Halloween is a widely celebrated holiday in the US, but few people know the origins of this spooky festivity. One way to get a glimpse of early Halloween celebrations is through the depictions and photographs that have been preserved over time. These visual records provide fascinating insights into how people celebrated Halloween in the past, and the traditions they held dear. From paintings to vintage photographs, these depictions are a window into the past and a reminder of the rich history behind one of America's most beloved holidays.
In 1833, Irish artist Daniel Maclise created the painting "Snap-Apple Night," which was based on a Halloween celebration he attended in Blarney, Ireland the previous year. The painting features a scene where Peggy dances with Dan, while Maureen melts lead to predict their future, and Nancy deals cards to reveal their fortunes. Kate and her sweetheart Will burn nuts as a symbol of their love, and poor Norah misses the snap-apple turning but still smiles during the Festival of Hallow Eve. The painting's first exhibit catalogue included a caption describing the scene.
The illustration of Robert Burns' poem Halloween was created by J.M. Wright and Edward Scriven and was published in The Complete Works of Robert Burns. The book was illustrated by various artists, including W.H. Bartlett and T. Allom, and published by George Virtue in London. Although the publication year is uncertain, there are some indications that suggest the year might be around 1841 or as late as 1856 when James Gibson acquired it. The book is dedicated to a former MP, Archibald Hastie of Paisley, who had already left his position by 1857, and some of the artists and engravers who contributed to the book had passed away before 1842.
In 1928, a girl in Ontario, Canada was photographed wearing a Halloween costume. Interestingly, Ontario is the same province where the Scottish Halloween tradition of disguising was first documented in North America. The photo was taken at Waterdown Public School, along with other images capturing students, teachers, and activities such as field trips, camping, and visits to local farms in Ontario.
The image depicts a scene from the children's book "Hallowe'en at Merryvale" authored by Alice Hale Burnett. In the illustration, a group of boys is shown shouting "Three cheers for Hopie!" in excitement.
A Halloween greeting card from the early 20th century features a depiction of divination. In this 1904 card, a young woman is shown looking into a mirror in a dimly lit room, hoping to catch a glimpse of her future husband.
A depiction from the Book of Hallowe'en (1919) displays various Halloween traditions, including the roasting of nuts.