Christmas Tree Ornaments made of Glass, Pressed Cotton and Luxury Paper

Detail of a Sample Card J.S. Lindner Sonneberg, around 1831-35, Deutsches Spielzeugmuseum Sonneberg
Detail of a Sample Card J.S. Lindner Sonneberg, around 1831-35, Deutsches Spielzeugmuseum Sonneberg

The First Lauscha Christmas Tree Ornaments
Small and big glass beads assembled to garland strings (mainly from Ernstthal), but also glass fruits and nuts like those shown on the sample card of Messr. J.S. Lindner of Sonneberg of about 1831, belonged to the first ornaments. In 1848, the first Christmas balls were produced in three sizes, and finally in 1860, red, blue, silver, and gold colored balls and the so-called “Schacken” followed, colored balls with stripes of silver lead.

The heavy kugels with their brass caps, former items as well, still show today nearly magical color intensity because of the silver lead inside. So view in our exhibit the kugels and items, all very well preserved with their silver lead color. They might be recognized by the slightly darker silver tone and the fuller neck. They also have characteristic glass rings to hang them, thus supporting the artisan character of the items.

Pressed cotton decorations; pressed cotton, porcelain, scraps, glassbeads, wax, metall, wood, tinsel wire, colors, paper, crepe paper
Pressed cotton decorations; pressed cotton, porcelain, scraps, glassbeads, wax, metall, wood, tinsel wire, colors, paper, crepe paper

Pressed Cotton Decorations
From about 1870 to World War II, German manufacturers in the Saxon Thuringian area fashioned Pressed Cotton Decorations. The materials cellulose and cotton batting were wound, pressed, and glued together.

Often, cotton “wool” was puffed out and placed on the branches of Christmas trees to simulate freshly fallen snow. This was sometimes found in combination with other materials, such as paper trims, tinsel wire, or sparkling mica. Small pressed cotton dolls were made, often with porcelain heads and crepe paper clothes. The same was true for Nicholas, animals, and fruits. “Snow Babies” were also very popular. Beginning in the 1920s, the whole figures, rather than the heads alone, were made of porcelain.

Even thin wire screens were used, mainly waste products of the metal processing around Nuremberg and Fürth, to stabilize cotton items. In literature, such ornaments are called “Sebnitz” decoration, named after the town of Sebnitz. This name of origin, however, has turned out to be an error.

Cardboard scene, scraps, paper, tinsel, ca. 1900
Cardboard scene, scraps, paper, tinsel, ca. 1900

Little Bags – Cardboard – Luxury Paper – Scraps
Sweets have always belonged to tree decoration. People thought about the possibilities to suspend them, using little paper baskets, containers, and little bags for this purpose.

There were wafers with paper trims. In the end, the lithographed pictures were used as separate tree decorations. They were sometimes decorated with lametta and tinsel wires and sometimes arranged on cardboard to scenes of narrative qualities and three-dimensional views.

Since handcraft books and women’s magazines gave special instructions for making cardboard ornaments, it is sometimes difficult to determine whether these ornaments, decorated with mica or Venetian dew, were made at home or manufactured by cottage workers. They vary from extraordinary to very simple items, typical for times of need.