Spare that tree!

December 3, 2017


Around the turn of the 20th century, the conservation movement arose to protect natural resources. Many conservationists turned their ire against Christmas trees, which they viewed as a wasteful practice. In this period before the existence of Christmas tree farms, families would cut down trees growing in the wild to use in their homes. President Teddy Roosevelt was famous for refusing to display a Christmas tree in the White House because he feared the practice would lead to deforestation. Conservationists were looking for an alternative.  One of the first to appear was the feather tree.


Feather trees are considered to be the first artificial tree, originating in Germany in the 1800s. Typically, the trees would be made from goose feathers dyed green, wrapped around wire. In the United States, feather trees were available in a variety of sizes and could be purchased from mail order companies like Marshall Fields. Feather trees remained popular until cellophane trees became available in the 1930s.


The feather tree in the Physick house is an authentic reproduction. It is decorated with popcorn, cookies and nuts, all of which were commonly found on Christmas trees around 1900. In some cases, the tree decorations were the presents.


Look for the feather tree in the Billiard Room.

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