A Brief History of the American Christmas Tree

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The American real Christmas tree industry is a dynamic, healthy segment of the American economy. The real Christmas tree is a totally American business which employs are more than 100,000 workers annually and produces more than $1.2 billion in sales annually. The frosting on the cake for this home grown industry is that the real Christmas tree industry is one of the “greenest of green” industries in the US (no pun intended). In addition to being recyclable and renewable, the more than 500,000 planted acres of real Christmas trees produce enough oxygen to supply the oxygen needs of more than 9 million people a day.

How and when did this industry get started? When the US was being settled, most European immigrants cut down their own Christmas trees. However, as more and more people resided in cities without easy access to forests, the demand for real Christmas trees resulted in the first commercial sales of Christmas trees in New York City in the early 1850’s. Other entrepreneurial Americans soon followed. Starting in the year 1887, the Schuenemann family in Michigan started loading a fishing schooner with Michigan cut fir trees and sailing to Chicago to sell the trees in Chicago. In spite of several storm wrecks with the resulting deaths of two family members, for more than 25 years the Schuenemann family’s “Christmas Ship” delivered cut Christmas trees to excited customers in Chicago.

Some of the earliest pioneers in the real Christmas tree industry included the Hofert family at the beginning of the 20th century on the West Coast, the Kirk Company, founded by George Ridgway Kirk in the early 1900s which soon became the principal competition for the Hofert family.

Initially, the industry relied on the harvesting of wild trees throughout America and Canada. However, others soon developed the idea of Christmas tree farms. In 1928, Fred Musser of Indiana, Pennsylvania, planted 600,000 pine and spruce seedlings. Christmas tree growers now come in all sizes, the largest growing more than 10 million trees with the small, family-owned businesses having just an acre or so in trees.

The market has always grown in sncy with the growth of the American public. As retail technology accommodates more and more on-line businesses, the American real Christmas tree industry is evolving by incorporating on-line marketing and sales as part of its strategy.

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