For your Halloween enjoyment, here’s a pressed cardboard (or “pulp”) lantern from the 1930s or 1940s. It’s 7 1/2 inches tall, and originally had a wire handle on top, plus tissue paper inserts in the eyes and mouth for maximum effect. Yes, it’s flammable, but nonetheless you were supposed to put your candle inside. Ours has lost some pieces, and is worn in some spots, but otherwise is in pretty good shape.

Scary Cat was donated by Jerry Titus in the 1970s. Sadly we did not get a story or history at the time of the donation, and I haven’t in this instance been able to track him (or her, I suppose) down to get more information. A stroll through the internet found other examples such as this guy (disclaimer: I don’t usually like to link to for-sale items, but since this one is already sold, I’m making an exception), and many similar Jack-o-Lanterns and the like, most dated 1930s-1940s; absent a maker’s mark, or a specific history for this item, that’s the best date for our kitty here. (The internet stroll also told me that this cat is sitting on a fence; I’d thought the stripes on the bottom were just, well, random stripes.) Titus is a County name, and while it’s possible this was purchased at an antique store in 1967, it’s also possible that this graced an upcounty home for many Halloweens in the mid 20th century. Any Titus relatives out there recognize this little cat?

As for our Halloween-related artifacts. . . other than greeting cards, this is about it. Our holiday collections are rather hit-or-miss: lots of Christmas, basically zero Chanukah; a small amount of Easter and Valentine’s Day, but no Thanksgiving; etcetera. Some of this is a function of changing tastes in decorations, but our modern “It’s A Holiday – Decorate The House and Yard Like There’s No Tomorrow!” schemes aren’t necessarily as recent as we may think, as this cat and his many internet friends attest. There is a wide variety of vintage Halloween decorations available to collectors, from garlands to noisemakers to lanterns. This site features some early patents, including a jack-o-lantern from 1888. So why don’t we have more holiday items in our collections here? Were previous curators uninterested, or was nothing offered? I’m not sure. But – hint, hint – we’d love to start filling in those holes.

P.S. This post serves as a discreet plug for an exhibit we have in development on yards. We’re looking for images of Montgomery County yards – big or small, farm or townhouse, old or modern – to use in our display in the spring of 2011. Like our artifact collections, our photo collections are thin when it comes to holiday celebrations. Have a favorite photo of your local yard decorated for a holiday – any holiday, in any decade? Send it in! Click here for more information, or send me an email or blog comment.

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