Spotlight: Tinseled Trivia

Co-authored by Beth Fortson, with assistance from Audrey Amidon and Corbin Apkin.

Happy Holidays from the Unwritten Record blog team! For this holiday season we’ve put together some of our best Christmas tree themed special media. From RG-95 we bring you a 1968 film, The Cultured Christmas Tree. From RG-16 we bring you a series of images of the Christmas tree industry. And from RG-241 we bring you patents for artificial Christmas trees and Christmas tree accessories!

And, just to keep things lively, we’ve tossed in some Christmas tree tinseled trivia, too! So gather up your friends and family, put their knowledge to the test, and find out who’s the shining star among you. Don’t forget to share the wonderful records we’ve found with everyone once the victor has been declared!

RG-16-G-87-2-399017: Shasta National Forest. Cutting red fir Christmas trees with short handled saw. Taken by Vance S. Brown – 11/30/37

CONIFER QUIZ: With a 2016 harvest of ~5.2 million trees, Oregon is the highest Christmas tree producing state in the U.S.A. The state with the second largest 2016 harvest produced ~3.5 million Christmas trees – can you guess which state that is? (Answer Key: 1)

RG-16-G-87-2-FS-358181: Unloading truck load of Christmas trees to be assorted and tied in bundles for Shipment. Olympic Natl. Forest, Washington. Mortiboy 1937
RG-16-G-87-2-463495: Olympic National Forest. Trees of one size are transported by conveyor to mechanical bailing and tying machine. Enroute they are inspected and tagged. Taken by Frank Flack – 12/26/50

TREE TRUTH: On average, Christmas trees grow for 7 years before they are harvested at 6 or 7 feet tall. However, some trees take as few as 4 years and others take as many as 15 to reach this height! (Source Guide: 1)

RG-16-G-87-2-368120: Loading car with Douglas fir Christmas trees for shipment to eastern points. Darby, Montana. Taken by K. D. Swan – 11/39
RG-16-G-87-2-463500: Olympic National Forest. Baled trees being tallied out and loaded on trailer for direct haul to Portland Market. G. R. Kirk Co, yard near Shelton, Wash. Taken by Frank Flack – 12/26/50

CONIFER QUIZ: Around 350,000 acres of land are currently producing Christmas Trees in the U.S.A. In total, there are about 350 million trees out there growing right now! Can you guess how many real trees are sold in the U.S.A. every year? (Answer Key: 2)

RG-16-G-87-2-463505: Loading baled Christmas trees into freight cars at siding in G. R. Kirk Co. tree lot north of Shelton, Wash. (Tallyman and four loaders.) Taken by Frank Flack – 12/26/50

TREE TRUTH: Did you know that, with the proper permits, some National Forests will allow you to harvest your own tree?! (Source Guide: 2)

RG-16-G-87-2-397117: A red spruce Christmas tree arrives from the White Mountains of New Hampshire at Washington’s Southwest Public Market. Tag reads: “Greetings from the White mountains of New Hampshire. This tree brings a Christmas message from the great outdoors. Its cutting was not destructive. Forest Products Association, Inc., Groveton, N.H.” Seal in lower left corner shows the Old Man of the Mountain profile – New Hampshire’s trademark. Taken by B. W. Muir – 12/39
RG 241, Utility Patent Drawings, No. 224624

CONIFER QUIZ: In 1950, the first suburban shopping mall was opened in Northgate, Washington. That same year, the Christmas tree on display at the Northgate shopping mall (seen in the image below) was purportedly the tallest Christmas tree in the world. Can you guess how tall it was?  (Answer Key: 3)

RG-16-G-87-2-465344: Northgate Christmas tree. Branches have been wired tight and 3,500 colored lights attached to this 212-feet high tree in Northgate, Wash., a shopping center just north of Seattle’s city limits. Claimed to be the tallest Christmas tree in the world, it successfully withstood winds of gale force. Wiring and branches were removed after use and trunk was lowered carefully and stored for the 1951 Christmas season. Purchased from commercial photographer – 12/50
RG 241, Utility Patent Drawings, No. 255,902

TREE TRUTH: As of 2011, the estimated amount spent on real trees in the U.S.A. totaled $984 million. Households spent $46 on average. The average cost of an artificial tree, however, was $78, and the total spent in the U.S.A. on artificial trees reached over one billion dollars! (Source Guide: 3)

RG-16-G-87-2-457542: A Christmas tree in use. Missoula, Mont. Taken by Ben M. Huey – 1/49″

CONIFER QUIZ: The tradition of the Christmas tree can be traced back to 16th Century Germany. By the 1700’s, German settlers had brought their holiday tradition to the their new homes in America. Throughout its history, the Christmas tree has taken many forms – including several real and artificial varieties. This year, an estimated 78% of households in the U.S.A. will be continuing the Christmas tree tradition. Can you guess how many of those trees will be real, and how many will be artificial? (Answer Key: 4)

RG 241, Utility Patent Drawings, No. 994,248
RG-16-G-87-2-162353: “The most beautiful tree in the world” Taken by W. I. Hutchinson – 1919 Colorado

TREE TRUTH: The most popular species of Christmas Trees include the Balsam fir, Douglas-fir, Fraser fir, Noble fir, Scotch pine, Virginia pine, White pine, Colorado blue and Norway spruce. What’s your favorite species of Christmas Tree? (Source Guide: 4)

RG 241, Utility Patent Drawings, No. 424,916



  1. According to the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association, North Carolina is the second largest producer of Christmas trees in the U.S.A.! Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Washington also all made their list of the top five tree producing states.
  2. The National Christmas Tree Association reports that between 25 and 30 million real trees are sold in the U.S.A. every year!
  3. The caption in the RG-16-G photo tells us that the tree displayed outside the Northgate shopping mall in 1950 was 212 feet tall!!
  4. A 2016 American Christmas Tree Association survey shows that this year, artificial trees will make up 81% of those on display in homes across the U.S.A. Only 19% of trees this year will be real.


  1. Information on the average length of time it takes a Christmas tree to grow was found on the National Christmas Tree Association’s website.
  2. The U.S. National Forest Service provides guidance on tree cutting in National Forests.
  3. The American Christmas Tree Association’s website includes a summary of the 2011 Nielsen report on Christmas tree purchasing trends.
  4. A list of the most popular species of Christmas trees can be found on the National Christmas Tree Association’s website.

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