A Look Back at What Halloween in Montgomery County Looked Like 100 Years Ago

Ever wondered how Montgomery County families celebrated Halloween 100 years ago? Thanks to the these photographs from Lewis Reed’s collection, we can travel all the way back to 1914.

At the turn of the century, women often wore their regular clothes topped with homemade masks. The first Halloween costumes were usually worn by women and reflected the idea of masquerades that was extremely popular in the early 1900s. People only began to buy manufactured costumes in the second and third decades of the 20th century.

1900s Halloween costumes

Halloween, ca. 1914. These women are holding homemade Halloween masks for their upcoming celebration. Photo by Lewis Reed

Oh the good ol’ days, when wearing a mask was enough to be dressed up for celebrations! Do you know how your ancestors’ celebrated Halloween? Newspapers are a great source to get a better understanding of life in the past. This special post is a look back through newspaper articles and Lewis Reed’s photographs at how Halloween was celebrated 100 years ago.

Stocked Stores: Stores were stocked with all the Halloween supplies needed for a fun celebration. Below is an ad for costumes and masquerade suits for those participating in Halloween parties and other seasonal affairs.

1916 Halloween Costumes

The Washington Post, October 30, 1916

Dancing and Parties: Halloween parties and dancing were enjoyed by many. Some announcements even included a list of guests in attendance!

Halloween Dancing in 1912

The Baltimore Sun, November 3, 1912

Here is the description of a Halloween party from the Society Section of the November, 1916 issue of The Evening Star (Washington, District of Columbia):

A Halloween party was given last evening… and a merry evening spent by those present. The reception hall, living and dining rooms were artistically decorated with autumn leaves, lanterns, chrysanthemums and orange and black streamers. The evening was spent in old-fashioned games, concluding with the entire assemblage gathering about an open fireplace in the dark, while the guests were led by a ghost through various parts of the darkened home. The evening’s entertainment concluded with music, dancing and the serving of refreshments.

1900s Halloween

This photo captures a moment from a Halloween gathering over 100 years ago. Photo by Lewis Reed

Any sort of Halloween festivities demanded some sort of refreshment. In addition to traditional pumpkin pies and molasses cookies, a suggested dish to serve at Halloween parties was a Halloween salad.

Halloween Salad

Halloween Pranks: Witches and goblins, ghosts and mischief-making youngsters were permitted to enjoy all the Halloween revelry they liked … BUT DON’T THROW FLOUR. Yes, apparently in the early 1900s, there wasn’t much to do for entertainment, so kids would knock on doors on Halloween night and throw flour at whoever answered. To the modern observer, some of the traditions of Halloween 100 years ago are downright bizarre.

1916 Halloween Pranks

The Evening Star, October 31, 1916

Halloween Parades: Halloween parades actually began because pranks and mischief had gotten out of control. By 1920, there was a push to turn Halloween into a holiday centered around community gatherings and festive Halloween parades, rather than mischief. 

Early 1900s Halloween Clown

There is something undeniably creepy about this clown in sunglasses riding on a horse in a Halloween Parade. Location is unknown. Photo by Lewis Reed

With the convergence of a full moon, a blue moon, and daylight saving time — plus the unprecedented events of this year — Halloween 2020 will truly be one to remember. In fact, a Halloween such as this won’t happen again for at least another 152 years. Wishing all my friends, followers, and visitors of this blog a very safe and happy Halloween!

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About Reed Brothers

I am a co-owner of the former Reed Brothers Dodge in Rockville, Maryland. Lewis Reed, the founder of Reed Brothers Dodge was my grandfather. We were a family-owned and operated car dealership in Rockville for almost a century. I served in the United States Air Force for 30 years before retiring in the top enlisted grade of Chief Master Sergeant in July 2006. In 2016, I received the Arthur M. Wagman Award for Historic Preservation Communication from Peerless Rockville for documenting the history of Reed Brothers Dodge in both blog and book format. This distinguished honor recognizes outstanding achievement by writers, educators, and historians whose work has heightened public awareness of Rockville’s architectural and cultural heritage, growth and development.

2 responses to “A Look Back at What Halloween in Montgomery County Looked Like 100 Years Ago”

  1. Cathy Mercier says :

    Thank you for sharing these amazing Halloween photos. Your detailed website is wonderful and it enlightened me about the history of the Dodge. My grandfather, who died prior to my birth, owned a small garage and Dodge dealership in Babylon, NY probably under the name of the Harnell Garage. He was my mom’s dad and I only know that James Harnell sold Dodges and the approximate location of the business. Newspaper archives describe how he made a trip to Detroit in 1920 to deliver 16 Dodges to Babylon and Bayshore New York. He was a mechanic, so perhaps at this time he was not the dealership owner but accompanied the group to make car repairs on the trip home. I also have evidence that in the 1930s he travelled to NY to northern Maine on a fishing trip. He probably was the driver and the mechanic for such a long journey! I am guessing that WWII may have disrupted his work with Dodges as we know around this time he became the chief mechanic at the Long Island State Park Commission and was employed by Robert Moses who of course built many parkways/motorways in New York state. I will enjoy learning more about my grandfather’s life during his Dodge Days and will check back to your site. Thanks again for such great history. Cathy Mercier

    • Reed Brothers says :

      Hi Cathy,

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to share your story. I’m so happy you enjoyed the Halloween photos. Your recollections of your grandfather and his association with Dodge are wonderful! If you do happen to come across anything more about your grandfather’s life and his place in history, I would love to know! Thanks for taking the time to visit and best of luck in your search.

      Sincerely and wishing you good health,

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