In the 1940s, the Wellsboro division of Corning Glass Works became the largest manufacturer of Christmas tree bulbs, stepping up to fill the need when imports from Germany were disrupted. When Corning was to hold its annual service dinner in 1946 to honor returning World War II veterans, they wanted an extra special backdrop to the dinner. Design engineer Ellsworth C. Brown, also a returning vet, was asked by the plant manager D. J. Carr to design something both patriotic and representative of their plant.
Brown outdid himself with the creation of a large seven by 11-foot American flag made entirely of 1,438 Christmas bulb ornaments. The flag was subsequently displayed briefly in Corning, New York, and New York City before returning to Wellsboro. It was updated in 1959 to add bulbs representing Alaska and Hawai’i, and it was even featured in Life magazine in 1960.
Today the flag remains on display in the lobby of the historic Penn Wells Hotel (built in 1869), not far from the dining room where it was first displayed in 1946. Both the town, with its gas-lit streets, and the hotel with its old-time elegance provide a fitting backdrop to such an interesting historical item.
Know Before You Go
The flag is located in the lobby of the Penn Wells Hotel (note there is also a Penn Wells Lodge nearby, make sure you go to the hotel with the black awning on Main Street).