a lot of 5 to 10 for about $20), it really didn’t take long to amass about a hundred.
I can’t believe that I’d never even heard of them before.
In case you hadn’t either, here’s a quick history lesson;
At the turn of the last century glass figural bulbs were first produced in Germany, Austria and Hungary by many of the same artisans that made glass Christmas ornaments, often from the same molds. They were beautifully mouth-blown and hand painted. But the heat of the electric bulb gave these decorations a short life span, and the painted details flaked off pretty quickly.
When World War I interrupted imports from Europe, it was the Japanese that stepped in to meet the demand for figural lights, this time using milk-glass.
Milk glass is thicker and more heat-resistant. Plus, it’s already white. Which meant that decorating them was faster. Like their European counterparts, they were also hand-painted, although slightly cruder and usually by children. A lower price kept Japanese figural lights very popular with American buyers for several decades. Until sadly, tastes shifted and plastic and aluminum decorations dominated the market.
Thought I’d share a few from my collection;
There are Santas….so many Santas. I’ve shifted my focus to more of the unusual designs.
and houses with snow-covered roofs,
Fruits and vegetables were popular. I don’t see many corn cobs though.
As were flowers, like these budding roses.
Animals were designed in all sorts of whimsical designs. Here are dogs, cats, teddy bears and an elephant.
This big ol’ lion in a vest was one of my first finds.
Religious themes still prevailed in the middle of the last century during Christmas time.
Themed sets of lights were pretty popular too; Disney, the Sunday funnies, and nursery rhymes were sold in sets of eight characters. I’m pretty close to finding complete sets of all of these familiar faces. (In fact, Jiminy Cricket arrived just after I took these pictures)
I can never have enough Humpty Dumptys.
Or cupie dolls
I haven’t seen them yet, but I’m hoping there are seven more band members to go along with this drummer.
Do they still light? You may ask.
I’ve noticed that about a quarter of them still do.
I think this is because C-6 bulbs require all the bulbs to be working for the entire strand to light. Once one bulb went out, the strand was either tossed, stored in the attic or the bulbs hung with hooks like ornaments.
Because most of them only fit C-6 light sockets, something that hasn’t been made in over 50 years, you can actually test them with a 9-volt battery. Like so…
So what do I do with all these beauties?
Glad you asked.
There are a few bowls-full scattered around the house.
And I added a small feather tree with several of my favorites wired to the branches.
I think they look amazing on that white tree. It really showcases the still vibrant colors.
Next year I planing on adding strings of them to the vintage themed tree.
So watch out,
At the rate that these things multiply.
Lord only knows how many I’ll have by then.