Anja Stam, who owns Pop’s Culture Shoppe with her husband Julian, has been researching and writing The Town That Saved Christmas ornament history guides for the past two years.
“Jennie Borneman Lusk of Wild Asaph Outfitters wrote the guide in 2017 and 2018. When I took it over in 2019, she gave me a large binder of information and resources she had collected,” Stam said.
“Last year, I spent quite a bit of time at the Rakow Research Library of the Corning Museum of Glass, researching the historical development of the different shapes and styles of Christmas ornaments, and how Wellsboro contributed to their development.” She titled the 2019 guide, “The Town that Saved Christmas: Shaping Our Traditions.”
In 2020, Stam did research on the ribbon machine. “The Town that Saved Christmas: Manufacturing Miracles” is the title she gave to this year’s ornament history guide. Its focus is on how the Wellsboro plant became involved in the ornament making business and the development of the ribbon machine by Billy Woods, which revolutionized the manufacturing of Christmas ornaments. The guide also includes information about each of the 26 displays.
Grant “Skip” Cavanaugh has been an enthusiastic supporter of Stam’s work over the past two years and shared his knowledge of operations at the Wellsboro plant, as well as his collections of ornaments for the displays. Cavanaugh worked at the Corning Glass factory in Wellsboro beginning in 1965 and retired from the same plant, then owned by Osram-Sylvania, in 2002.
This summer, Stam contacted Ryan Root, former ribbon machine mechanic at the Wellsboro plant, and interviewed him. “Ryan helped me understand the entire manufacturing process and how the ribbon machine fit in. He even showed me how it worked. Ryan is also enthusiastic about preserving Wellsboro’s glass production history, and has loaned us some of his personal pieces for the displays on this year’s tour,” Stam said.
“This summer thanks to a Facebook post by Ryan, Skip’s efforts and the support of the Growth Resources of Wellsboro Foundation, two ribbon machines were saved from being scrapped and were brought to Wellsboro. The entire rescue of these machines was tenuous and things fell into place at the last possible second every step of the way,” said Stam.
“I think it’s very important to recognize how revolutionary the invention of the ribbon machine really was. With very few modifications, from it’s invention in 1926 through the early 2000s, the ribbon machine was the way light bulbs, ornaments and other blown glass objects were created around the world. In fact, ribbon machines were built here in Wellsboro and shipped to several other countries. They were so efficient that it only took 15 ribbon machines to produce all the light bulbs needed to supply the entire world,” Stam said.
“More important is the story of the people,” said Stam. “Whenever I talk to those who worked at the Wellsboro plant, or read their stories, I admire their work ethic. No matter what their job was, they knew it was important and took pride in doing it. They all felt they were part of a family,” she said.
“When they brought the two ribbon machines home to Wellsboro this June, I could tell it was an emotional event for Ryan and Skip. It’s important to record this piece of history for future generations. Even I got emotional when I learned that the ribbon machines had been rescued, and I have only lived in the Wellsboro area for 16 years,” said Stam. “It is important to learn about local history. We can always learn from those who have gone before us, and it helps to understand the dynamics that shaped our area and our culture.”
Those who want to purchase either the 2020 or 2019 ornament history guide can visit the Pop’s Culture Shoppe website (popscultureshoppe.com) and choose from different shipping or pick up options or call the store at (570) 723-4263. The guides are $5 each.
The Christmas On Main Street committee asks that those who worked at the Wellsboro glass plant email their information, photos and stories to WellsboroGlass@gmail.com. “Hopefully we’ll have even more stories to share in next year’s Christmas on Main Street historic guide,” Stam said.
“We are also planning to build a permanent home for the ribbon machines,” she added.
Tax deductible donations can be mailed to the Wellsboro Foundation (reference “Ribbon Machine” in the check memo line), 114 Main Street, Wellsboro, PA 16901.