Halloween A Century Ago

At 9 o’clock on Monday, October 25, 1920, the quiet lobby of the Montana Hotel in Anaconda became peopled with a crowd of strange beings. Fairies, fireflies, dancers, gnomes, tall cavaliers and ladies from a different time, soldiers, sailors, clowns and jesters all mingled together in a hearty good time. It was the opening of the social season and the initial event was the annual masque ball of the Anaconda Bachelor Maids.

Halloween celebrations a century ago centered around costume dances and parties. In Butte, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, an Irish fraternal organization, organized a costume ball which included fortune-telling, games, singing, and dancing. The YMCA held a similar “Halloween frolic” on a Friday night, and an open house for Butte’s young boys the following day. The facility was decorated to resemble an old barn, and one of the entertainments was a “mysterious run” which would provide thrills to all guests – perhaps a precursor to today’s haunted houses. Nearly every social and civic organization sponsored a party or dance that was attended by hundreds of guests.

The social pages of the Butte Miner and the Anaconda Standard contain notices of parties for children and adults, with elaborate decorations featuring witches, goblins, black cats and owls. In 1920, Halloween presented a season of themed parties, masked balls, and juvenile pranks. Newspaper accounts also tell of mischievous youngsters soaping the windows of houses and cars, causing considerable damage. Missing from the news was any mention of trick or treating. The custom did not became popular in America until the mid to late 1930s! Tricks and pranks were decidedly in the realm of mischievous youngsters.

~Kim


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