October 30, 2011

Happy Hallow Eve from 1861

Location: Lancaster, PA, USA
"Jeff Davis Reaping the Harvest"
Harper's Weekly, 10/26/1861
Not knowing much about the history of Halloween, I thought it would be fun to check into what festivities might have looked like 150 years ago in Lancaster.  As it turns out, the holiday had gained widespread awareness by 1861, especially "as a carnival of fun by the rising generation." Besides party games like bobbing for apples and its more sinister cousin involving a lit candle described in the link below, it appears tricks were emphasized more than treats by the generation whose older brothers went off to fight as soldiers.      

The subject of Halloween also provides a good occasion to highlight the utility of the PA Civil War Newspapers Project.  My simple research question of the history of Halloween got me a preliminary answer within a matter of seconds.  Of course, serious historical analysis would require much more work in interpretation, but it's a pretty good start.

If you want to learn more yourself about Halloween, go to the PA Civil War Newspapers Project and try the following searches: Halloween, "Hallow E'en", and "Hallow Eve".
    In my PA Civil War Newspapers Project searching, I found a three-paragraph description of "Hallow Eve" in the November 5, 1861, Lancaster Intelligencer (click the link to view).  I also found a similar description in the October 31, 1861, Daily Evening Express, which is not available online, so I have posted it below (alternate link):

    By the way, if you want to read the poem referenced in both articles, it is Halloween by Robert Burns.

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