When, where and why the “Christmas Tree” was invented

Christmas Tree

Wouldn't those candles burn the tree down?

Aahhh … The beauty of the Christmas Tree.

Is Christmas coming early?  Well it’s nice to hear BP’s Gulf oil spill may finally be stopped.  It also looks like the electronics war has brought us the ability to get reading material (ie Kindle) so much easier, faster and cheaper.  And finally how about this.  Did you know the Leaning Tower of Pisa has stopped leaning?!  So where’s the Christmas Tree in all this?  Well, I’m not going to talk about how the Germans started the Christmas Tree or Martin Luther.

No, the Christmas Tree we’re talking about is Drag Racing’s Christmas Tree.

Did you know the “Christmas Tree” starting device for drag racing was invented by W.H. David of Lafayette, Louisiana in the late 1950s?  Mr. David was only 15 at the time and became actively involved as a starter in the Louisiana area.  Due to the fact that back then, there were not enough cars to fill each class, associations such as the NHRA developed bracket racing, where the slower car leaves ahead of the other.  This involved having the starter stand down track ahead of the slower car, as at that time, they placed the slower car a few car lengths down track depending on elapsed time, a dangerous situation to say the least.

Starting with a traffic signal, being both inventive and analytical, he invented the starting device that evolved into the “Tree” as we know it today.  It included an electronic delay mechanism for either lane, thus allowing both cars to line up evenly and also put the flagman in a much safer position.  The device is called a Christmas tree because for his prototypes, he used small, colored glass Christmas tree lights.  Shortly thereafter, he sold the rights to the invention to the Chrondek Corp. who then mass-produced the product.

So there you have it.  It’s part of the beauty of drag racing and the next time someone asks about a Christmas Tree, you have the when, where and why.

See ya’ at the races.

Ronnie Hier


Home Of Nostalgia Drag Racing

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1 Comment

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One response to “When, where and why the “Christmas Tree” was invented

  1. Gregory Miller

    Last year, I had a wonderful experience viewing the old Pel State Dragstrip Announcer truck. After reading your article on the Christmas tree, I wish that the NHRA would give credit to Mr.WH David for inventing the Christmas tree and not Chrondek which, mass produced it.

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