The Town That Saved Christmas

Posted on in Todd Talks by Todd Johnson

Christmas trees have been put up and decorated by families around the world for hundreds of years. The first trees were decorated with things like fruit, candy, flowers, and cookies. Then, in the mid 1500’s, a gentleman from Germany named Hans Greiner invented a Christmas Tree staple: the glass bauble.

Hundreds more years passed, and Germany remained the largest producer of glass bauble decorations. Then, in the 1880’s, F.W. Woolworth saw the glass baubles while traveling in Germany, and began importing them to sell at his famous stores in the US. The ornaments quickly became very popular, and he made a small fortune on the decorations.

Fast forward to WWI and the English blockade of Germany. Suddenly Woolworth had a problem. With Christmas coming and an expected demand of nearly a quarter million German made glass baubles, Woolworth was in a tight spot. He met with his supplier, Max Eckardt, who was the owner of a factory in Germany that coordinated the import and sales of the glass baubles in the US out of his office in New York. The two worked together to devise a solution to their problem - they would call on Corning Glass.

Eckardt and the team from Woolworths walked out of a meeting with Corning Glass with a deal to produce the glass baubles at a Corning Glass factory located about 50 miles from the Corning headquarters. This factory was in Wellsboro, which is nestled in the beautiful Pine Creek Valley of Pennsylvania. This area is home to what is called the “Pennsylvania Grand Canyon”. While not nearly as deep and wide as the actual Grand Canyon, it is no less beautiful or lacking its own majesty.

The new Corning Glass made ornaments would be called “Shiny Brights,” and the factory was perfectly set up to crank them out in mass quantities. They would capitalize on the opportunity further by advertising them as Made in America and including an illustration of Santa shaking the hand of Uncle Sam. The venture was a huge success.

Every Year, the Town That Saved Christmas celebrates their important place in history the first full weekend of December, with an event called “Dickens of a Christmas Festival”.  It truly is a special gem of a town with a storied past and an absolutely gorgeous downtown.

My nephew, who works as a lineman, was recently placing some new utility poles in the Pine Creek Gorge. He messaged me to tell me that underneath a thin layer of soil lays a thick layer of broken “Shiny Brights”. I like to think that this layer of discarded decorations tells a story of ingenuity, perseverance, and the resilience of the Christmas Spirit.