Storeroom Stories: Tree candles and holders


Candle Christmas Tree Post Card

In December 1856, President Franklin Pierce decorated the White House tree with candles. It was a risky move to be sure. After all, most festive folks who enjoyed illuminating their Christmas trees by this time were well aware of the dangers of having multiple open flames intermingling with large, dried out, and highly flammable tree branches. So high was the risk in fact, that by the 1860s, most fire insurance companies, were wholly denying any claims based on Christmas tree fires and amending their policies to include all “knowing risks.”

















Still, tree lights were a holiday favorite as early as the 1830s. Of course, for safety’s sake, tree candles were never kept lit more than a short time, and no one typically left the room as long as they were burning.

Finally, tinkering at home on December 22, 1882, the vice president of Thomas Edison’s Electric Light Company, Edward Hibberd Johnson, individually hand-wired eighty bulbs to a generator and hung them on his own Christmas tree. Edison himself was impressed and, in 1890, began marketing “miniature lamps for Christmas trees” to the public. Eventually, General Electric put forth its pre-wired, “stringed” tree lights and the modern custom of electric holiday lights was born in America.

About Storeroom Stories

Founded in 1773, The Charleston Museum is, in fact, America’s first. Needless to say, over the centuries the Museum has acquired many incredible artifacts. A myriad of items exemplifying the rich history of South Carolina, the Lowcountry, and Charleston itself are on display permanently. However, one must also wonder about the artifacts not typically displayed in our formal galleries. Furthermore, with such a magnificent, vast collection as well as an intelligent and passionate curatorial staff, The Charleston Museum has incredible resources. We would like to use these resources to share more with the public. Therefore, the Museum will now be offering a special monthly exhibit, titled Storeroom Stories, which highlights a specific and unique artifact, personally hand-picked by a curator to share with the public.

A “story” related to each item will be included along with its description, providing the viewer a unique and intimate perspective on each individual piece. This an incredible opportunity for the public to take a look into our collections as well as see some of the items that our curators are most excited about sharing with you! We invite you to keep up with Storeroom Stories via our website, blog, Facebook, or twitter account. Please come and take a peek into our storeroom, view some of the pieces our curators our most passionate about, and learn the story behind these incredibly historic items!