Main article: Feather Christmas tree
An example of an antique feather Christmas tree
Feather Christmas trees, originally of German origin, became popular in the United States as well. Feather trees were initially made of green-dyed goose feathers which were attached to wire branches. These wire branches were then wrapped around a central dowel which acted as the trunk. Feather Christmas trees ranged widely in size, from a small 2 inch tree to a large 98 inch tree sold in department stores during the 1920s. Often, the tree branches were tipped with artificial red berries which acted as candle holders. The branches were widely spaced to keep the candles from starting a fire, which allowed ample space for ornamentation. Other benefits touted for feather trees included the elimination of a trip to the tree lot and the lack of shed needles.
In 1930 a British-based Addis Housewares Company created the first artificial Christmas tree made from brush bristles. The company used the same machinery that it used to manufacture toilet brushes. The trees were made from the same animal-hair bristles used in the brushes, save they were dyed green. For a time, the brush trees were immensely popular, with large numbers exported from Great Britain, where the trees also became popular. These brush trees offered advantages over the earlier feather trees. They could accept heavier ornamentation, and were not nearly as flammable.
Main article: Aluminum Christmas tree
An aluminium Christmas tree
A PVC Christmas tree decorated with fairy lights and baubles
Aluminium Christmas trees are a type of artificial tree that are made largely from aluminium. The trees were manufactured in the United States, first in Chicago in 1958, and later in Manitowoc, Wisconsin where the majority of the trees were produced. Aluminum trees were manufactured into the 1970s, and had their height of popularity from their inception until about 1965. That year A Charlie Brown Christmas aired for the first time, and its negative portrayal of aluminium Christmas trees is credited for a subsequent decline in sales.
Most artificial Christmas trees are made from PVC plastic. PVC trees are fire-retardant but not fire-resistant. Many of these trees are made in China; from January to August 2005 $69 million worth of artificial trees from China entered the United States.
The prelit tree has become increasingly popular in the United States and Germany as well, due to added ease of not having to string one's own lights. Types of lights popular today include incandescent lights (also referred to as “mini lights”) and LED lights (where each bulb has its own socket, preventing the whole string from going out should one bulb burn out). Prelit trees are subject to the mandatory regulations for the safety standards of electrical products and have to meet safety standards approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory such as UL (Underwriters Labs), CSA (Canadian Standards Association), ETL (Intertek), GS, BS and RoHS. Artificial Christmas trees may be "frosted" or "glittered" and designed for outdoor uses with UV additives. Plastic trees can come in a variety of different colors, and one type came with built-in speakers and an MP3 player.
Companies such as Mountain King, Barcana and the National Tree Company have marketed increasingly realistic PVC trees made to closely resemble Douglas fir, Ponderosa pine or other common types of Christmas trees. During the 1990s trees not only began to appear more realistic but some also smelled more realistic. Many of these more modern models come with pre-strung lights and hinged branches which simply had to be snapped into position. More recently, companies such as Balsam Hill have begun to use (PE) plastic molded from natural tree branches in an effort to create more realistic artificial Christmas trees. However, not all makers of artificial Christmas trees strive for naturalism. Companies like Treetopia have received attention for marketing trees in non-traditional colors and styles, like rainbow-colored trees or upside-down trees.
A stand-alone upside down Christmas tree
Trends in artificial tree consumption have constantly evolved and a number of designer and other types of artificial Christmas trees have appeared on the market. Fiber optic trees come in two major varieties, one resembles a traditional Christmas tree. The other type of fiber optic Christmas tree is one where the entire tree is made of wispy fiber optic cable, a tree composed entirely of light. David Gutshall, of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, received a patent for the latter type of fiber optic tree in 1998.