This Is How Americans Celebrated Halloween In The Early 20th Century

By Jacob Shelton

Most people made their Halloween costumes by hand

While it's always been a little spooky and a lot of fun, Halloween hasn't always looked the way it does now. Dressing up and carving pumpkins has always been a part of the American tradition, but it's only recently that elaborate costumes, organized trick-or-treating, and haunted mazes have become a thing. There are a lot of different traditions that made up Halloween in the early 20th century, many of which began regionally but have since bled into the rest of the country. Some of them have only been slightly altered, while others have disappeared altogether. Let's get spooky. 

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Today, you can just pop on down to your local costume shop or Halloween store to buy whatever costume your heart desires, be it a sexy gremlin or a masked slasher. Until the late 1940s, however, pickings were decidedly slimmer. Leaving aside the fact that Halloween was still somewhere between Mardi Gras and Arbor Day on the list of significant holidays, there was a war on, for Pete's sake. They couldn't go around wasting valuable material so you could look like a dumb ghost. Rather than purchase a Halloween costume, trick-or-treaters had to create their own costumes out of whatever was handy, be it papier-mâché or muslin. Some of the earliest mass-produced costumes were made by companies like A.S. Fishbach and Ben Cooper.