Spooky Celebrations

Evening capital and Maryland gazette. (Annapolis, Md.), 31 Oct. 1921. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88065726/1921-10-31/ed-1/seq-1/>

All Hallow’s Eve, All Hallow Eve, Hallow Eve, Hallow Even, Hallow E’en, Hallowe’en, Halloween, Eve of All Saints’ Day–whatever you want to call it or however you’d like to spell it–is a day with origins dating all the way back to the Celts, and it came to the American East Coast in the 1600s (“Halloween 2020”). More common in Maryland and southern states, Halloween wasn’t celebrated nationally until the Third Wave of Immigration (“Halloween 2020”). Today, many people in the US have come to observe Halloween as a commercial and secular holiday, but the way that people celebrate it may differ by individual or family. We can recognize these differences throughout the years, across the state of Maryland.

Some common traditions found in historic Maryland newspapers include mischievous youth plotting pranks, visiting haunted houses, attending dances, balls, parties, parades, and carnivals with various delectable treats and spooky games themed for the occasion.

Evening capital and Maryland gazette. (Annapolis, Md.), 01 Nov. 1912. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88065726/1912-11-01/ed-1/seq-4/>

In 1912 Annapolis, residents could read the Evening Capital and Maryland Gazette and learn about the hijinks the city’s youth got up to. Making racket by honking horns and banging pans, thieving (public property), and littering on people’s doorsteps seem to have been the most common activities of the night. Pranks included rigging doorbells to continuously ring, as well as throwing food at houses and innocent passersby. By this time, throwing rice and flour at passersby was a prank that had recently been banned, and throwing tapioca and hominy at windows became the popular substitute for throwing gravel.

In 1922 Cambridge, The Daily Banner informed of a carnival held at Oakley Beach for the benefit of the Cambridge-Maryland Hospital. Games, pranks, charades, music, and merriment filled the halls. They even held a pageant! The event raised over $400 (about $5,941 in 2020) for the hospital.

The daily banner. (Cambridge, Md.), 28 Oct. 1922. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88065731/1922-10-28/ed-1/seq-3/>
Greenbelt cooperator. (Greenbelt, Md.), 07 Nov. 1941. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn89061521/1941-11-07/ed-1/seq-1/>

In 1941 Greenbelt, the Greenbelt Cooperator wrote of a party held in the wine cellars of Maitre Cipriano. Decked with spooky lanterns and goblins, the cellar provided the perfect atmosphere for Halloween festivities. People in costumes ranging from glamour girls to French pantomimes gathered for music, dancing, beer, cider, and snacks.

Even though we can’t have large gatherings like these this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, we can still throw parties within our own households. Hang up some decorations, make some treats, and play some tricks! Perhaps you could try this 1939 recipe for Taffy Apples published in The Midland Journal:

The midland journal. (Rising Sun, Md.), 27 Oct. 1939. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn89060136/1939-10-27/ed-1/seq-6/>

Happy Halloween from the

Historic Maryland Newspaper Project!

To read more about Halloween in the historic newspapers, visit the Chronicling America newspaper database, and be sure to follow @HistoricMDNews on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook!

This post is part of a monthly guest blog post series featuring the Historic Maryland Newspapers Project and Chronicling America. The Historic Maryland Newspapers Project at University of Maryland Libraries is the Maryland state awardee of the National Digital Newspaper Program. National Endowment for the Humanities and Library of Congress developed this program for state partners to digitize historic newspapers from across the country and make them freely accessible in the Chronicling America newspaper database.


Bryanna Bauer is a student assistant for the Historic Maryland Newspapers Project and a second year MLIS student in the College of Information Studies. Additionally, Bauer is a Digital Curation Fellow at the National Agricultural Library in partnership with the iSchool.

One thought on “Spooky Celebrations

  1. Pingback: Stew of the Month, October 2020

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s