History Nebraska Blog

Happy Halloween!

This is a Halloween party thrown at the residence of Anna Johnson of Lincoln. From the MacDonald Collection, this party was held November 2, 1951. (RG2183.PH001951-001102-12)

Many children have fond memories of Halloween. That memory often consists of candy gathering, parties with friends, or dressing in costumes and pretending to be someone else. The importance of the mask in history is the topic of much literature, and I would direct you to other sources for a more in-depth look. Most people today don’t put much thought into the history of masks when he or she is deciding what character to portray.

From October of 1939, this is a group photo of several children in attendance of a Halloween party at Leo & Don Manke's residence at 404 South 48th Street in Lincoln, Nebraska. Although there are no costumes present, on the table can be seen a jack-o-lantern and doughnuts. (RG2158.PH000015-000007)

The Nebraska State Historical Society has some wonderful photos taken of children and adults who are in attendance at various Halloween gatherings and parties. Because the state has a wide range of immigrant influences, European traditions regarding Halloween have often been localized cultural events. Of course, the traditions had to adjust a bit, as well. The pumpkin, for instance, replaced the English turnip as the gourd of choice when carving a jack-o-lantern. A lot of credit for Halloween’s popularity goes to the Irish.

This is a large gathering of youth posing in a Halloween gathering. Scanned from a glass plate negative, this image is doubly creepy in that the emulsion is peeling away. (RG5339.PH0-000061)

But a ghost is a ghost, and that costume, hat and mask have symbolically been around to protect the wearer for a long time. In the early days, costumes were hand-made, as is evident from many in these images.

It is estimated that Americans spend $6.9 billion dollars annually on Halloween costumes, home decorations and  Halloween in general. This makes the holiday the country’s second largest commercial holiday.

This is a group portrait of children dressed for Halloween in Crawford, Nebraska. They are portraying wizards (I guess) and a few are even identified. Bonita, Jim and Jean Ivins are the center three. They stand next to Orville Ivin's home in Crawford. (RG3422.PH000003-000012)

Also from the early days of Crawford is this group portrait of children dressed in homemade Halloween costumes. (RG3422.PH000003-000011)

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