Aaron Thomas

Aaron Thomas

Aaron Thomas

19th and 20th Century US, Appalachia, US South, Agricultural, Environmental, and Rural History.



  • Doctor of Philosophy, Mississippi State University, 2014-present
  • Master of Arts in History, East Tennessee State University, 2013
    Thesis: "The Farmers' Alliance in Western North Carolina."                               
  • Bachelor of Arts in History and English, East Tennessee State University, 2011

Academic Career

  • Teaching Assistant, Mississippi State University: 2014-Present
  • Teaching Assistant, East Tenn. State University: 2011-2013

Research Interests

My current research project focuses on the commodification of Christmas trees. I’m interested in the transition from extraction on public land to domestication in the 1950s and 1960s. I also seek to untangle the motivations of national, state, and local governmental agencies that promoted Christmas tree cultivation as a sound environmental and economic investment in the United States.

As I continue my research I plan to trace the steps along the commodity chain and how they evolved by paying special attention to the transportation networks and marketing campaigns growers utilized to sell their crop. Because consumers played a large role in shaping the industry, I’m also investigating cultural conceptions of Christmas trees. Specifically, I’m interested in the characteristics consumers found desirable and why. An extension of this cultural dimension will further explore American attitudes towards the holiday and the role trees played in annual yuletide celebrations.



    2019 Review of Engineering the Environment: Phytotrons and the Quest for Climate Control in the Cold War. By David P.D. Munns. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017 in Agricultural History 93, no.2 (Spring 2019), 367-369.

  • 2020    Workshopped Chapter 3, “Handle,” at the Environmental and Earth Sciences Working Group. Consortium for History of Science, Technology, and Medicine. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • 2020    “Jingle Bell Stock: Technology and Labor in the Postwar Artificial Christmas Tree Industry,” presented at the Business History Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.
  • 2019    “Feathers, Wire, and Hatracks: Artificial Christmas Trees in the Early 20th Century,” presented at the CHASES Experiment Station, Starkville, Mississippi.
  • "Evenly Evergreen: Standardizing Christmas Trees in Postwar America," The Agricultural History Society, St. Pete, Florida, May 2018.
  • Let it Grow?: Environmentalism and the North Carolina Christmas Tree Industry," American Society for Environmental History, Riverside, California, March 2018.
  • "Country Trees and City Christmases: A Southern Yuletide Commodity Network." The Agricultural History Society, New York, June 2016.
  • "It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas: Agricultural Transition in Appalachia." Meeting of the Society of Appalachian Historians, Knoxville, TN, May 2016.
  • “Growing Christmas: Origins of Western North Carolina’s Fraser Fir Industry,” New Paths in Environmental History of North America and the Ohio Valley, Louisville, KY, October 2015.
  • "Damn Socialism: East Tennessee, the New Deal, and B. Carroll Reece.", Appalachian Studies Association, Boone, NC, 2013.

Honors & Awards

  • Walter S. Rosenberry Graduate Fellowship, Forest History Society 2019
  • Silvers Scholarship, East Tennessee State University, 2012

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