Vintage and Antique Halloween Ephemera

Hallowe’en, a shortened version of “All Hallow’s Eve,” is a holiday blended from Christian, Celtic, and pagan harvest festivals, which marked the transition from fall to winter. Halloween takes place on October 31st, the night before All Saints Day, and is traditionally centered around remembering the dead and celebrating the year’s bounty.

Like the Mexican holiday of Dia de los Muertos, Halloween was seen as a time when the worlds of the living and dead would overlap. In the Celtic tradition it was believed that souls emerged on this night as they traveled to the afterlife, so revelers donned costumes to avoid recognition by the dead. Christian celebrants often warded off the devil with huge bonfires, whose light attracted insects and bats to join the festival.

In the United States, the great flood of Irish and English immigrants during the 1800s helped popularize the holiday. American Halloween traditions followed many practiced in the U.K., such as trick-or-treating or “guising,” going from house to house in costume or disguise and singing in return for food. (It was understood that whomever answered the door could prevent a trick from being played on them by giving their visitors some kind of treat.) Bobbing for apples, another American staple, was originally one of many such rituals involving nuts, egg yolks, or mirrors, used to divine future mates or predict the fertility of young women.

The tradition of carving pumpkins known as “Jack-O-Lanterns” is traced to an Irish folk tale, in which “Stingy Jack” makes an unfortunate deal with the devil; the story ends with Jack roaming the earth, using a turnip lit from the inside by a devilish ember to guide his way. In Ireland, the term Jack-O-Lantern became associated with the “will-o’-the-wisp,” or any eerily flickering lights seen from a great distance.

During the Victorian era, most Americans viewed Halloween as a quaint country holiday, and celebrations began shifting towards secular parades and parties, rather than focusing on the deceased. Communities began erasing the holiday’s more superstitious elements, and it was increasingly commodified with kitschy Halloween postcards and themed candy packaging.

By the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, companies were making paper skeleton die-cuts to hang in windows, chalkware figurines of witches or ghosts, wood and tin noisemakers, ghoulish board games, paper-mache pumpkins to hold candy or candles, and elaborate costumes and masks.

However, the trick-or-treating tradition wasn’t widespread in the United States until the 1930s. Though sugar-rationing in the 1940s put a damper on many Halloween parties, the holiday bounced back in the 1950s with a focus on children, cemented by Walt Disney’s short film, “Trick or Treat,” in 1952.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Advertising Antiques

Advertising Antiques

This classy looking British site features hundreds of high resolution photos of antique porcelain pre-war (enamel) … [read review or visit site]

Ad Access

Ad Access

Duke University's library has pulled together an impressive collection of over 7,000 ads printed in U.S. and Canadi… [read review or visit site]

American Package Museum

American Package Museum

Ian House's gallery of early 20th Century American package designs. Browse the exhibits in slide show mode or view … [read review or visit site]

Found in Moms Basement

Found in Moms Basement

Paula Zargaj-Reynolds’ blog, an extensive collection of 20th century vintage advertising, is a visual feast. Scro… [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Rare Antique Cast Iron, Halloween Black Cat Doorstop, Original Paint, No ReserveScarce Vintage Halloween Cat & Bat Diadem/tiara Diecut Decoration, Germany 1920sAuthentic Vintage Halloween Pressed Paper Pulp Devil Lantern, F.n. Burt, 1930s!2 Vintage Paper Mache Jack O Lanterns 1 Two Faced Halloween Decor Egg Crate 2 Vintage Little Paper Mache Pumpkins Jack O Lanterns Nut Candy ServersVintage Halloween Paper Mache Pulp Jack O' Lantern Decoration, Usa 1930s-1940s!Antique Early Paper Cardboard Halloween Decoration -witches - Not PerfectGerman Die Cut Pumpkin Headed Man In PantsVintage Halloween Hard Plastic Cat Holding Jack O Lantern Candy Container, 1950sVintage 2 Sided Die Cut Cardboard & Tissue Halloween Lantern - Witch & Black Cat50s Vintage Halloween Black Cat Face Large Paper Board Embossed DecorationVintage Halloween Witch 6 3/4" Orange & Black Hard Plastic Shovel SpoonLot Of 6 Vintage Metal Halloween Clickers Kirchhof Cat Devil Bats Owl Moon WitchVintage Halloween Die Cut Embossed Owl (3x7) Decoration Stand-up Germany FramedVintage Die Cut Cardboard & Tissue Halloween Lantern - Witch, Cat, Ghost, BatsVintage-rosbro-plastic-halloween-candy-container-witch-cat-pumpkinGreat Vintage "1920's" Halloween Cat Inside Of A Pumpkin - Die Cut- Near MintAntique German Paper Mache Halloween Devil FigureVintage 1930's German Hallween Paper Mache Pumpkin Face Girl Figure Nice No ResBat,cemetery,full Moon,halloween Decoration,1940'sVintage German Paper Mache Jack O Lantern With Paper InsertAntique Embossed Die-cut Witch W/walking Halloween Decoration Made In GermanyGreat Vintage "1920's" Halloween Cat Inside Of A Pumpkin - Die Cut- Near MintVintage Die Cut Cardboard & Tissue Halloween Lantern W/ Skulls & Jack O LanternsVintage 14pc Lot Postal History Postcards Early 1900s Halloween Pumpkins WitchVintage Halloween Cat Face Tin Hand Toy / Spinning Wheel / Very CoolLot Of 6 Vintage Metal Halloween Clickers Kirchhof Cat Devil Bats Pumpkin WitchWonderful 1938 Halloween Party Invite Card Seldom Seen - Unused & Near Mint.1928 Dennison Goods For Halloween Harvest Thanksgiving Price List Illus Misprint1920's Dennison Bogie Book. As Found. Rare Vintage Halloween WitchWonderful Vintage Paper Halloween Hat~meanest Witch Ever~meaner Cat5 Vintage Gurley Halloween Candles Jack O Lantern With Hat And GhostVintage 1950's Scarecrow With Jack-o-lantern Head 5" By 3 3/4" No MarkOld Halloween Postcard Black Cat Jol Head Germany 7107 Embossed Vtg AntiqueVintage Paper Mache Pumpkin Jack O LanternPair Us Metal Toy Mfg Co. Halloween Owl Tin Litho Clicker's Noisemakers ClackerHalloween Post Card With Cat And Witch Old VintageHalloween Post Card Vintage Old WitchVintage Kirchhof Halloween Litho Noisemaker Clicker With Devil / BatsVintage Tamborine Style Metal Halloween Noise Maker By Us Metal ToysVintage Halloween Postcard Witch 1913Vintage Halloween U.s Metal Witch Tin Litho Flat Pan Noisemaker 8" WorksCirca 1911 Wolf Halloween Postcard, WitchOld Halloween Postcard Lady Jol Head Bat Strange Sights Embossed Vtg AntiqueVintage Halloween Tin Litho Clicker Kirchhof Cresent Moon Witch OwlRare Vintage Halloween Night Light - Witch - 1950's ? - GemOld Vintage Halloween 3.25" Gurley Buffalo Ny Usa 15cent Witch & Ghost Candles1930's Crepe Paper Halloween Table Cloth Beach & Arthur 1930's Halloween Owl Crepe Paper Table Cloth As Is 4 Vintage Halloween Noisemakers And Vintage Halloween CostumeRare Vintage Halloween Black Cat Cardboard Die Cut Beistle? DecorationHalloween Die Cut H E Luhrs Tissue Skeleton 8 Pc Vtg Lot Gold Foil Owl Witch UsaBlack Cat Head,large (12 1/2"x 9") Embossed Halloween Decoration,1930's-40'sVintage Halloween Pumpkin Jackolantern Made In GermanyLot Of 5 Vintage Halloween Noisemakers Pumpkin Head Tin Type Double Faced Halloween Ipswich Hosiery Box With Witch-hard To Find Vintage Plastic Halloween Candy Container ~ Witch With Pumpkin And Black CatLarge Vintage Halloween Cat That StandsAntique Halloween Clanger Noisemaker - Witch/arching Cat/cauldron/bat - No Dmg.