tradition of feather trees began in Germany in the mid-19th century,
when the cutting-down of trees was banned to save German woodlands.
German immigrants brought feather trees with them when they sailed
across the Atlantic to the New World. Their popularity was increased
when President Theodore Roosevelt also responded to the diminishing
supply of fresh evergreens in American by ordering that no live trees
be used in the White House holiday decorations.
However, as part of White House lore, it is told that President Roosevelt
was surprised and angry when he discovered that his two sons, Archie
and Quentin, had smuggled a live tree into the mansion and set it
up in Archies room. Some sources indicate that goose feather
trees may have appeared in the White House as a response to Quentin
and Archies defiance to the president.
The original feather trees, which are currently quite collectible,
are sometimes called the Nuremberg Christmas tree. They were the first
alternates to live trees. These trees, unassembled, looked hardly
like a Christmas tree since they were a series of wires wrapped with
feathers, a wooden trunk, and a painted wooden base, either round
Since the trees were easy to assemble and were easy to ship, they
soon became available from the well known "wish book", the
Sears Roebuck catalogue, about 1920. Sears first offered trees as small
as two inches tall to as tall as thirty inches. Later, trees eight
feet tall were available.
and gold versions introduced in the 1930s never became as popular
as the white version that was also introduced. The white feather trees
were never as popular as the green ones. As for decorations, they
usually included exquisite hand-blown glass ornaments, homemade tallow
candles, and fresh garland. Later, Sears offered feather trees with
In the 1950s a sad-looking Christmas tree similar in style to
the feather tree appeared in the Charlie Brown comic strip. A sort
of revival of feather trees occurred, probably in response to the
popular comic hero. Some feather tree enthusiasts even refer to them
as "Charlie Brown Trees."
Many can remember having feather trees in their homes or in their
grandparents homes. One of my fondest and earliest recollections
of my grandmother includes celebrating Christmas around her goose
feather tree. As soon as she set the base of the tree on a pedestal-style
table and began assembling the trunk and branches, the magic of Christmas
In recent years, feather trees have achieved a new level of status
among Christmas enthusiasts and especially Christmas crafters. The
completion of a feather tree represents the epitome of craft projects
as they afford the crafter the challenge of creating an enchanting
reproduction of a bit of folk art as well as a family heirloom.