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]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage Halloween Dennison Flying Owl Against Moon Artist Prototype Very RareVintage Halloween Salesman Sample Dennison Running Skeleton & Red Eyed Owl Rare!Vintage Halloween Jack O Lantern Porcelain Mini Candy Containers Salts Germany Vintage Halloween Dennison OwlRosbro Hard Plastic Candy Container Orange Snowman With Pipe Vintage Mint ConditVintage Set 13 Total Halloween Die Cuts ~ Black Cats ~ Witches ~ Pumpkins ~ OwlsVintage Rosbro Plastic Cat With Jol Candy ContainerVintage Halloween Dennison BatVintage Halloween Black Cat Die CutVintage Halloween Light-lantern-battery Op-hong Lkong-1950s?1960?6 Inch-nr!Rosbro Halloween Hard Plastic Large Witch Flying On Broom Candy Container. MintyVintage Halloween Dennison Purple & Green Cat RareVintage Halloween Plastic Pumpkin Party FavorOld Vintage Halloween Cardboard Diecut Die Cut Out Black Cat Jack Lantern 30-50s3 Vintage Halloween Paper Trick Or Treat Candy Bags Black Cat, Pumpkins, Ghost Rare Antique 1913 Halloween Witch Party Game W/orig. PackageVintage Halloween Paper Tablecloth & Napkin ~ Black Cat ~ Witch ~ Pumpkin ~ OwlRosbro Rosen Hard Plastic Orange Halloween Christmas Snowman Candy ContainerVintage Collectible Tin Halloween Bell Clacker 2 Assorted Vintage 1930's Halloween Party Place Cards W/ Black Cat, MoonVintage Halloween Jointed Black Cat Pre-war Japan Halloween Suitcase Candy ContainerVintage Brass & Glass Candle Lantern Candelabra2 Vintage 1930's Halloween Party Place Cards W/ Black Cat, German Cat Scrap Rare Antique 1930s Halloween Black Cat Silhouettes & Orig. Envelope!Vintage Collectible Celluloid Halloween Witch And Black Halloween Cat2 Assorted Vintage 1940's Halloween Witch, Cat, Bat, Jol Party Invitation Card2 Vintage 1950's Norcross Halloween Calendar Page & Ghost Greeting CardVintage Beistle Embossed Halloween Diecut Jointed Black Cat Witch Jack O LanternVintage Kirchof Halloween Tin Clicker Orange NoisemakerVintage Halloween Pumpkin & Owl Die Cut ~ Mint!2 Assorted Vintage 1940's Halloween Party Tally Card W/ Ghost DesignsVintage Halloween Cat 1950's Greeting Card Unused Greeting Card Halloween CatGreat Vintage Black Cat Halloween Tambourine T Coon Made In UsaVintage Halloween Cast Iron Scaredy Cat Door KnockerOld Vintage Halloween Cardboard Owl Nut Cup Candy Container Holder Beistle 1940s50s Tin U.s.metal Halloween Pumpkin Candy Bucket Witch Ghosts Bats Owl Black CatOne 1951 Vintage Halloween Paper Napkin ~ Pumpkins ~ Black Cat ~ Owl ~ Witch (4)Old 1875 Tintype Photo Of Man With Halloween Mask Steve Martin Doppelganger ? Rare Lot Kellogg's Corn Flakes Cereal Box Masks Boo Boo EtcCreepy Cat Paper Mache Halloween Jack-o-lantern Figurine Luck 13" TallOne 1951 Vintage Halloween Paper Napkin ~ Pumpkins ~ Black Cat (3)One 1955 Vintage Halloween Paper Napkin ~ Pumpkins ~ Black Cat ~ Owl ~ Witch (5)Vintage Paper Mache Halloween Jack O Lantern Pumpkin Basket ContainerVintage Halloween Tin Lithograph Noisemaker Cats Witches Wood Handle Rare Rare Lot Of Antique Halloween Dennison's Crepe Paper Hats Masks Etc.Wonderful Vintage Halloween Ghost Tally Card-unused- & Good Condition.Fabulous Vintage Halloween Crepe Paper Kewpie Witch Halloween Horn/noisemakerVintage Halloween Black Cat NapkinOne 1954 Vintage Halloween Paper Napkin ~ Black Cat ~ Pumpkin ~ Bat (1)Vintage 1920's -30's Halloween Standing Black Cat Squeaker Toy NoisemakerGoblins- 1928 Sheet Music Fairy Tale Folk- Witch On Broom HalloweenH787 Halloween Postcard Advertising Kornelia Kinks Girl Paints Jol On Mans HeadH791 Halloween Postcard Witch Reads Book Of Fate Jol Lights The Page4 Unused Vintage Halloween Cards 2 Tallies, 2 Stand Up Place Cards, Witches CatsVintage Halloween Card 1960's Witch & Cat Unused Greeting Card Old HalloweenVintage Lot Of 7 Halloween Diecuts. Embossed Beistle, Embossed Luhrs, Cool Vintage 50s Wooden Noisemaker ToyH789 Halloween Postcard Witch Talks To Black Cat Owls In Background Early Advertisement Sign Try Our Halloween Specials 1920s Reprint