Now this is where the crafty fun really begins… as we are in the era when Halloween had really arrived.
There is plenty of material online, and I will try to compile costumes, decorations and other examples for each of the following decades…
Samantha and Nellie, 1904
By Samantha´s and Nellie´s time, the custom of dressing up at Halloween had been established.
As a way to help prevent mischievous pranksters from destroying personal property, allowing children to dress up in costumes and go trick-or-treating was encouraged by many American cities in the early 1900s.
Costumes were usually home-made, often as simple as children dressed up with old clothes, blackened faces and/or fabric masks.
In Maud Hart Lovelace´s “Heaven to Betsy” (1945), Betsy and her friends dress up as ghosts with bedsheets and pillow cases.
Children going guising, ca. 1905
Scenes from a Children´s Halloween Party, 1908
Early Halloween costumes emphasized the pagan and gothic nature of Halloween.
A person in a ghost costume stands with a table full of Halloween decorations in a rural U.S. schoolhouse in 1905.
Nature often inspired Halloween costumes and decorations back then, with cornstalks (as seen above), vegetables, tree branches, and leaves showing up as common elements. Source
Women wearing improvised witch costumes line up for a photograph in the U.S. in 1910.
Possibly conjuring a witch, sorcerer, or clown, this woman’s 1910 Halloween costume has several possible meanings, according to Bannatyne.
The star and moon icons, for instance, may reflect a fascination with mysticism and magic, which have been connected to the “spooky aura” of Halloween for centuries.
“Many of the first Halloween costumes reflected people’s interest in the exotic, such as other cultures,” she said. “You often find Egyptian-inspired costumes, for example, because of the mystic association with ancient Egypt.”
Likewise, she added, this costume’s celestial symbols could represent night—”the domain of Halloween.” Source
This article from 1906 suggests how to make crepe paper costumes, although it refers to a flower-themed fancy dress party rather than Halloween. Crepe paper costumes and decorations were heavily promoted after 1909 by the Dennison´s Bogie Books.
Meet me in St Louis – Getting ready
Meet me in St Louis – Costumes and the bonfire
The film “Meet Me in St. Louis” is set in 1903, based on autobiographical short stories. Some of the kids’ antics on Halloween night seem bizarre to us today. Instead of trick-or-treating for candy, the kids carried bags of flour to the homes of their “enemies.” (In this case, a grumpy old neighbour). Back then, if you hit someone with flour on Halloween night, you could say that you “killed them.” Grandpa advises Tootie to get the flour wet first so it’ll stick. The night was filled with mischief and bonfires in the streets.
Home-made Halloween treats
Maud Hart Lovelace´s “Heaven to Betsy” (1945) is set in 1907 and describes a Halloween party.
“After supper … Mr.Ray and Anna brought into the kitchen the ash cans and everything movable from outside the house. Windows and doors were locked. Deep Valley boys weren´t well behaved on Halloween.[Betsy´s older sister] Julia was going to a dance, but before she put on her own party dress she helped Betsy into the sheet and pillow case. … ” Betsy´s father takes the youngest sister trick or treating.
Masked, Betsy and her friends go to the party and keep up the disguise for a while, then they reveal their faces, laughing.
The rooms are darkened. “There was no light except from grinning jack o´lanterns in the corners and a fireplace blazing in the library.”
The girls start out bobbing for apples, then they try to take a bite from an apple suspended in a doorway. They pop corn, and then they peel apples and throw the peels behind them. They were supposed to fall in the shape of letters to reveal the initials of their future husbands. “They began the time-honored game of snapping apples. One girl snapped another´s apple while saying the name of a possible future husband. The owner ate the apple and then counted the seeds to the accompaniment of the magic rhyme.” Another game to reveal the future husband was to walk down the cellar steps backward with a mirror.
The boys join the girls for refreshments. “The table was decorated with fruit and colored leaves and in the center was a Halloween cake, frosted with orange and with favours in it”, and there was home-made ice cream. They eat in candlelight.
In 1909, the first “Bogie Book” was published. The Dennison Manufacturing Company gave ideas and how-to information to do anything from the proper way to hang crepe paper to making popcorn balls, promoting their line of crepe paper and other products by the way. The second issue followed in 1912, from then, annual ones were published until 1934. The originals are rare and very collectible today, but there are also reprints.
Halloween parties grew in popularity during late Victorian era, and by 1910 several American and German manufacturers had started making products for Halloween celebrations, such as papier mache jack-o-lanterns and figurines, and paper decorations. The Dennison Paper Company’s existing line of greeting cards, tags, boxes, crepe paper and tissue paper naturally adapted to a range of Halloween decorations. In 1909, to help promote sales by showing customers how to create displays with their products, Dennison published its first “Bogie Book” (named after mischievous Halloween spirits).
– Crafting the invitation was half the fun. Invitations could be purchased but would also often be hand-drawn or -crafted; with spooky drawings, puzzles, riddles or rhymes.
Halloween hayride in the Edwardian period
Home-made costume, ca.1910. The skirt only flares out for the picture, it is to fall straight when worn.
Old Halloween Games Among Scottish People (1905 article):
“… The old Hallowe’en games and customs have survived among the Scottish peasantry to a greater extent than other English speaking people, and to them we owe many quaint and curious rites for the night. Among these there is none more popular or, to tho young girl, more uncanny than a visit in silence and alone to the “kalleyard” or cabbage patch just before midnight. There she must pull up the first cabbage stalk she touches and return to the house. If the stalk is straight and smooth, the course of love will be the same, but woe to her if the stalk is crooked or knotted. Another equally eerie test of courage is for her to go through a dark passage or hall at midnight with a candle in her hand, and, entering the most secluded bedroom in the house, sit down before a mirror and comb her hair; if she is to be married the image of her future husband will he reflected in the glass.
Soap bubbles have a peculiar significance on Hallowe’en. When the bubble is large and floats high and long, it denotes good fortune; should it burst quickly, some ill luck will soon follow. To be able to snatch a raisin from a bowl of burning salt and alcohol gives the assurance of the loyalty of one’s true love. Cards or slips of paper which are apparently blank may be made to bear messages by holding them over the flame of a candle. This is made possible by writing on them beforehand with an ink made with baking soda and water.
Nuts and apples are a groat source of amusement for Hallowe’en parties. Nuts are paired, named for a man and woman and dropped close together in the fire; if they burn quietly together a happy marriage is indicated… Apples may be hidden in all sorts of out-of-the-way places to be hunted for. When found, they are to be carried to the fire and pared while standing before the blaze; the long, unbroken paring is to be thrown over the left shoulder after turning round three times and repeating the following doggerel. “Saint Simon and Saint Jude, On you I must Intrude, For by this paring I wish to discover The first letter of my own true lover.”
After such games, accompanied by much hilarity, refreshments are naturally in order. The menu may be very simple or quite elaborate, according to the general character of the evening’s entertainment; it may be served standing or if the party is a small one and it i more convenient, guests may beinvited to sit at a table. The emblematic colors of Hallowe’en are red, yellow and green. The dining room lights should be jack-o’lanterns made from small pumpkins — these can be had in papier mache from caterers and department stores, where the real article cannot be obtained. Additional lights may be furnished by the “witch candles”— the wicks of which have been sprinkled with salt. An appropriate menu would be: Deviled oysters or fish in shell. Chicken croquettes. Nut sandwiches. Tomatoes stuffed with celery mayonnaise. Salted nuts. Pim olas. Prophecy cookies. Hallowe’en cake. Bavarian cream. Coffee. With the Bavarian cream serve the prophecy cakes, specially dedicated to the night. Use any good cookie dough, cutting rather thick and allowing one for each guest. Press into each from the underside a folded blip of paper containing some prophecy regarding the future, lay on pans and bake in an oven with the underheat rather slack that the papers may not be burned. Or instead of cookies bake a drop cake mixture in patty pans, inserting in each some tiny trinket such as a china doll. The Hallowe’en cake must be baked in a large, round loaf and should be made rather rich, like pound cake. In the batter stir a ring, a new penny, a key and a thimble or button. In serving, the hostess first cuts the cake into the proper number of pieces without marring its shape. It is then passed round to the company. The one in whose piece the ring is found will be married within the year; the penny indicates riches for its finder, the key foretells the traveler, while the unlucky one who secures the thimble or button is doomed to a single life.
The Blue Ribbon Cook Book, 1901 suggests the following refreshments: Bouillon, de Jolly Boys, Celery, Kindergarten Crackers, Turtle Sandwiches, Little Pigs in Blankets, Orange Jelly, Olives a la Natural History, Sugar Off, with maple syrup, Nut Cartoons, lemonade.
Halloween 1905 – Food fads, games and parties:
The Halloween Box Cake: The newest fashion in Hallowe’en supper-table decoration is a cake made of white pasteboard boxes, in shape like pieces of pie, which fit together and give the appearance of a large cake. Each one of the boxes is covered with a white paper which resembles frosting. At the close of the feast the pieces are distributed, each box containing some little souvenier sutiable to Hallowe’en. One box, of course, contains a ring, another a thimble, a third a piece of silver, a fourth a mitten, a fifth a fool’s cap, and so on. Much fun is created as the boxes are opened, and the person who secures the ring is heartily congratulated. The unlucky individual who gets the fool’s cap must wear it for the evening.
The Party: All formality must be dispensed with on Hallowe’en. Not only will quaint customs and mythic tricks be in order, but the decorations and refreshments, and even the place of meeting, must be as strange and mystifying as possible. For the country or suburban home a roomy barn is decidedly the best accomodation that can be provided. If this is not practicable, a large attic, running the entire length of the house, is the next choice; but if this also is denied the ambitious hostess, let the kitchen be the place of meeting and of mystery, with the dining-room, cleared of its usual furniture and decorated suitably for the occasion, reserved for the refreshments. The light should be supplied only by Jack-o’-lanterns hung here and there about the kitchen, with candles in the dining-room. The decorations need not be expensive to be charming, no matter how large the room. Large vases of ferns and chrysanthemums and umbrella stands of fluffy grasses will be desirable; but if these cannot be readily obtained, quantities of gayly tinted autumn leaves will be quite as appropriate. Festoons of nuts, bunches of wheat or oats, and strings of cranberries may also help to brighten the wall decorations, and the nuts and cranberries will be useful in many odd arrangements for ornamenting the refreshment table. Have the table long enough (even if it must be extended with boards the whole length of the barn or attic) to accommodated all the guests at once. Arrange huge platters of gingerbread at each corner, with dishes of plain candies and nuts here and there, and pyramids of fruit that will be quickly demolished when the guests are grouped about the table. No formal waiting will be desirable.
1913 Halloween decorative banner
Food and decor: Browning nuts, popping corn, roasting apples, and toasting marshmallows will add a great deal to the pleasure of the evening. The dining table should be draped in pale green crepe paper, the lights above being shrouded in gorgeous orange. Pumpkins of various sizes should be scooped and scraped to a hollow shell and, lined with wax paper and filled with good things to eat, should be placed in the centre of the table. Lighted candles and quaint oriental lanterns will add greatly to the decorations.
–Bright Ideas for Entertaining, Mrs. Herbert Linscott [Source]
In the pre-1900 party scenes, the candy references are decidedly turned toward the home-spun. Molasses candy could be purchased, but it was also a simple candy to make oneself, by cooking down molasses to candy consistency. As the American Girl’s Handy Book suggests, home candy making was a fun activity, especially suited to the colder fall and winter months.
The use of manufactured candy at Halloween only slowly became a common practice. The children’s magazine St. Nicholas describes in detail the decorations, refreshments, games and entertainments for a children’s celebration of Halloween in 1905. Candy makes one brief appearance as minor part of the dining table décor: “The dining-table was set with a group of carrot candlesticks and bowlfuls of apples, nuts, grapes, and candy.” The story does not specify what sorts of candy are in the bowls. Here is an image:
“Candies for Hallowe’en. Every ounce just as good as it tastes! We make these candies in our own spotless candy kitchen and when we tell you that they are pure, wholesome, and good to eat, we know what we are talking about. A few of to-day’s specials: Nut Kisses– Mexican, vanilla and strawberry, lb…25 cents; Buttercups–all flavors, nut and cream centers, lb…25 cents; Meadowbrook Caramels– our famious full cream caramels, vanilla, vanilla English walnut, vanilla filbert, maple…lb…25 cents; Waldorf Chocolates and Bonbon or all Chocolates, lb…25 cents; Hallowe’en Favords–each 5 cents to 50 cents [no description].”
—display ad, Siegle Cooper Company NYC, New York Times, October 31, 1906 (Source)
Candied apples were first introduced in 1908.
Blindfolded children attempt to put out a candle in a photograph dated to the 1900s.
1911 Halloween menus:
Menu No. I: Ganser Salad, Brown Bread Sandwiches, Raised Loaf Cake, Pricilla Popped Corn, Hot Coffee.
Menu No. II: Rob’s Rarebit, Zephyrettes, Sultana Fudge, German Punch
Menu No. III: Hamlin Ham Timbales, Ribbon Sandwiches, Nut Ginger Cookies, Peneuche, Cider
Catering for Special Occasions with Menus & Recipes, Fannie Merritt Farmer [David McKay:Philadelphia] 1911
Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943) describes a Halloween between 1912 and 1918. Her protagonist, Irish/Austrian Francie and other girls go out with white chalk and mark a cross on the back of anyone who walks by in a coat. This ritual may have started back in the Middle Ages to mark places where the plague struck, but the kids don’t know this. They just perform the ritual without knowing why. It is on Thanksgiving morning that the boys and girls put on cheap costumes and go to the local businesses to get treats . Source
Rebecca is the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants living in New York City, so she would not have celebrated Halloween as a Christian festival, although the holiday had started to become secularized at the time.
Rebecca would have dressed up for Purim (usually in March).
A charming description of the Purim Festival in Rebecca´s time is given in “All-of-a-Kind Family” by Sydney Taylor. The children dress up and go from house to house (among friends and relatives), bringing baskets of Purim delicacies and receiving treats, not unlike trick-or-treaters on Halloween.
The Jewish holiday on which the dead are remembered is Yom Kippur (usually around the end of September/early October).
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is a traditional fast day (children under age 13 and other people whose health might be harmed are excepted.) In addition to all the things not to be done when fasting—not eating, not drinking, not washing, not wearing leather, not having sexual relations—there are a lot of things to do on Yom Kippur. Mainly there are a lot of traditional prayers and things to read in the synagogue. For a lot of Jews who aren’t very observant, Yom Kippur is special because it’s the day they go to memorial services, called Yizkor, to honor dead relatives. (Source: High Holidays Resource Page).
One of the first known costume contests started in Danville, Illinois in 1912 and also included a costume parade and cash prizes for selected categories. Source
Crepe Paper costumes, Dennison´s Bogie Book, 1915
Little witches, 1915 and 1916
Crepe Paper costumes, 1917
From Dennisons Bogie Book, 1912
From Dennisons Bogie Book, 1912
Halloween party 1914:
Each year there are so many new decorations for Halloween and so many good old ones revived that the only shame is that Halloween doesn’t last for a week. And surely never before were there such attractive Halloween decorations as there are this year…For a centrepiece on the table on which the refreshments are placed at a children’s Halloween party are set forth, nothing is more interesting than a huge paper pumpkin, with green leaves and a greed stem. After the pumpkin and leaves are made, they can be varnished to make them stiff. A little doll, dressed in yellow crepe paper, is seated on the top of the pumpkin and it is drawn by half a dozen little gray mice, that can be bought at any toy or favor store. Each piece has a piece of yellow ribbon tied about its neck, with the other end in the hand of the doll Cinderella…Another Halloween idea that is good is a big Japanese paper parasol covered with yellow crepe paper, with two eyes, a nose and a mouth cut out of black paper, and touched up with white paint. These are fastened on the outside of the parasol, the nose over the tip, and the effect is delightful. Small gummed seals that can be used for decorative purposes come cut out and sold in packages. There are owls and witches, pumpkins, imps, and cats. An effective but easily made place card is a small white card with a seal pasted in one corner or at one end – New York Times, October 25, 1914
From Dennisons Bogie Book, 1915
Halloween Tables in Book of Halloween, 1919
Halloween decorations, Lady´s Home Journal, 1919
“For the decoration of the table a Japanese umbrella is used as a foundation for the hanging centerpiece. The funny-faced lanterns are glass fish globes, and tiny red or blue light bulbs could be dropped into them.
The place-card people have fortunes fastened to their backs.”
Jack o Lanterns, Book of Halloween, 1919
Treats were often home-made.
Where purchased candy was incorporated into the party, it was not necessarily any special kind of candy. For example, in 1917, the Kansas chapter of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity reported:
On October 20 the annual tacky party was given. Arriving in a hayrack, the guests entered the house by way of the kitchen door. The rooms were decorated with corn and witches in true Halloween fashion. Popcorn, apples, penny candy sticks, doughnuts, pie, and cider were served. The party was one of the most successful in the chapter’s history.
The “penny candy sticks” featured in Phi Gamma Delta’s Halloween romp were just about the most ordinary sort of candy you could find in those days. And in these Menus for Halloween Suppers featured in the October 1915 issue of American Cookery (the magazine of the Boston Cooking School) the proposed molasses candy, caramels and marshmallows were year round popular commercial candies. Notably, one of the three menus has no candy at all:
Hot Bacon Sandwiches
Pop Corn Balls
Hot Cheese Sandwiches
Yeast Doughnuts, Sugared
From Dennisons Bogie Book, 1912
Dennisons Halloween Crepe borders, 1913
More Cut-Outs and decorations from Dennisons, 1915
In 1919, Edna Kelley, The Book of Halloween came out – a history of the holiday and its traditions. You can read this vintage book online at the link provided.