As a child in the 1950’s, Halloween was a time for homemade costumes, “trick or treat”, decorating the neighbors’ trees with toilet paper and wonderful parties where we bobbed for apples and played spin the bottle when the adults weren’t looking!
But if we go back to early 1900s America, it would be the adults who enjoyed most of the celebration Oct. 31. Elaborately decorated homes welcomed guests who spent the evening in costume playing bridge, Mahjong, and parlor games. Winners of these games, as well as those judged to be the best costumed, were given candy filled glass containers, noise makers and lanterns as prizes. Sadly enough, many of these were discarded come Nov. 1, but those that survived are a part of one of today’s most cherished holiday collectibles: Halloween memorabilia.
The time frame from 1900 to 1935 is considered the “golden era” of Halloween memorabilia. Cardboard lanterns, postcards, sheet music, candy containers, witch dolls and even party boxes were all made during this time with typical Halloween depictions. These early pieces, particularly those in good condition, are rare and valuable. At the top of the “must have” list from this era, are the fine German pieces from 1919 to 1935. Many of the lanterns, candy containers and figurals were made in private homes or very small firms, from either a fixed design or a mold, and all were hand decorated. The quantity of items produced during this time frame was quite small, and as with many collectibles, scarcity = dollars.
Halloween die-cuts circa 1940 to1950 from The Beistle Company and Dennison Manufacturing are among the most popular of the American made Halloween collectibles. Research is a necessity in this line of collectible as the majority of these pieces, especially those from Beistle, are unmarked. One notable exception are the Beistle table items and lanterns with the “H.E. Luhrs” insignia. As you acquaint yourself with the imagery and design of Beistle pieces, identification will become easier. One best aid to recognizing and dating the work of Dennison Manufacturing are the “Halloween Bogie Books” printed from 1909 to the mid-1930s. These magazines were the primary sales and marketing tool for Dennison’s Halloween products and can be found at finer antique shows specializing in holiday collectibles.