Like so many events touched by the pandemic this year, the Wisconsin Historical Museum’s Ever Gleaming: Celebrating America’s Aluminum Christmas Tree is currently living in the digital world.
The trees were produced from the 1960s until the late ‘70s by the Aluminum Speciality Company in Manitowoc. During that time, thousands of “Evergleam Trees” found their way into American homes.
But the fascination didn’t end when the company stopped producing the trees. With internet sites like Pinterest, Ebay, and Etsy, enthusiasts continue to collect and share their love by posting photos of the silver, blue, pink, and green faux trees. But there is something in the literal background that has become nearly impossible to find.
In 2017, the Wisconsin Historical Museum held an in-person exhibit entitled “Ever Gleaming: The Enduring Love Affair with the Aluminum Christmas Tree.” The exhibit of aluminum trees of all shapes and sizes lit up North Carol Street and brought a bit of vintage Christmas cheer to Capital Square.
In an interview recorded in 2017, Joe Kapler, Curator of Cultural History for the Wisconsin Historical Society, explained to contributor gianofer fields that the trees were showcased in a space meant to emulate a 1960s’ living room. He said, “These are vintage 1960s sofa end table chairs. We invite people to plunk down, take their photo. Not just for selfies…office groups come by to take their photo here.”
In this edition of Radio Chipstone, we revisit the conversation between gianofer fields and Kapler about the Atomic Age Space Trees made in Wisconsin.
About the Host:
gianofer (JON nah fer) fields is an Art Historian and Material Culture contributor and curates the Radio Chipstone series. The project is hosted by the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and funded by the Chipstone Foundation; a decorative arts foundation whose mission is preserving and interpreting their collection, as well as stimulating research and education in decorative arts.
About the Guest:
Joseph (Joe) Kapler is the Curator of Cultural History for the Division of Museums and Historical Sites, Wisconsin Historical Society. A digital version of the exhibit discussed, entitled “Ever Gleaming: Celebrating America’s Aluminum Christmas Tree,” is now available online. There is also a walk-up display on view in the window of the Wisconsin Historical Museum.
Image: Shelly Torkelson and Matt Neff with an Evergleam Tree. Image courtesy of gianofer fields.
This segment comes from the Radio Chipstone Archives of WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio. See here.