The Library of Congress THE LOC.GOV WISE GUIDE
HOME Explore New Worlds. Read. Baroque and Bernstein and Bojangles . . . Oh My! Masquerade! Paper Faces on Parade. The First Cruise to the Caribbean Look Who’s Turning 30! It May Be the Biggest Statue Ever Copyrighted Remembering 9/11
Masquerade! Paper Faces on Parade.

According to the National Retail Federation's Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, consumers are expected to spend more on Halloween in 2007 than year before, with the average person planning to spend $64.82 on the holiday compared to $59.06 one year ago. Total Halloween spending for 2007 is estimated to reach $5.07 billion.

Halloween Costume Party at Gates' Rooftop Garden / photo by Harry M. Rhoads. ca. 1920–1930 Alta Scarbrough's yard creations displayed in the yard of her daughter-in-law at the mouth of Rock Creek. 1992

The average person will spend $23.33 on Halloween costumes (including children's and pet's costumes), though young adults will spend far more. In fact, according to the survey, 18-to 24-year-olds plan to be the most festive, spending $34.06 on costumes. Last year's survey found top costumes for both children and adults to be pirates, cats, vampires and witches.

The tradition of dressing up is claimed to go back to Celtic celebration of Samhain, where Celts donned costumes in order to ward off evil spirits. These traditions came to America during the 19th century, when many Irish people emigrated to escape the potato famine. The commercialization of Halloween in America did not start until the 20th century, with mass-produced Halloween costumes not appearing in stores until the 1930s.

An article in the San Francisco Call, dated Oct. 31, 1909, offers insights for "misses" who wish to throw a successful Halloween party. The reporter suggests incorporating an amusing dance where the guests dress according to an Autumn theme.

"While it is comparatively easy for a properly built young person to appear as an ear of corn, it is rather difficult for her or him to assume the exact proportions of a tomato," said the reporter, who suggests that "a lettuce girl, with full shaded green skirts of crinkled paper and some gracefully arranged lettuce leaves for bodice and headdress is a most fascinating creature."

The reporter goes on to advise that girls select fruit and vegetable costumes that are pretty and becoming, while the boys, "with their customary gallantry, volunteer for the grotesque parts." Adding to the fun, there should also be a mixture of traditional Halloween characters: "Nothing could be more amusing than the pairing off of such an assemblage. Miss Lettuce and jack o' lantern dancing together, followed by the witch and the tomato boy, the grape girl and the owl, picturesque Miss Autumn Leaf and a jolly brownie, make up a procession of quaint contrasts."

This article is part of an online archive, "Chronicling American: Historic American Newspapers," which features newspapers dating from 1900 to 1910 from New York, Utah, California, Florida, Kentucky, Virginia and the District of Columbia. The online resource is sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program.

Find out more Halloween history by visiting the Today in History entry for Oct. 31. This presentation gathers content from the Library's American Memory collections to uncover what happened in American history for every day of a year.

A. Halloween Costume Party at Gates' Rooftop Garden / photo by Harry M. Rhoads. ca. 1920–1930. Denver Public Library. SUMMARY: A woman, possibly a Gates' employee, poses in a doorway with three children. They are all dressed in Halloween costumes. She wears a clown costume with a pointed hat and the three children also wear clown costumes. Two of the children wear pointed hats and a little girl wears a jester type hat. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: Rh-801. See Rights and Reproductions.

B. Alta Scarbrough's yard creations displayed in the yard of her daughter-in-law at the mouth of Rock Creek. 1992. American Folklife Center. Reproduction Information: Call No.: CRF-LE-C245-07