As many of you are no doubt planning themes for Halloween get-togethers next month, I thought maybe Ms. Ruby Ross Goodnow could help you plan. Actually, the party below, held on “Hallowe’en” at “eight o’ clock” in 1911, was also meant to be a housewarming party, for a brand new home, perhaps a bungalow or craftsman like the one pictured below. I found this article, originally published in the October 1911 issue of The Delineator, a few years ago and I just love it! (Note that a yearly subscription was $1. Sweet!) I’m considering planning a Halloween get together myself, and using this retro article as a starting point for a turn of the century theme!
The cover of the October 1911 issue of The Delineator.
From the October 1911 issue of The Delineator:
Entertainment in October
Conducted by Ruby Ross Goodnow
Mrs. Goodnow will be glad to help you with any kind of entertainment. Write her for suggestions, giving the exact date of your party, enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope for reply.
A HALLOWE’EN HOUSEWARMING
The Dr. John F. and Mary Reddy House in Medford Oregon. This photo (from the National Register of Historic Places) is not of the house featured in this article, but was taken in 1911, the same year of its construction, and the same year as this issue of Delineator.
We had moved into our new home and, of course, we wished to welcome our friends beneath our roof-tree, so we planned a Hallowe’en housewarming, which was the jolliest affair ever.
We had some little brown-prints made of the new house, and sent one of these to each of our friends enclosed in the following note:
“Our latch-string now hangs on the outside!
Won’t you come and use it on Hallowe’en, at eight o’ clock?”
We invited all our friends, old and young and in-betweens. And we opened all our house-we knew that the cellar would be as interesting to Uncle John as the attic would be to Great-Aunt Martha. We had Jack-o’-lanterns on the gate-posts, and in spooky corners of the cellars, and in the attic.
All the young people were given cards, very much like dance-cards, with spaces for engagements in regular order: “9 o’ clock, Mr. B—-, cellar stairs; 9:30 Mr. C—-, library davenport; 10, Mr. D—-, kitchen-table,” and so on. This arrangement of conversational “dates” kept the young people scrambling all over the house, up-stairs and down, and there was no possibility of stagnation!
And we served refreshments all over the house, too. We had a brand-new barrel of apples in the cellar; a huge pot of coffee and little squares of hot gingerbread in the kitchen; half a dozen bowls of nuts in the attic; a platter of sandwiches in the living-room; a huge bowl of fruit-punch in the dining-room; a silver dish of mints in the library and several platters of home-made candy in the various bedrooms.
At half after eleven we all met in the big living-room and ranged ourselves around the great fireplace. Then my husband very solemnly lighted the first fire on the new hearthstone, and our guests all toasted our new home. Then we told ghost stories, and roasted chestnuts, and popped corn, and counted apple-seeds until well after the charmed hour of midnight! C.B.A.
A few notes:
I tried to do some quick research to find out exactly what is meant by “brown-prints” in this article. I only find information leading me to a type of photography. Did they send photos of the new house with the invitations?
Though 1911 is a bit after the Victorian days, up to around the 1900s Halloween meant socializing (clearly pointed out in the article), parlor games, and was often thought of as a romantic holiday for young people. This was a time when young girls or ladies would practice innocent rituals or perhaps attempt to contact the spirit world to learn who their future husband would be. The roasting of various nuts, counting apple seeds, etc, was often used as a kind of fortune-telling at these gatherings. In those days Halloween was less about spookiness and death.
For more information about the history and traditions of Halloween, check out HALLOWEEN: An American Holiday, an American Tradition by Lesley Pratt Bannatyne.
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