Halloween History in Newsprint

From the shrouded mists of history, the mysterious Samhain (pronounced “sow-wen”) is an ancient Celtic end-of-summer or beginning-of-winter festival where Halloween finds its origins. In the early newspapers of Davenport, readers read about this curious holiday intertwined with Hallowe’en on October 31st and the Christian holy day “All Saints Day” on November 1st.

In the pages of The Daily Times and The Morning Democrat from the 1860s, Davenporters learned that Halloween came from Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. People celebrated by having a large bonfire Coel Coeth. They believed the veil between the spirit and the living worlds were at their thinnest, so they performed rituals that would honor their ancestors.

In the following decades, the papers covered the history of Halloween with brief articles. The local journalists reported more than just the history of this tradition, but they also informed the citizens about all the events the contemporary people were involved in, including parties, mischievous acts and more.

The people of 1934 were celebrating Halloween in a “traditional manner” with parties. In the article below, there are a number of fêtes hosted by a variety of groups and individuals.

“Hallowe’en Celebrated in Traditional Manner with Numerous Parties,” The Daily Times (Davenport, IA), October 31, 1934, page 6.

As Halloween has been celebrated over the years in Davenport so has a history of mischief and mayhem also ensued. In this 1902, the articles shares “Hallowe’en Events” that include new ways of celebrating and police force at the ready for troublemakers.

“Hallowe’en Events,” The Daily Times (Davenport, IA), Oct. 28, 1902, page 3.
VM89-002297 from 1990-11: Youngsters in costume for Halloween dance at J.B. Young School held on October 25, 1948.

Featured above are a few photographs from our collection. They showcase a few different types of celebration held in Davenport and Scott County by the city’s youth. Both feature aspect of Halloween that current viewers can identify.

A sampling of a few more articles published in Davenport newspapers in the 1950s are evidence of the continued fascination with Halloween and its history.

(posted by Kathryn)


“Ancient Irish Religion.” Davenport Democrat and Leader (Davenport, IA), May 5, 1890, page 2.

“Every Woman’s Exchange.” Democrat and Times (Davenport, IA), Oct. 2, 1955, page 38.

“Goblins’ll Get You If you Don’t Watch Out.” Morning Democrat (Davenport, IA), Oct. 31, 1956, page 1.

“Hallowe’en.” Daily Davenport Democrat (Davenport, IA), Oct. 31, 1867, page 1.

“Halloween.” The Morning Democrat (Davenport, IA), Nov. 2, 1868, 4.

“Halloween.” The Davenport Democrat Gazette (Davenport, IA), Oct. 30, 1888, page 1.

“Hallowe’en Celebrated in Traditional Manner with Numerous Parties,” The Daily Times (Davenport, IA), October 31, 1934, page 6.

“Halloween Boasts Long History as Festival in Christian, Pagan Lands. ” Democrat and Times (Davenport, IA), Oct. 26, 1952, page 22.

“Hallowe’en Events.” The Daily Times (Davenport, IA), Oct. 28, 1902, page 3.

The Daily Times (Davenport, IA), Oct. 31, 1888, page 4.

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