Lots of folks watched my latest video on my Vimeo Channel. Not all of the costumes depicted were for Halloween. In fact many of them depicted theatrical performers but in other cases it just wasn’t clear why the person wore the outfit. So who’s responsible for Halloween dress-up? The roots of the tradition are centuries old. Masquerade balls, and fancy dress events were quite popular in the nineteenth century. By the end of the nineteenth century Caledonian Clubs of Scottish immigrants frequently held Halloween events, but by searching newspapers I found an interesting tidbit.
At the turn of the twentieth century, four-year old Helen Weyand of Philadelphia made the news. She’s quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer telling her mother that she wanted an original Halloween party; one where her friends dressed as characters. Helen creatively dressed herself as the newspaper, with actual Philadelphia Inquirer mastheads wrapped around her body. There is little mention of her friend’s attire, except two. One dressed as a miniature George Washington and the other as the “Yellow Kid,” a comic strip character from a strip known as Hogan’s Alley. In the comic strip this character wore a yellow nightshirt. It’s even possible that little Helen was a trend-setter.
All right…drum roll please. I’m going to list the top three vote-getting outfits.
Coming in third was the 1868 man in costume.
The man is possibly an entertainer named, G.L. Fox. He’s dressed as Humpty Dumpty. The costume was for a pantomime act that opened at the Olympic Theater in New York on March 10, 1868 and ran for more than a year. This photo was taken by J. Gurney & Sons. Credit: Library of Congress.
Second place winner is 1900-1920 image of the woman with the dog.
She’s a young girl dressed as a pierrot, a clown-like figure that dates back to the seventeenth century. You can spot this costume by the frilled collar, cone shaped hat and the large black pom-poms down the front. The dog is so cute! I think that’s why this image got so many votes…just about everyone mentioned the dog. Credit: The Library of Congress.
The winner by double the number of votes is the circa 1915 woman dressed like Humpty Dumpty, but don’t be fooled.She’s actually known as “The Human Roly Poly Dancing Dolly.” She was a theatrical specialty act. One can just imagine her rolling around the stage. Credit: Library of Congress.
In my opinion, one of the oddest pictures in the video is the one with the person dressed as a tree dated 1939. It got several comments but no votes
This depicts the costume prize winners at the Washington, D.C. Arts Club’s Bal Boheme on April 10, 1939. Rhode Island Senator Theodore Francis Green presented the awards. According to the Library of Congress caption: left to right, Most Original was Richard Hill as the trees and shrubs of Paris, Most Amusing was given to Samuel Staples as a Paris Stevedore while Marcia Evert and Parr Hanna won the Most Beautiful prize.
Thank you for voting!!