When I’m having trouble focusing on cataloging our collection, promoting our special events, or pondering how to keep historic house museums relevant in the 21st century, I like to take my mind off such these weighty topics by doing some reading. And as if I needed any more encouragement, recently the Metropolitan Museum of Art launched a new site that makes many of their exhibition and collections catalogs available online. I’ve been busy ogling the pictures in several of the catalogs from the Costume Institute’s exhibitions featuring eighteenth century clothing. I highly recommend “The Ceaseless Century: Three Hundred Years of Eighteenth-Century Costume” and “Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the Eighteenth Century.” And one of my favorite dresses of all time, an American roundgown from the 1770s, is featured in “Our New Clothes: Acquisitions of the 1990s.”
Silk damask round gown, made in America ca. 1775, from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
I have a busy day planned, but I may just have to make some time to start reading “The Eighteenth-Century Woman,” to learn more about the women who wore gowns like this…
Snap-Apple Night by Daniel Maclise, 1833.
Snap-Apple Night was a kind of Halloween celebration.
Since it’s October, our thoughts have turned to the annual Hammond-Harwood House Pumpkin Walk, which will take place on October 26 from 4-6pm. In preparation for our celebrations, former Marketing Coordinator Elisabeth Berman did a bit of research on the historical origins of Halloween…
Halloween has quite the spooky history. Also known as “All Hallow’s Eve,” the annual holiday dates back to the 16th century. The term is derived from the fact that, in Christian religions, November 1 and 2 are typically celebrated as All Saints Day and All Souls Day, respectively. These two days allowed people to honor saints and pray for the recently departed.
However, it was believed that the souls of those departed wandered the earth until All Saints Day. All Hallow’s Eve gave them one last chance to exact revenge on their enemies before moving on to the afterlife. How could Christians in the 16th century avoid being recognized by a dead soul they had wronged? Wear masks and costumes! This tradition has carried on to present day.
They may not have had Snickers bars back then, but trick-or-treating does have a meaningful past. On November 1, the late-medieval poor would go from door to door in a practice known as “souling.” They would receive food in return for their prayers for the dead. Jack-O-Lanterns served a purpose as well – they were originally turnips carved into lanterns as a way of paying respect to the souls held in purgatory.
Halloween certainly has a darker past than I imagined, and I will be sure to pay my respects this year while handing out candy! Have a safe and happy Halloween!