As a symbol of renewal, the evergreen can be traced back to pagan times, but the Christmas tree as we know it didn't come into being until the seventeenth century. The Germans were probably the first to decorate trees, using candles, cookies, and religious ornaments. They brought the custom with them when they emigrated to America. The first Christmas tree in the White House was put up by Franklin Pierce in the 1850s, but Christmas trees weren't widely adopted by the American public until the late 1800s.
With the popularity of Christmas trees came concerns about the conservation of forests. This spurred the development of artificial trees, first made from goose feathers. Feather trees, prevalent from the 1890s to the late 1940s, were designed to resemble the white pines found in northern Germany. Today, there are only a few companies left that make high-quality feather trees, and the Catalog for Living is happy to support this traditional folk art.