Harriett’s Halloween Party

Halloween-Ghost-GraphicsFairy0011How would a group of well-brought-up young people entertain themselves on Halloween 110 years ago? Annie Bidwell’s diary gives us a glimpse.

In 1905 Harriett Alexander came to Chico to live at Bidwell Mansion and attend Chico High School. She was fifteen years old. Although her home was in Oakland, Harriett had  been coming to Bidwell Mansion for lengthy visits since she was a baby. Her mother, Minnie Carroll Alexander, and her mother’s parents, the Carrolls of Sacramento, were old friends of the Bidwells.

Annie Bidwell enjoyed having young people around her, and liked to see them having a good time. In her diary for 1907 (when Harriett was 17) she reports on Harriett’s Halloween Party at the mansion.

Thurs., October 3l.
Harriett’s Halloween Party.
Bought $l0.00 candy & prizes for Harriett’s party this evening.
Very busy all day and evg. Very tired.
Harriett’s party this evg. from 8.30 to l2.l5 A.M. Guests – (30-),came disguised in sheets & white masks. I did not recognize one person. A merry time they had. After masks were removed & sheeting, very bright games were played to my great amusement and that of some others. Ten O’C – supper, in library. Very elaborate & good. A pumpkin near each end of table & an enormous one in middle, well lighted, & red, & low candles at each plate, lighted, set in apples, added to the merry making. No lights but from pumpkins when ghosts entered. Immense pumpkins everywhere & lights in some. Harriett’s idea & work. Isabell, [indecipherable] McGregor & others helped her. Mansion a bower for party.

Vintage-Jack-O-Lantern-Image-GraphicsFairy-653x1024The Butte Record for November 1st reported that “the mansion was profusely decorated with smilax and chrysanthemums, and each guest appeared attired in a sheet, in keeping with the traditions of the night.”

At 10 o’clock there was a grand march, followed by the unmasking of the guests, music and games, and supper at a long table set up in the library.  The next day Annie records that she was up at 6 a.m. to help clear away the results of the party. Plenty of sheets to pick up and fold, no doubt.

And that’s how to throw a Halloween party, turn-of-the-century style.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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