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Museum exhibit celebrates a Retro Xmas

The Johnson County Museum is celebrating the 60th birthday of the aluminum Christmas tree throughout the holiday season. This icon of the Space Age, with its futuristic twist on traditional Christmas décor, was a major 1960s holiday fad. Through Jan. 11, 2020, these shiny beauties are the star of a special exhibit, Dreaming of a Retro Xmas.

“In 1959, the first successful aluminum tree—under the brand name Evergleam—was made and sold by the Aluminum Specialties Company in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. For the next 10 years, American buyers purchased aluminum trees in a dazzling array of colors, needle configurations and heights,” said Andrew R. Gustafson, curator of interpretation.

Just as fast as aluminum trees came on the scene, they disappeared from American living rooms and appeared in dumpsters and thrift shops. Today, the once-futuristic Atomic Age aluminum tree has become a retro icon, a piece of sought-after mid-Century Americana.

More than 20 aluminum trees in different colors and styles are displayed in the 1950s All-Electric House at the Johnson County Museum. Pulled from the private collection of Steve and Mary Pruitt, the trees recall childhood nostalgia for many Johnson Countians.

“The All-Electric House is our largest collection item, and we typically arrange the interior at Christmas time to look as if you have just walked into a great mid-Century holiday party,” Gustafson said. “This year, the house will serve as a showroom for the amazing Pruitt Collection. We are so excited to honor the aluminum tree!”

For more information about Johnson County Museum, the only organization dedicated to preserving, collecting and interpreting the county’s history, call 913-826-2787 or visit jocomuseum.org.

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