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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

Wishing all my friends, followers, and visitors of this blog a very safe and happy Halloween!

Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for 2022!

Christmas 1944, exactly 77 years ago this holiday season, marked the last Christmas of World War II. The 1940s was a decade shaped by war, but the Christmas spirit and the act of good fellowship and kindness was still important to people even in times of hardship. The vintage holiday print ad below from Reed Brothers Dodge offers a window into how businesses of the 1940s pictured an idealized holiday season.

Merry Christmas Print Ad, 1944

The Montgomery County Sentinel, December 21, 1944

I would like to wish everyone who finds time during the course of your day to visit this blog a very Merry Christmas and a safe and healthy Happy New Year in 2022.

Jeanne Gartner
Blog Author

 

Dear Santa, Please Pause Here

This special post doesn’t have anything to do with Reed Brothers Dodge history, but it does have a lot to do with the founder’s daughter, Mary Jane (Reed) Gartner. In her younger years, Lewis Reed’s daughter (my mother) was a very talented ceramic and china painter. She painted the ceramic tray of Santa (below) for me Christmas of 2000 and entered it in the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair. Seventy-eight years old at the time, she won First Premium Prize. The tray is currently displayed in my dining room china cabinet and evokes memories of my childhood and makes me happy every time I look at it. I hope you enjoy this special post.

“Dear Santa, Please Pause Here” 2000 oil painting on ceramic tile by Mary Jane (Reed) Gartner.

Some background about the image

Have you ever heard of an artist named Haddon Sundblom? No? Well you’ve seen his work. You could say he’s one of the most famous character designers ever. He created the iconic Santa we all know and love. The image, “Santa, Please Pause Here” was originally created by Haddon Sundblom who was commissioned by Coca-Cola company to develop advertising images using Santa Claus. He may have been paid as much as $1,000 per painting—a lot of money at that time (you could buy a car for $700). Based on Clement Clark Moore’s descriptions of St. Nick in “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” Sundblom’s Santa Claus emphasized the rosy cheeks and snow white beard along with the now familiar suit and hat. A wide leather belt and brown boots completed the look.

From 1931 to 1964, Sundblom’s creations for Coca-Cola had Santa pictured as doing everything from delivering toys (and playing with them!), pausing to read letters, visiting with children who had waited up to meet him on Christmas Eve, raiding the refrigerators of several homes, warming his feet by the fire, and other activities — always with a bottle of Coke in hand or nearby. The Sundblom Santa became so popular that the images spread from print ads onto billboards, posters, calendars, plush dolls, and more.

Below, is the original Coca-Cola Santa Claus painting and sketches by Haddon Sundblom.

In 2001, Haddon Sundblom’s Santa Claus was creatively brought to life in a Coca-Cola ad video tribute, animated by the Academy Award-winning animator Alexandre Petrov.

So the next time you envision Santa Claus and maybe even have a simultaneous unexplained craving for a Coca-Cola, please give a wink and nod to the artist Haddon Sundblom. He was instrumental in defining the image of Santa Claus for us all.

Wishing the very best of the holiday season to everyone, and of course, Merry Christmas!

Reference: Coca-Cola.com

Trees of Christmas Past

With only a few days left until Christmas, I thought it might be fun to take a look at a couple of photos from Lewis Reed’s collection that show us what Christmas trees used to look like a century ago. In those days, there was not wide-spread agreement on exactly what a tree should look like, which made for a lot of creativity. Not surprisingly, they were very different than the perfectly shaped tress we have on display today.

The trees were big back then and always fresh. They went right to the ceiling and were very wide. Early Christmas trees were generally fastened onto a flat board surrounded with fence-rails, snow villages and carpeted with cotton blankets of snow. The tree in the photo below has an abundance of tinsel, which grew in popularity to the point that, by the 1920s, it was common to nearly cover the tree in the decorative material.

And what is tinsel exactly? Tinsel was designed to mimic the way ice looks, and the earliest tinsel was made from strips of real silver. It was only later that it became a Christmas tree decoration, employed to enhance the flickering of the candle flames. In the 1950s, tinsel became so popular that it was often used as a substitute for Christmas lights.

vintage Christmas tree

A small snow scene with what appears to be a miniature church is arranged at the foot of the Christmas tree. A popcorn garland adorns the tree. Photo by Lewis Reed

So, where did Washingtonians get their trees?

From The Evening Star, Washington, DC 23 December 1923:

Conduit Road on the long stretch between Glen Echo and Great Falls for many years has been a favorite hunting ground where hundreds and hundreds of families have customarily obtained scrub pine trees for Christmas week. Usually there is plenty of holly and some mistletoe to be found in the rugged and rolling hill lands which are the gateway to Great Falls.

Early 1900s Christmas tree

No room for a star on the top of this tree! And just look at those big Santa and Angel dolls. Other fun little details are notable, including a miniature church with picket fence is arranged at the base of the tree. Photo by Lewis Reed

There’s a fine art to decorating Christmas trees that’s been developing since over 100 years ago. People consider lights, garland, ornaments, skirt, and more. But one thing that’s hard to resist sometimes is just filling every available space with decorations. Clearly, that was the case years ago too. What I like about these trees is that they are so randomly shaped and even misshapen. Folks back then didn’t trim them down to a more aesthetically pleasing symmetry like we do today.

Today, most Christmas trees are artificial and very symmetrical. Stringing lights and hanging ornaments are used mostly for decorating, since large bare spots are a thing of the past. Branches are clicked into place and limbs can be fanned out to accommodate whatever decorations you choose to add. Tinsel is long gone and lights now come in all types of sizes and styles. Tree lights can be set to not blink or programmed to flash in whatever sequence fits your mood. You have the control of exactly how you want your tree to look. It is a far cry from the trees of Christmas past.

Christmas Trees and Snow Villages from a Century Ago

With only a few days left until Christmas, I thought it might be fun to take a look at some photos from Lewis Reed’s collection that show us what Christmas trees used to look like a century ago. In those days, there was not wide-spread agreement on exactly what a tree should look like, which made for a lot of creativity. Not surprisingly, they were very different than the perfectly shaped tress we have on display today.

The trees were big back then and always fresh. They went right to the ceiling and were very wide. Early Christmas trees were generally fastened onto a flat board surrounded with fence-rails, snow villages and carpeted with cotton blankets of snow. The tree in the photo below has an abundance of tinsel, which grew in popularity to the point that, by the 1920s, it was common to nearly cover the tree in the decorative material.

So, what is tinsel (aka icicles) exactly? Originally made from strands of silver alloy, tinsel was in fact first used to decorate sculptures. It was only later that it became a Christmas tree decoration, employed to enhance the flickering of the candle flames. In the 1950s, tinsel became so popular that it was often used as a substitute for Christmas lights.

vintage Christmas tree

A small snow scene with what appears to be a miniature church is arranged at the foot of the Christmas tree. A popcorn garland adorns the tree. Photo by Lewis Reed

So, where did Washingtonians get their trees?

From The Evening Star, Washington, DC 23 December 1923:

Conduit Road on the long stretch between Glen Echo and Great Falls for many years has been a favorite hunting ground where hundreds and hundreds of families have customarily obtained scrub pine trees for Christmas week. Usually there is plenty of holly and some mistletoe to be found in the rugged and rolling hill lands which are the gateway to Great Falls.

vintage Christmas tree

No room for a star on the top of this tree! And just look at those big Santa and Angel dolls. Other fun little details are notable, including a miniature church with picket fence is arranged at the base of the tree. Photo by Lewis Reed

There’s a fine art to decorating Christmas trees that’s been developing since over 100 years ago. People consider lights, garland, ornaments, skirt, and more. But one thing that’s hard to resist sometimes is just filling every available space with decorations. Clearly, that was the case years ago too. What I like about these trees is that they are so randomly shaped and even misshapen. Folks back then didn’t trim them down to a more aesthetically pleasing symmetry like we do today.

The tradition of building miniature Christmas village landscapes, including houses, animals, and other hand-crafted wooden figures, began with the Pennsylvania Dutch in the late 1800s. Mass-produced cardboard houses, sold in dimestores, became popular in the mid-20th century. Today, these villages in good condition can be highly collectible.

Below are photos of Lewis Reed’s snow village set up under the Christmas tree decorated with vintage ornaments, tinsel, and lights. I don’t remember the odd-shaped Christmas trees, but I do remember having a lot of fun helping my grandfather set up the miniature landscapes with the varied figures, little houses, and trees at Christmastime each year. It seemed like a holiday village right out of a storybook.

1900s Christmas village

A rustic picket fence is used to set off the village display. Dangling strands of tinsel hang below the tree. Photo by Lewis Reed

The snow villages were set up in Lewis Reed’s basement on top of a big table beneath a small Christmas tree. He made the snow scenes entirely by hand using wire-covered cardboard and balled up paper to make hills and pathways. The little houses and figurines would fit into the landscape with cotton ‘snow’ all around; and lights would be wired underneath.

1900s Christmas village

Little houses, churches, fences, trees, and pathways were added to the scene. Some of the houses have charming light effects in the windows. The roofs of the houses were decorated with fake snow. Photo by Lewis Reed

These Christmas villages were precursors of the Holiday Villages that were made popular by Department 56 that you see today.

1900s Christmas village

Old-fashioned lights can be seen on the tree, along with lit windows in the houses. The miniature houses usually had holes in the back or the bottom through which tiny lights were placed to provide illumination. Photo by Lewis Reed

Wishing all of you who have stopped in to visit a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Stay safe and enjoy the holiday season with friends and family!

Merry Christmas

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