Vintage Halloween Greetings
Halloween is one of the worlds most celebrated holidays, and like all holidays, how we celebrate them has inevitably changed over the years. Today we will look back to a time when Halloween had a different, simpler design. The vintage images on this collection of postcards and greetings reveal a Halloween that was less aimed at children and portrayed reverence for a decidedly adult holiday where magic, mischief, and even romance could manifest. Being that most of these images were postcards, they were meant to share Halloween greetings with loved ones far away in a time when the world undoubtedly felt larger and more mysterious.
In what appears to be one of the earliest images in our collection we see a phantom with strange "ears". The odd old-fashioned phrasing and tempo of this Halloween poem basically advises that not all ghosts are bad and this one brings good tidings.
Given the modern inclusion of clowns in all manner of horror canon, this creepy image seems ahead of its time. It combines the well worn trope of Halloween apple bobbing with a unsettling Pierrot style clown.
A simply drawn yet frightening image of ghostly faces are scolding the receiver of this postcard for a lack of communication in the previous year. This one is copyrighted 1910.
An Imp or Goblin emerging from a pumpkin. You will see depictions of these mischievous creatures throughout this collection. Modern Halloween characters like Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, and the Wolfman (werewolves) were concepts of literature and worldly folklore but not seen in these early American Halloween images. For this time period, the icons of Halloween seem to be limited to witches, goblins, ghosts, black cats ,bats and of course the devil himself.
A unsettling parade of cherubic faced girls dressed as ghosts march with variously designed jack o lanterns.
This colorful image wishes you a thrilling Halloween.
This image from 1911 shows goblins in silhouette riding bats.
An inviting scene shows us the "harmless" charms of Halloween as an apple bobbing game is prepared. This tradition became connected to Halloween through the continuing of practices established during Samhain, a Gaelic celebration that honored the harvest while acknowledging the coming of prevailing darkness and cold in the form of inevitable Winter.
This greeting warns that despite its charms, the wiles of Satan may be hiding behind seemingly harmless Halloween traditions. The word wiles refers to clever schemes or tricks launched by Satan meant to ensnare our souls.
There's a lot going on here in this whimsical image from 1912 which brings to my mind some elements reminiscent of a Christmas card. The red and green colors, lit candle, complete with traditional candlestick holder, and gold toned stars. Even the font plainly stating "Halloween Greeting" looks like a traditional yule tide font. Beyond the wholesomeness of the courting mice, its the Jack o Lantern and witchy smoke-ghost that deliver a hint of Halloween chills.
Apparently, as Halloween has evolved much throughout it's history, it went through an awkward phase where the night was believed to be a time where ladies of the day could, on this magic night, learn the name of the person they are destined to marry. It wasn't without peril however, where several of these scenarios depict menacing figures bound to stop you or dire circumstances if these strange rituals where not performed to the letter. This was just one of a series printed in 1910, another from the set can be seen below.
This image again describes a bizarre ritual for scoring a husband. The graphic style and yellow logo witch appears the same as the "Backwards down the cellar steps" ritual found above.
This image too, printed in Germany by the E.C. Banks company in 1909, details a ritual for finding the name of your husband. She looks though to have received more than she bargained for as two ghosts have come to pay a visit. I love the way the specters are depicted with washed out faces vacant eyes.
Another holiday postcard from the Stecher Company meant to show an innocent, non-frightening custom related to Halloween night.
Another love prediction, this time, look to your tea to reveal your true love.
This card, copyrighted in 1907 may be using innuendo to suggestion that Halloween was once though of as a night for romance.
There is a lot going on in this image with an illustration of boys playing a Halloween prank within a frame depicting a witch, jack o lantern, cat, and other spooky icons. While Trick or Treating did not become a popular practice in America till the 30's this image, where the boys ring the local doctors night bell as a Halloween trick, certainly brings that to mind.
This image, produced by Winsch Schmuker in Germany (1913), suggests the Jack O Lantern is not the benevolent figure it is often portrayed as.
This illustration depicts a young boy protecting a young girl from a menacing, yet retreating, goblin-like figure with a pumpkin face.
Another strange ritual for harnessing the power of Halloween for finding a marriage partner.
Wishing luck to people on Halloween was a subtle way of reminding ones of the dangers inherent on the magical night.
This card evokes the "Imp" creature which is different from the goblins we've see more often here. It is a European mythological creature similar to a fairy devil or goblin. The sentiment hopes that you are brave enough on this night that your sleep remains undisturbed.
This ghost with Jack O Lantern face image is seen several times in this collection. I could not find if the figure was a generic image or a characterization of "Stingy Jack". Not welcome in heaven or hell Stingy Jack was an Irish folklore figure, cursed to walk the Earth with only a carved turnip lantern to light his weary way.
I love this endearing image showing a row of Jack O Lanterns recede into the darkness chiaroscuro style.
There are many depictions of evil spirits and goblins looking in windows. As if to warn; stay inside where its safe and warm for outside mischief is afoot!
An odd yet magical means to celebrate a Halloween night.
The Halloween Brigade strikes to steal away with pumpkins despite the farmers protest.
This charmingly simple design delivers a warm Halloween message in style.
One of my favorite images here, paired with some of my favorite words.
This is definitely one of the most curious and morbid images from this assembly.
An ominous warning.
An early printed reference to trick or treat.
A wish for luck this Halloween.
This spooky yet charming monochrome image suggests a trade; treats for good fortune.
A menacing image in a folk art style.
A far cry from the frightening image above, this decidedly more Rockwellian image complete with product placement shows the wholesome joys of modern Trick or Treating. This may have come from an advertisement, indeed the two candy brands shown here; Baby Ruth and Butterfinger were manufactured by the same company.
Obviously newer than most of the images curated here, we have another idealic depiction of the innocent fun of Halloween.
I can assume the inside of the card completes the thought with the "Its just me!" Obviously meant to be a mask, its still unsettling to me how child-like the skull image is.
A great Halloween scene here, I love that we can see the tiny human hands holding the pumpkin. The copyright belongs to Clapsaddle Company 1910.
A merry illustration and text for a Halloween greeting.
The devil himself (or perhaps one of his demons) joins the traditional harvest figure, a colorfully dressed witch, and black cat in a Halloween ritual.
Ghosts emerge from the row of Jack O lanterns giving this young man a Halloween fright.
I love the sound of silent phantoms.
Cute, weird, and crazy this greeting with a parade of black cats marching out from under the stairs wishes us a jolly Halloween.
A simple, almost obligatory, Halloween image that is not without its charm.
Another reference to the mischief some find and some create on Halloween night. Depicting these troublemakers with pumpkin faces gives them an uncanny quality.
A rather creepy image whereas you are being watched by something outside your window.
Things got a little weird at the witches' party.
In this vintage greeting we see a crimson outfitted witch conspiring with a huge owl.
Halloween was the night for spotting Witches.
Another Witch in red, joined by a black cat, and a harvest person creature. Aside from the obvious connection to the harvest, I could not find any origin to this rather curious creature despite it being once a popular Halloween icon Although one image labeled the creature as a scarecrow.
Witches in red entertain on this Halloween evening. I love the idea of people looking outside from the comfort of home not knowing what sights Halloween night will conjure.
This card warns of the dangers of not following the strange love seeking rituals exactly.
In this illustration Copyrighted 1908, a most curious figure wanders through the pumpkin patch.
I'm curious to know if these were actual lore or novel yarn created just for the art.
This card warns little ones to hold on tightly to someone this Halloween so they don't get snatched by goblins. The goblin is shown as a somewhat generic figure, devilish with blue skin.
This card warned that on Halloween night if you get lost in the fire creatures may attack you from behind.
Many images shown people inside, safe, looking out into the night which held wonders and dangers.
Another image that warn not to go outside or even look out the window! The frightful specters here seem to modeled after traditional carved and decorated turnips and potatoes where toothy grins were carved a practice began in Ireland.
This greeting implores kindness from the witches you will be meeting on this night.
No comment on this one.
Simple greeting and simple imagery show a witch keeping warm as traditional harvest haystacks adorn the background.
I love this design, from the transparent skull faced ghost to the pumpkin cat and bat filled dark sky!
This curious image and accompanied text champions "Ghosty Interests". 1913 Gibson Art Company
I don't know why but this image reminds me of classic department store designs the likes of Marshal Fields or Macy's.
A visitor in the night!
And finally a wonderful image that looks to be from the fifties or inspired by Norman Rockwell shows a young girl peering through a window with a witch mask.