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Wellsboro, PA: The Town That Saved Christmas 

A galvanized tray displaying assorted vintage shiny brite ornaments

The story of Shiny Bright ornaments

The holiday season has long been associated with traditions, memories, and the warmth of family gatherings. One of the symbols of this festive time is the Christmas tree, adorned with twinkling lights and beautiful ornaments. But did you know that during World War II, one town stepped up to ensure this tradition remained intact for American families? 

Let’s journey to Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, known as “The Town that Saved Christmas,” and discover its fascinating connection with Shiny Brite ornaments.

The Backdrop: A World at War

World War II wasn’t just a global conflict; it affected even the most minor facets of daily life, including the cherished tradition of decorating Christmas trees. Before the war, many glass ornaments in American homes hailed from Germany. However, the conflict disrupted this import, creating an impending shortage in the U.S. and threatening to dim the festive spirit.

The American Response: Ingenuity and Resilience

Enter Max Eckardt. Previously an importer of German glass ornaments, Eckardt saw the looming ornament gap as both a challenge and an opportunity.

He decided to turn to domestic production. In a stroke of genius, he collaborated with the Corning Glass Company in Wellsboro, PA. Their partnership would prove historic.

Leveraging machinery originally meant for producing light bulbs, the Corning Glass Company reconfigured its operations to make clear glass ornaments. The result? Their Wellsboro plant was soon producing hundreds of thousands of these ornaments. 

After being molded in Wellsboro, these clear glass ornaments were shipped off for decoration and finishing touches. Once completed, they hit the market under Eckardt’s brand name, “Shiny Brite.” Their instant popularity was unparalleled, resonating deeply with the patriotic fervor of the times. Here was an American-made product, symbolizing resilience, determination, and the spirit of the holiday season.

The Legacy of Shiny Brite

What set Shiny Brite ornaments apart?

  • Historical Significance: Their production marked a shift from dependence on imports to domestic manufacturing during a pivotal time.
  • Nostalgia: Many who grew up during the 40s and 50s fondly remember these ornaments, making them an emotional trip down memory lane.
  • Design & Variety: From simple balls to more intricate designs and patterns, there’s a Shiny Brite for every aesthetic preference.
  • Collectibility: The vintage pieces from the 1940s and 1950s are especially prized and are now treasured collectibles. Conditions, design, age, and unique features determine their value.

A Patriotic Symbol

During the war years, there was a concerted effort to keep morale high on the home front. The packaging of Shiny Brite ornaments resonated with this theme—boxes featuring illustrations of Uncle Sam shaking hands with Santa Claus, celebrating American innovation and determination.

In Wellsboro, this legacy is celebrated year-round with a unique display: an American flag composed entirely of ornaments crafted in Wellsboro. After various public exhibitions, including in NYC and a feature in Life magazine, it found a permanent home at Penn Wells Hotel’s lobby.  It’s a visual testament to a town’s role in preserving a beloved Christmas tradition during challenging times.

In Conclusion

This holiday season, as you hang ornaments on your tree, spare a thought for Wellsboro, PA. Their story reminds us of the incredible spirit of a nation, the power of innovation, and the importance of traditions that bind us together. Whether it’s a vintage Shiny Brite or a modern replica, its story is one of hope, resilience, and the magic of Christmas.

The story of Shiny Brights is on display during Christmas on Main Street. For more information on this event and the area of Potter Tioga, visit the holiday edition of Compass Ohio and enjoy Celebrate Christmas in Potter Tioga.

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