Around 1845, people in
Germany began to make
Christmas trees from feathers.
The feathers were dyed green
and wrapped around wire or sticks
to make branches, then fastened
to a trunk to create the tree.
These trees resembled
the white pines of Germany
with short needles, wide spaces
between branches, and red berries
adorning the tip of each branch that
sometimes served as candleholders.
This was one of the very first types
of artificial Christmas tree ever made.
As deforestation became a greater concern
throughout Germany, the custom spread.
In the late 1800s, German immigrants
brought their feather trees to America.
The practice grew slowly until 1913,
when Sears Roebuck advertised
feather trees in their catalog.
It touted advantages such as
avoiding a hike through a tree farm
and not having to pick up shed needles
dropped from a live Christmas tree.
By the 1920s, feather trees
came in a variety of colors, and
many department stores carried them
for shoppers to pick and choose.
The greatest attraction, however,
came from the fact that they were
handmade instead of merely grown.
Most cities had a treemaker,
who often made coat trees
and other furniture as well.
During the holiday season,
workshops popped up where
people could make their own trees
from feathers, wire, and wood.
The practice of cutting down
live trees continued to dwindle,
and as a result, deforestation
became less and less of a problem,
both in Germany and in America.
Feather trees had saved Christmas Day.
* * *
The forests of central Europe in general, and Germany in particular, have been exploited for thousands of years. One of many causes has been the harvesting of evergreens for Christmas.
Feather Christmas trees became popular in the Victorian period. In our world they were later replaced by synthetic trees, but Arts and Crafts America prefers natural and handmade items over synthetic and mass-produced ones.