As it were

Downtown was hub of Halloween 1913


It was one of those nights when it appeared that a good time was had by all. Halloween night, Oct. 31, fell on a Friday in 1913 and the air was cold and crisp. People of all ages across the city spent the evening celebrating in more or less typical ways. It had been a long and difficult year that had seen the flood of March 1913, and its great loss of life. Many people undoubtedly came out on Halloween night to put those events and the memory of them behind them.

Many of the ways people spent Halloween night one hundred years ago were similar to the ways we still celebrate. Today, Halloween is very much a holiday when younger children in costume go from house to house in their neighborhood announcing their intention to "trick or treat." And many children did just that in 1913.

There were a variety of other local and neighborhood gatherings as well. One local newspaper noted that a local group called the Friars "will entertain with a dance Friday evening at their log cabin north of the city." In addition that same newspaper reported that "Theodora Stone of Grandview will entertain with a children's party Friday evening, Chi Phi and Alpha Tau Omega fraternities will give dancing parties, Miss Norma Berry of West Fifth Avenue will give an evening party, and Miss Edna Campbell of Granville will entertain with a Halloween party. About ten young society people of this city will motor over to attend the affair."

There were other parties reported by other papers. "Residents of the Hilltop held a community celebration in honor of the formal opening of their new engine house. It was arranged by the Hilltop Improvement Association." Winners of the Association's annual pumpkin show were announced.

On the near north side of Columbus, a lot of activity was centered at the local settlement house. "The Godman Guild was the center of attraction and the Mecca for all of the people of that district Friday night. The evening was a festive one in celebration of the Halloween celebration, and there were all kinds of Bogies around to scare or amuse the young people."

"But while Jack O' Lanterns were shining in unexpected places, and apple parings were being thrown over the left shoulder by the girl who wanted to see the initial of her future husband; while boys were throwing corn, and girls with fancy masks were peeping out from hiding places, several hundred of the grown-ups were busy planning for the Saturday night start on the fund of $2,500 wanted for Guild work, and payment of some of its indebtedness."

In one significant way, Halloween in 1913 was different from the Halloween of today. In 1913, as they had for many years, most of the people who wanted to celebrate on Halloween night came to the center of downtown Columbus to do so.

A local paper reported what was to be seen on Halloween night in Columbus, Ohio. "For a few fleeting hours last night business was crowded off High Street and mirth was mistress of ceremonies. Those not in sympathy with the fun and frolic of Halloween soon found themselves out of place and added their mite to the gayety of the celebration by contributing their absence. Chief Carter's declaration that nothing but 'decent and proper jollification' would be permitted was generally complied with, without any apparent distraction from the pleasure of the evening."

"Crowds thronged back and forth and bombardments of noise and confetti joined the continuous merriment. ... Further down the street 'Napoleon Bonaparte' with familiar boots and chapeau strutted and posed until a mischievous urchin with masked face ran up from behind and tore his coat from his back. 'Theodore Roosevelt' led a chubby teddy bear through the crowd, blowing a red, white and blue horn. An inconsiderate youngster threw some confetti into the eyes of the teddy bear with such violence that a personal conflict was narrowly avoided."

"Two motor truckloads of cornstalks, pumpkins and forest leaves, under the skilled direction of Louis Morpurgo, proprietor, transformed the dining room of the Kaiserhof into a veritable fairyland, in which waiters were made up as various historical and comic characters. Throughout the evening merry diners came and went, and masked cabaret performers put on appropriate acts. A pet chicken belonging to Mr. Morpurgo took its place on top of the piano early in the evening and remained an apparently interested spectator to the merriment throughout the evening."

"At police headquarters many reports came in which kept the motorcycle squad busy but no very serious offenses were registered."

All in all it was a happy Halloween night in Columbus. And this was perhaps was just as well. On the following day local newspapers reported that a national income tax, put in place by a constitutional amendment would begin to be collected. The headline in a local paper read "Income Tax in Effect Today; Puzzle to All. Thousands of Questions Pour in on Treasury Officials and Department Admits Its Regulations Are Not All Perfect."

Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As it were column for ThisWeek News.