Laser artist and maker Mike Gould these past weeks has set up shop in the lobby of the JW Marriott Hotel in Grand Rapids, Mich., as part of the city’s three-week ArtPrize 2012 event. Mike received one of MAKE magazine’s editor’s choice awards during Maker Faire Detroit in July.
He exhibited his work in the Plaza in Henry Ford Museum. He brought with him and displayed some of the equipment he’s made and collected throughout his exploration of creating art with light. He also very generously shared with visitors his journey and love of the craft.
Visitors to Maker Faire Detroit were able to get their hands on some of Mike’s early DIY laser light equipment.
At ArtPrize 2012, Mike talks to daytime visitors to the JW Marriot Hotel, but starts his Stratus 10 exhibit – for obvious reasons - after sundown. The display is very visible from the outside, Mike said. “You can see it from across the river, from the walk bridge and when you’re driving by on the highway.”
I always enjoy the unique scent of Greenfield Village: the Model Ts, the trains, the farms, flowers and horses. But I especially delight in the aromas that seem to lead me through the village during Fall Flavor Weekends. As activities in the village celebrate food and flavors – there’s the extra-added bonus of some really wonderful smells, too.
I followed my nose to the cooking demonstrations at seven of the historic homes. During the weekends, the homes display many prepared period dishes, and each has one featured recipe printed on a card for visitors to take home.
This recipe card at Firestone Farmhouse calls for smaller squash – but the ladies at the farm supersized it with a beautiful Hubbard squash. The farm kitchen feeds all the workers throughout the farming seasons – not just during the Fall Flavor Weekends, so the women who cook there are accustomed to making large meals.
My next stop was the Fall Farmers Market situated in the Pavilion. Plants, produce, dairy items, meat, soaps, syrups, candy, kettle corn, fibers, herbs, pies and much, much more filled the open-air building.
Above, Laura Cuthbertson from Aunt Bea’s Place demonstrates spinning natural yarn at the Fall Farmers Market. It is the sheep farm’s first time participating in the event.
Doodle’s Sugarbush’s display had samples, samples and more samples. The Blanchard, Mich., maple syrup and confections’ company drew quite a crowd.
I didn’t know that a sugary tuberous root could be featured in so many delectable recipes until I read the product list for Detroit-based Sweet Potato Sensations.
There were handmade brooms, lovely and fragrant soaps, some charming little sculpted mushrooms and so many other curiosities and niceties to treat the senses.
After the market, I made my way around the village to see what else was cooking in the historic homes.
The presenters in small kitchen in the Adams Family Home were busy preparing the featured recipe for apple cake – following the same recipe card that visitors take home.
The 1800s recipe for the cake was published in a 1990 compilation: a reminder that good recipes stand the test of time.
Smothered pork was the featured fare at the Mattox Family Home. That recipe and the peach cobbler looked (and – no surprise - smelled) fantastic.
Next up was a walk to the Edison Homestead. The presenter there shared with guests the wonders of that (then) new kitchen staple: Crisco.
The featured recipe there is a bean soup. The presenter explained how the recipe would have been made in an 1800s kitchen, but also how the soup could easily be adapted using some of today’s convenience products – such as canned beans and tomatoes.
The Daggett Farmhouse is one of my favorite buildings in Greenfield Village. I love the simplicity of the 1750s house and the large fireplace in the center of the home.
This year’s featured recipe at the Daggett Farmhouse is a potato pudding. The rich but simple recipe is from The First American Cookbook, 1796.
After leaving the Daggett Farmhouse, I stopped by the Susquehanna Plantation to see what was cooking there.
The featured recipe is a baked shrimp dish, but when I was there, the ladies in the kitchen were working on dark baked biscuit, sharing with guests some of the challenges of baking over a fire.
I made my way back up to the Ford Home to see what was cooking and found a nice pumpkin fritter.
My last stop of the day was to get a closer look at the 1904 threshing machine in action. Ryan Spencer – the manager of Firestone Farm – shared some great details on the machine in a post last week.
A crowd gathered to see it in action. Next Saturday, visitors will get a chance to see some plowing with steam and horses.
The good news is that Fall Flavor Weekends is plural. Meaning, if you missed it last weekend, you’ll have another opportunity this weekend. Check out The Henry Ford website on the event to get the details.
If you’ve ever been to the Old Car Festival at Greenfield Village, you might be familiar with the 1920s Auto Touring exhibit. Since 2002, the exhibit has been a staple for the country’s longest-running antique car show, reminding guests what an event a “road trip” was in the early days of automobiles. To celebrate the exhibit’s 10th anniversary, roadside historian Daniel Hershberger has given the event a new twist, this time focusing on the evolution of auto touring in the early years of the 20th century, from 1914 to 1930.
I had a chance to talk to Dan last week about next weekend’s activities and there are some great features in store. Overall, the exhibit has expanded in its offerings. For some of the regular guests Dan sees year after year, he thinks they’ll really like what this year has to offer. An exhibit like this provides a different angle to Old Car Festival, because just as automobiles evolved, so did the motor camping industry.
For 2012, the exhibit is broken into four vignettes:
The Early Years
Take a look at a circa 1915 Model T five-passenger touring car outfitted with a lean-to tent.
Advent of the Trailer Era
A fully restored model of the Clare Trailer Company’s earliest offerings will not only be set up but guests can actually enter the trailer and take a look inside.
The Matured Fold-Out Tent Trailer
Historians and experts believe the golden age of motor camping to be the 1920s, with the peak being reached in 1927. Guests will be able to take a look at a restored 1927 Auto-Kamp fold-out tent trailer, made in Saginaw, Mich.
The End of an Era and the Birth of an Industry
A special addition this year to the exhibit, a Covered Wagon Company travel trailer prototype will be on loan from the Detroit Historical Society. The trailer, which hasn’t been on display in decades, is an important part in the evolution of auto touring as it essentially launched the modern trailer industry that we know today. Guests will learn about Arthur Sherman, the creator of the trailer, and his desire to create a camper that was easier to use for motorists.
If you’re curious to learn more about the evolution of auto touring, join us at Old Car Festival Sept. 8-9. The event is free with village admission.
Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford.
Last Saturday and Sunday was the second annual 1812 Muster at Greenfield Village, and it did not disappoint. Having enjoyed the event last year, we were eager to see what the second year brought.
For visitors familiar with the very large Civil War encampment and muster that is part of the Civil War Remembrance weekend, this event is on a smaller scale but still chock full of fun and information.
The Porches and Parlor district of the village was bustling with activity. The living quarters for the reenactors – aka tents – were set up on stretch of green between a few of the historic homes. Throughout the district, there were demonstrations and merchant tents that gave us a glimpse of life in the early 1800s.
We enjoyed visiting the merchant tents. The millinery was an active spot with many hats to try. There was a men’s hat maker, pewterer, a textiles’ seller and a wax portrait artist.
My six-year-old daughter Lillian was completely taken with the beautiful wax portraits displayed and made by Donna Weaver. Ms. Weaver gave Lillian a business card so we could look at some more of the portraits online. Throughout the day, Lillian clutched that card, calling it her “ticket” to the Internet. We’ve since visited and admired the work on the site three or four times.
We spent the most time in the surgeon’s tent. The presenter was so well informed and had a large display of instruments, tinctures and other treatments that would have been used during the War of 1812.
My children and others were eager to enlist and participate in the children’s recruitment.
After receiving their enlistment papers, new recruits were ordered to visit the doctor who would declare if they were fit for duty.
Once they passed medical inspection, recruits were issued their muskets and some instructions.
It was a perfect day to learn some early 19th-century military drills.
In addition to all the good stuff outside, the Luther Burbank Birthplace was repurposed into a display venue for some rarely seen artifacts of the era that are part of the collections at The Henry Ford.
Items displayed included muskets and military artifacts, clothing, needlepoint and artwork and other household items.
Rounding out events were lectures, period music, a fashion show and cooking demonstrations.
“Hip, Hip, Huzzah” echoed through the village with the annual World Tournament of Historic Base Ball. It was 1867 all over again as underhand pitches fairly met strikers at the plate, and gloveless fielders caught brown leather-covered balls.
The Saginaw Old Golds took home the trophy by winning the championship matchup, 33-12, over the strong-hitting Columbus Capitals. The annual tournament features Historic Base Ball played by the rules of 1867 as set down in Haney’s Base Ball Book of Reference. That same year, Detroit hosted 24 clubs in the World’s Base Ball Tournament.
Sixteen ball clubs from Michigan, Ohio and Indiana took turns in the field and with the bat in what proved to be an exciting two full days of base ball.
Since the balls are rubber that is wrapped in yarn and covered with leather, Saturday’s rain added some weight and some challenges. But the rain didn’t dampen the fun, as one player noted, “We were all playing with the same ball.” As much as the tournament is about base ball, it is about fun.
As well as team and player awards – a special award went to a dedicated fan, and the future of Historic Base Ball was recognized with cheers.
Award-winning teams and individuals take home trophies made in Greenfield Village’s Pottery Shop.
Although they didn’t receive trophies, the Welkin and the Bonneyville Millers clubs didn’t go home empty handed. The two teams each were presented a bag of peanuts: The same prize awarded in 1867 for the team with the least number of tournament wins.
By most accounts, this was the largest crowd to gather for the World Tournament of Historic Base Ball championship event. It’s the tournament’s 10th year at Greenfield Village.
It was competitive but gentlemanly play, and it was hard to find a player (or fan) who wasn’t smiling.
Last year I confessed my desire to be a historic reenactor. The blog post made the rounds in the encampment during the inaugural War of 1812 Muster in Greenfield Village, and at the event when I revealed in conversation that I was the "wannabe," many participants generously shared with me some of their stories and why they reenact. I got some great insight that isn’t often revealed when walking though as an observer at such an event. For visitors, the reenactors faithfully remain in character - teaching us through living history. And over the years, through the Civil War encampment, the dramatic performances at the village and museum, and now through this 1812 event, I know my family and I have learned so much. (This year’s War of 1812 Muster is Aug. 18-19.)
After last year's 1812 muster, I received a nice note from a woman who participated as part of the First Regiment Volunteers:
I am so glad you came (back) out to see the GFV 1812 premier! I had read your “Reenactor Wannabe” blog the week prior and wanted to share an insider’s view with you. I thought that perhaps you had considered mostly the more superficial aspects of it as a hobby.
I have re-enacted on the coattails of my husband these past 16 or so years. He deeply loves late 18th- and early 19th-century American history and has a passion for sharing it with others. Now our two pre-teen sons are also involved. I have been in two different groups and found them both to be wonderful communities. I say “community” as I really feel that when we come together, we recapture that sense of small town support and interdependence that goes way back and often feels to be missing today. This community will gently nudge you not to be “farby” (unauthentic). They will share their patterns, stories, accounts, antique finds, historical tidbits and camaraderie with you. They share the clothes off their backs (hand-me-downs for the kids or an extra cap when you forget to pack yours!). They teach you and your children period card games, how to use historic tools, play a fife, make lace or rush a chair for example. They work together on the demonstrations (like the kids’ recruiting station) and cooperate on projects such as making reproduction wooden boxes or shingles to give back to the host historic site. Community members reach out to each other in order to overcome - as you said - “the logistical feat it must take for those involved to be there.” They help each other put up tents or work to save them from rising flood waters. They potluck communal meals and share fire pits. I could go on. I have learned much and look forward to my weekends with my community of dear friends. Nothing else propels me to research historic recipes and then to eagerly iron clothes for a couple hours like a reenacting weekend on the horizon!
I was grateful for her perspective, and her note prompted me to dig a little deeper and learn more. During the Civil War Remembrance this year at Greenfield Village, I had the opportunity to talk with some of the reenactors while they were preparing their camps for the annual Memorial Day Weekend event. (Reenactment groups from near and far participate in the event. They register in advance and are required to meet certain authenticity guidelines to ensure historical accuracy is presented to visitors.)
“Can I fire a musket?” Ken Giolando told me was the first question his then 15-year-old son Tommy asked when in 2004 Ken proposed the idea of participating in Civil War reenactments.
And, since the answer was "Yes," Tommy's reply was an enthusiastic, “I’m in!”
Ken, his wife and children joined the 21st Michigan Reenactors, after years of wanting to reenact - but just not knowing how.
I met Ken and his family as they were setting up camp for the annual Civil War Remembrance at Greenfield Village. It was an unusual sight for me: The village filled with present-day trucks and trailers.
Patty Giorlando demonstrates a spinning wheel, a skill she recently acquired participating in reenactments.
As an annual attendee of the remembrance event, I’ve always marveled at the detailed camps built by reenactors. My appreciation of the event grew tenfold as I witnessed all of the effort the participants put forth sharing their love of history with those of us who walk through. I think it really hit home when I saw cannons and horses unloaded.
Since I continue to toy with the idea of participating as a reenactor some day, I asked Ken how he got involved in reenacting.
“I used to go to events and think, 'Oh, we can't do this.’” He suspected you had to have all kinds of money to buy "all the stuff," or the people who did it must be part of some special club or professionals or something.
“Then one year, I was organizing a living-history event in the city that I live," he said. He went online to find some Civil War reenactors and came across 21st Michigan. “They came out to the event and were great.” The members who participated learned of Ken’s interest and - just like that - they asked him if he wanted to join.
He said the group was so welcoming and encouraging – and getting involved was not as hard as he thought. “We had never really inquired because we just assumed." He said there's a good lesson in that: Do not assume.
Dave Tennies portrays Senator Jacob Howard, and Ken Giorlando is the Postmaster.
Ken portrays a Postmaster of the mid-19th century. He uses period correct stationary, stamps, pen and ink and a desk to accent his presentation. Letters written by the many members of the living history community are actually sent and picked up through his post office.
Ken and his family - like other reenactors - are motivated by their passion for history. The Giorlandos are very active and participate in 20 or more reenactment events each year. Some are events that the 21st Michigan puts on for its members – such as a Civil War-era Christmas gathering. He and his family pitch their tents and interact with the public at some events (like at Greenfield Village), and at others, they have an opportunity to stay in authentic period housing.
Ken, his wife, daughter and one son are members of the Civilian Contingency of the unit, while his other two boys are part of the Volunteer Infantry – and that’s where the musket firing come in.
“The 21st Michigan’s view is to get you going, get you in some clothes and have you come out to see what it’s all about. If you have a love and a passion for this – we want you to do it.” Ken said the group strives for authenticity, not wanting visitors to see anything farby. “We work hard at that and encourage each other to do the same.”
Ken explained to me the different levels of reenacting - mainstream, progressive and what he called hardcore. Mainstream reenacting is where there is a lot of interaction with the public. The more progressive events may include public interaction, but in an overall environment that offers greater authenticity. He said the hardcore events are where there is no public, and reenactors are doing it for their own experience – like going off into the woods, setting up camp and reenacting battles, etc.
Andy Assenmacher, also a member of the Civilian Contingency of the 21st Michigan, added that the group has all levels of reenactors, its members are very encouraging and don't criticize. “We have lots of families,” he said. They also freely pass around clothes for the children since they are quickly outgrown
Dave Tennies (pictured above with Ken) got involved in reenacting by default. His son wanted to be a reenactor, and he needed a parent. That was 15 years ago. His son isn’t reenacting anymore, but Dave portrays former Michigan Attorney General and eventual United States Senator, Jacob Howard. During the Civil War, Senator Howard worked closely with President Abraham Lincoln in drafting and passing the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery.
I talked with Lorna Paul, a long-time participant in the Civil War event at Greenfield Village. She's a member of the 4th Michigan Co A Voluntary Infantry Reenactors, which also has civilian and infantry contingents. Lorna was encouraging and explained to me how her involvement grew. Like Dave Tennies from the 21st Michigan, it was Lorna's children who prompted the family's involvement in reenacting years ago. Her children are now grown and don't participate often, but her two-year-old granddaughter enjoys accompanying her to events. Lorna is a seamstress, and she often makes and repairs period clothing for other reenactors. (I actually met quite a few reenactors what are able to incorporate their love for history with their work.)
Jeff Sinclair is a member of the 102 Colored Troops. He's been reenacting for 16 years with the 30-member group that includes story tellers who portray Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. Their group also has a display of medical supplies and implements, and they set up numerous educational boards.
Jeff said he had come back to the states after working overseas and was looking for some fellowship. In his work, he came across some people who were reenactors; he was intrigued so he tried it out. He said it's a great group of people and that participating at the event at Greenfield Village is one his favorites. "It's always so joyful," he said.
Larry O'Donnell acquired a pre-Civil War transit made by Henry Ware of Ohio, which seemed to prompt his involvement. He's been reenacting for five years and was at Greenfield Village as part of the 4th Texas. Larry portrays General Jeremy Gilmer who was a topographical engineer. Surveying equipment was an essential tool during the Civil War. It was common for troops to build a bridge, retreat across it, then blow it up so opposing troops couldn't follow. In real life, Larry is a member of the Michigan Society of Professional Surveyors, a group that has an educational component that allows Larry and other members to borrow historic equipment to share with the public at events. He had some of that equipment at the event, too.
Many reenactors I spoke with told me of the sense of community they experience at events, that they have gained cherished friendships and made priceless memories. I can say after talking to many, many friendly people who were so willing and eager to share with me their stories, I realized that although how they got involved in reenacting is unique to each person - the reason they got involved is universal: They all have a deep passion for history, want learn about it by experiencing it for themselves and are moved by the desire to share it with others.
With greater insight and appreciation, I'm looking forward to learning even more at the War of 1812 Muster and want to say on behalf of those of us who visit as observers and students:"Thank you!" Thank you to all you reenactors out there for sharing your knowledge, your energy, your artifacts, your time and your passion for history with so many strangers. You are an inspiration to many.
Kristine Hass is a mother of five and long-time member of The Henry Ford. She frequently blogs about coming events and visits to America’s Greatest History Attraction.
When we asked Wayne State University Professor of Industrial/Organizational Psychology Dr. Marcus Dickson to shed some light on the when the sport once known as base ball became known as baseball, here's what we learned:
There were, of course, many bat and ball games prior to our modern version, and they went by many names in both England and the U.S. (and elsewhere). Virtually all references to a game with "base" and "ball" in England, and almost all known 18th and early 19th century references in the U.S., refer to the game as "base-ball". For example, the famous 1791 ban on game playing that threatened the windows of the Meeting House in Pittsfield, Mass., says "no person or inhabitant of said Town, shall be permitted to play at any game called Wicket, Cricket, Base-Ball, Bat-Ball, Football, Cat, Fives, or any other games played with Ball, within the Distance of eighty yards from said Meeting House."
By the late 1830s and into the 1840s, "base ball" had begun to replace "base-ball." Interestingly enough, the Knickerbocker rules of 1845 and the amendments from 1854 do not include either version of the word -- they simply refer to "the playing rules for 1854", etc. But the rules amended for 1857 do explicitly refer to "base ball." Nothing other than simple changes in type-setting convention seems to have driven the change, as far as I can tell (as an analog, we no longer use "&c", but instead use "etc.", for no particular reason), and in many cases the decision on what form of the word to use seems not to have been made by the authors, but by the typesetters and their chosen convention.
Just for fun, the convention changed again (after "base-ball" had become "base ball"), and by the mid-late 19th century (late 1870s, early 1880s), the word in the U.S. had again become "base-ball", and according to Dickson's (no relation) Baseball Dictionary (a major source for much of this essay), in 1896 the U.S. Government Printing Office specified that the word should be spelled with a hyphen. Again, no reason for the change is given or evident.
However, by the time the U.S. Government took action (no surprise here), the field was shifting again, and The New York Times had explicitly changed its style guide away from "base-ball" to "baseball" in 1884. As always, no reason other than common usage is given.
Of course, these practices overlapped in time, and you can find the word "baseball" (combined, no hyphen) in print as early as 1858 (though not at all common, and actually as early as the 1830s - though that is believed to be a misprint). You can find "base ball" in some circles into the 1900s (again, not at all common). So there are periods of overlap, and some periods of pretty common usage, and 1867 is square in the middle of a period in which "base ball" was the common spelling. However, I don't think that they ever got as worked up about it as we do today, in our efforts to be accurate. Yes, it was clearly "base ball" in 1867, but any person reading "base-ball" or "baseball" at that time would have known what was intended. In our efforts to highlight the game's history, we emphasize the two-word spelling.
That's Marcus Dickson, playing catcher for the Lah-De-Dahs.
When I saw the photo of the President of the United States sitting on the Rosa Parks Bus in Henry Ford Museum – like many - I was struck by the profundity of the image. President Barack Obama visited the museum during a private event a month ago. During his visit, White House photographer Pete Souza Tweeted the above image with this caption:
“I just sat in there for a moment and pondered the courage and tenacity that is part of our very recent history but is also part of that long line of folks who sometimes are nameless, oftentimes didn’t make the history books, but who constantly insisted on their dignity, their share of the American dream.” - President Barack Obama, April 18, 2012 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
As the photo of the president was making the rounds in the social sphere (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), many observant commentors noted that they thought Mrs. Parks sat on the other side of the aisle. She did. This diagram from the National Archives shows that her seat was across the aisle from the where the president sat.
The presenters at The Henry Ford knowledgeably point out the actual seat to visitors - who are welcome to sit on the bus. I've watched some eagerly slide right into the spot she sat, while others, like me, don’t feel quite as bold. Mrs. Parks’ personal civil disobedience makes the seat seem a bit like hallowed ground to me. I will say - while sitting on the bus and listening to the recording of Mrs. Parks' tell the events of that day in 1955 - that quiet moment in history really comes alive.
If you’ve ever traveled through With Liberty and Justice for All – the permanent exhibit at the museum that includes the bus – you can’t help but be reminded of the long line of people who stood up (or sat down) for freedom in this country starting from its very founding.
The photo above shows the camp cot and chest used by George Washington when he was commander of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.
Visitors can get up close and see the rocker in which President Abraham Lincoln sat when he was assassinated on April 14, 1865, while watching Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre in Washington, DC.
Of course there are more non-presidential items in that exhibit, but I found myself prompted to investigate some of the other items that are part of The Henry Ford's collections specifically because of their relationship to past presidents.
There are five presidential limousines in which many presidents sat. There are photographs of presidents sitting such as Abraham Lincoln reading a book to his son Tad, President Warren G. Harding and family sharing a dining table with the Vagabonds* on a 1921 camping trip, and my personal favorite is this one of President and Mrs. Herbert Hoover at the California Pacific International Exposition, San Diego, 1935. (Is he sleeping?) Whatever they are sitting in, I want one.
There are letters to and from some of the 44 men who have held the office - so in writing letters (maybe not reading) I can assume they were seated as well.
All sitting aside, there are also archived collections of presidential bumper stickers and banners, buttons and ribbons marking campaigns, elections and celebrating inaugurations (you can see some of these on The Henry Ford's Online Collections site).
There gifts given by and to presidents or items used by presidents while in office or at home.
Examples include the above Galvanometer used to receive Queen Victoria's message to President James Buchanan over the first transatlantic cable in August 1858, or the newly acquired portable outdoor kitchen once owned by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
I’m sure some artifacts from President Obama’s time in office will eventually make it into an exhibit somewhere in The Henry Ford (some election and inaugural memorabilia are already part of the collections). But for me - as a fan of The Henry Ford - it was especially poignant to see the county’s current (sitting) president seated in that particular artifact. It's a perfect example of how the institution uniquely gives visitors the opportunity to not only look at some of our nation's treasures from the outside, but to climb right in, take a seat and experience history from the inside.
* Between 1916 and 1924, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, and John Burroughs, calling themselves the Four Vagabonds, embarked on a series of camping trips.
Kristine Hass is a blogger and long-time member of The Henry Ford.
Every winter, Firestone farmers work hard preserving meats from our December butchering. Hams, bacon and fatback are all cured using a process that would have been very familiar to the Firestones in 1885.
Every day, Firestone farmers rub these cuts of meat with a mixture of salt, sugar and various spices. The salt dehydrates the meat, while sugar prevents it from getting too tough and the spices help to give the meat a nice flavor. It takes several weeks for larger cuts of meat like hams to finish curing. Once a week, old cure is removed from the meat and it is replaced with fresh cure.
Once the meat is cured, it is wrapped in cheesecloth sacks and hung in the cold room located in Firestone Farm’s cellar.
Near the meat are several other foods that were preserved last year, including dried chili peppers, pickles and crocks of sauerkraut as well as jars of tomatoes, pickled green beans, applesauce and more.
When you visit from April through November, make sure to check out the Firestone home's cellar and cold room - you'll be sure to notice our cured meat hanging from the ceiling in our cold room...and as the year progresses and the time for butchering once again approaches, there will be very little cured meat left hanging in cheesecloth.
When it comes to Halloween history, domestic life curator Jeanine Head Miller and creative programs senior manager Jim Johnson really know their stuff! Read on for lots of little-known facts about the origins of what has become one of America's most popular holidays.
Immigrants who came to America brought their folk traditions and religious beliefs with them to the New World. Folk superstitions of the British Isles, particularly the Celts, converged with observances of the Catholic Church and traditional American harvest celebrations into a "witches brew" of traditions that created the American holiday of Halloween.
By the 1890s, Halloween was increasingly celebrated in America, as articles in magazines and newspapers helped popularize and spread Halloween traditions to a national audience. While the origins of Halloween were rooted in superstition and fortune telling, the holiday had become a night of mystery and innocent fun.
The first Halloween gatherings were designed as matchmaking parties for young people, with games to “predict” matrimonial futures and ample opportunity for innocent flirtation. By the 1910s, other adults and children had joined in the fun of Halloween parties and the practice of donning Halloween costumes gained popularity.
When postcards caught the public’s fancy during the early 1900s, people enjoyed sending colorful Halloween greetings to their family and friends. As the 20th century progressed, civic organizations increasingly promoted Halloween as an event for all. Many communities began to host public celebrations that included festivals, parties and costumed parades.
The Henry Ford is home to quite a collection of Halloween items, including several Dennison's Bogie Books, on which we have based our Hallowe'en in Greenfield Village artwork over the past several years; these were essentially advertising catalogs for the Denison Paper Company, which exists now as Avery Dennison (the label and office products company).
The Denison Paper Company specialized in paper party goods, particularly crêpe paper, and their Bogie Books were developed as a vehicle to sell everything from Halloween costumes to decor.
The books were published from 1912-1926, except for 1918, when Halloween was essentially cancelled that year due to the severe and quite deadly flu pandemic - no one held parties or went trick-or-treating to avoid further spreading flu germs. Dennison's Bogie Books began at a cost of five cents in 1912 and were priced at ten cents by 1926; the next year, they changed formats and eventually stopped selling Halloween-only guides by the 1930s.
We also recently added a set of 1920s-era Halloween decorations to our collections, which were made by the Beistle Company in Pennsylvania and include invitations, lampshades, placecards, candle holders, party picks, nut cups and fortunes that were given to partygoers.
Finally, you may have wondered: Why exactly do we spell Hallowe'en that way?
When the Christian church began to expand its influences, the focus of these old pagan rituals was re-associated with All Saints' or Hallows' Day. The night before this feast became known as All Hallows' Even, which was eventually abbreviated to Hallowe'en - and this spelling was common well into the 1930s.