Shiny Brite Christmas Ornaments - Old And New

World War II saw the beginning of Shiny Brite Christmas ornaments. Americans loved the gleam of Christmas trees decorated with glass balls. In the 1930s, most of those decorations were imported from Germany and Japan. Max Eckardt was an American businessman who had been importing German Christmas tree ornaments since 1907. He recalled how WW I had damaged his business, and by 1937 he could see that his thriving business would probably be interrupted again. Like any good businessman, he developed a strategy to deal with the difficulty.

Many glassblowers from the famous ornament-making areas in Europe had emigrated to America and worked for Corning Glass. In 1937, Corning manufactured electric light bulbs with a “ribbon” glassblowing machine, for which they were the patent-holder. The machine could blow 2,000 light bulbs per minute, even though it was working below capacity. Eckardt realized at once that the machine could be modified to make beautiful Christmas tree balls.

By late 1938, Corning Glass had started to experiment with ornament molds. In 1939 Woolworth’s, the biggest seller of imported glass decorations, ordered 235,000 ornaments made by Corning. They, too, understood that war was coming, so they were looking for a domestic supplier. They marketed the new, simpler successfully that Christmas.

In 1940, Corning Glass made about 300,000 ornaments a day and sent them to other businesses for decoration. Their largest customer was Shiny Brite, the company established by Max Eckhardt.

Eckrdt continued to produce ornaments under the trade name Shiny Brite all through WW II. In 1944, when wartime rationing made it impossible for him to get silver or lacquer, he decorated the clear glass balls with thin stripes painted in pastel colors. Cardboard folded hangers and, later, glued-on cardboard caps replaced the shining metal caps used previously.

After WW II ended, Shiny Brite became the biggest U.S. manufacturer of glass Christmas ornaments. The brilliant colors were typical of those exuberant years. The metal caps of these postwar decorations were stamped "Shiny Brite Made in US". They were packed in boxes labeled “American Made”.

The line stopped making glass ornaments in 1962. These vintage Shiny Brite decorations are desirable to collectors.

Today, families are thrilled with Christopher Radko’s reintroduction of the line. Radko bought the rights to the Shiny Brite name, and began producing accurate reproductions of the decorations in 2001. Even the boxes look almost the same as the vintage ones, except that the phrase ‘Christopher Radko presents’ has been added. Now everybody can still have a Shiny Brite Christmas!

Holly Smythe writes more about Christmas at