October 27, 2019

Halloween A Century Ago

In the early 20th century, before there were Halloween treats, there were Halloween tricks. Children and teenagers all across the country would run off with anything that wasn’t nailed down. Doormats, yard and other tools are prime examples. But at times, our intelligent Prescott juveniles would use their astuteness for more creative acts of mayhem. In 1911 the Weekly Journal-Miner warned: “All good housekeepers will take the precaution tonight to remove the front gate and hide it under the bed. By doing so, they will be able to boast of owning a gate tomorrow morning. Tonight is Halloween.”
Perhaps because the children were more well-behaved, (or, more likely, homeowners were entirely prepare,) the paper reported 5 years later that Halloween “passed in a quiet and orderly manner by the boys and girls of Prescott, (with) no mischievous pranks being reported to (Police) headquarters” at all.

Halloween, 1913 was a particularly memorable one when in 1913, Al G. Barnes’ Big 3-Ring Circus came to perform. This circus focused on exotic animals and featured 350 wild creatures performing in 52 acts. Lions, tigers and bears (oh, my!) performed as “equestrians.” Two full trains were required to bring in the show and at 10 am, a “gorgeous street parade” marched down Cortez from the Depot to the Plaza where the circus would be held.

The circus performed for a week in Prescott, and both seemed glad when the circus left town. Many arguments between the patrons and the booth keepers arose with some “squabbles (growing) to such proportions that crowds collected,” the paper reported. One argument between a gypsy fortune teller and a local African-American ended up with the local man being severely cut with a knife.

Through those early years several churches held events for young and old alike. “St. Luke’s Episcopal church held an annual Halloween party for the Sunday school with “several hours…delightfully spent in games appropriate to the occasion.” “Diving” for apples, pin the tail on the donkey, and fortune telling were specifically mentioned.

A grand ball was held to celebrate the 20th century’s first Halloween in Prescott. “Those who are fortunate enough to secure an invitation to the Halloween Ball should not fail to accept,” the newspaper advised, “as a general good time is assured to all.” 

“A line of Chinese lanterns was strung along the front porch for illumination at night,” the paper reported. "The interior was decorated appropriately for the occasion, some of the decorations being of the weird order, some ornamental and artistic but all in harmony with the tradition of Hallow eve."

There were activities for every age. In addition to the children’s games, one woman read a foreboding story entitled: “If You Don’t Look Out, the Goblins’ll Get You!” Another feature was a parody given by a Prof. Billingshurst whose subject of All Saints Day was illustrated with "many amusing illustrations in which the faces of a number of local people were portrayed as the saints,” the paper reported. “This was an original idea by (the professor) and caused no end of merriment.”

An orchestra played and several singers performed. “The entertainment was rounded out by the ladies serving pumpkin pie, donuts and coffee.” One hundred merry-makers took part and “and they took part enthusiastically, each contributing his full share to the evening’s entertainment.” The ball was described as “a very successful affair socially, financially and otherwise.”

The descriptive story of how the Jerome Grand Hotel is haunted and exactly what kinds of ghosts and spirits exist there. Includes a brief history of the building.

Occasionally schools would mark the day. In 1907, one teacher gave a Halloween Party for the senior class of the high school. “The rooms were artistically decorated with autumn leaves and pumpkins with candles in them. Large black cats had been cut out of paper and tacked around the room,” the paper described. All the students used sheets and pillow cases to dress as ghosts and a luncheon was served “at one large table, which had been decorated with autumn leaves and pumpkins, and the placards were water colors of witches, painted by the young teacher. The centerpiece was a large pumpkin from which red and white ribbons ran to each guest’s place, and by pulling these each had a souvenir of the evening.”

Today the prominent colors of Halloween are orange and black. However, a century ago red and white were most often used. This was likely due to focusing on Halloween as the day before All Saints Day. Red and white have long been adopted by the Christian faith: red representing the blood of Christ and white, the purity it brings.

Today many are suggesting that Halloween should be officially celebrated on the last Saturday of October so that trick or treating could be done during daylight hours. Halloween has certainly evolved over the years and likely will continue to do so.


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Weekly Journal-Miner, 11/1/1911; Pg. 4, Col. 3.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 11/8/1916; Pg. 6, Col. 1.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 11/5/1913; Pg. 2, Col. 4.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 11/3/1909 ; Pg. 8, Col. 1.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 10/23/1901; Pg. 3, Col. 2.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 11/6/1901; Pg. 2, Col. 6.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 11/6/1901; Pg. 2, Col. 6.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 11/6/1907; Pg. 5, Col. 1.

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