Antique Christmas lighting on display at Ligonier Valley Library
By Cami Dibattista
Published: Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, 1:57 p.m.
Vintage Christmas lighting and holiday-related electrical items were displayed and discussed last week at the Ligonier Valley Library.
Don Lachie, a collector of antique holiday lights and decorations, presented a “Vintage Christmas in Ligonier,” an informative talk detailing the history of Yuletide lighting — from candles to bubble lights to the intricately designed Matchless Wonder Stars.
“These unique vintage items are completely different than the lights and tree trimmings available today,” said Lachie. “New bulbs are more energy efficient but they don't have the same charm as the older ones.”
The well-received presentation drew in area residents who wished to see Lachie's personal collection that includes strands of Christmas bulbs over 100 years old, electric window candles and wreaths, tree tops and stands, and “fairy lights” – small glass tubes filled with water, vegetable oil or kerosene that illuminated by means of a floating wick.
“It was very interesting,” said Ligonier resident, Jane Thomas. “I really enjoyed the presentation.”
Lachie addressed the German tradition of clipping candles onto the branches of a fresh cut tree that continued on into the '50s and '60s in Europe and the popularity of bubble lights in America in the 1950s.
“It was all about family tradition,” Lachie said.
Lachie shared his knowledge about how the first Christmas lights worked — with a screw in outlet to add additional lights — and discussed the various decorative light covers that were popular over the years and the attention to fine detail that was used in creating them.
Additionally, Lachie touched on the vintage Christmas advertising done in magazines and newspapers.
“It was a great presentation,” said Alan Johnson of Ligonier who attended the event to inquire about some old-fashioned bulbs he owns.
The exhibit will continue to be on display in the Pennsylvania Room of the library through Jan 4.
Lachie will be available from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays to answer questions and discuss his collection.
“Don is so knowledgeable,” said Shirley Iscrupe, Pennsylvania Room archivist. “We're thrilled to have him and his collection here with us at the library.”
Lachie, who is a resident of both Youngwood and Ligonier, said he has been collecting vintage Yuletide lights, decorations and memorabilia for nearly 30 years.
“Everyone has happy Christmas memories,” said Lachie. “I began collecting because of the appeal of past traditions and their connection to happy times and memories of the holidays.”
Lachie said he has spoken with many individuals about their fond memories pertaining to Christmas lighting — one woman shared the story of how she and each of her siblings would choose a different colored bubble light bulb each year and then wait with anticipation to see which bulb bubbled first.
Lachie said his personal favorite pieces in his collection are the wooden box sets that were used to package the first strands of pre-wired lights in 1903.
“They have fantastic graphics,” said Lachie, who added that in around 1910 light sets began to be packed in cardboard boxes.
Lachie said he enjoys displaying his collection for people to see so that they can appreciate the way things used to be.
“Trees and their lighting hold a special fascination for me,” said Lachie. “I've always been interested in antiques and electronics and I find these rare and cherished heirlooms to be a brilliant and fleeting part of our history.”
Cami DiBattista is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.
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