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Halloween Noisemakers

Eye of newt, and toe of frog, Wool of bat, and tongue of dog, Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting, Lizard's leg, and owlet's wing, For a charm of powerful trouble, Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

--William Shakespeare Witches in Macbeth

About 2,000 years ago in the area of the world that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, lived a group of people called the Celts. The Celts' lives revolved around growing their food, and considered the end of the year to be the end of the harvest season. So, they celebrated new year's eve each year on October 31st with a festival called "Samhain," named after their Lord of the Dead (also known as the Lord of Darkness). Samhain (pronounced 'sow-in') was presided over by Celtic priests called Druids.







Back then, winter was the time of year associated with human death. The Celts believed that on the night that marked the end of summer and the beginning of winter, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead blurred allowing ghosts of the dead to return to earth. Celts thought that the presence of the ghosts made it easier for the Druids, their priests, to predict the future. These predictions were an important source of comfort and direction for the Celts during their long, dark, frightening winters.







To celebrate Samhain, the Druids built huge sacred bonfires around which the Celts gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to their ancient gods. During the celebration, the Celts dressed up in costumes consisting of animal heads and skins and tried to tell each other's fortunes.







The Celts eventually were conquered by the Romans, and by about the year 43 AD two Roman festivals were combined with the Celtic Samhain festival. The first Roman festival was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of "bobbing" for apples practiced today on Halloween.







By 800 AD, the influence of Christianity spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1st as All Saints' Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. The combined and updated celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints' Day) and the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.







From www.blackdog.net







Halloween, as a commonly celebrated US event, truly came into its own in the very early 1920s. Parties then were primarily for adults, with guests settling in to play mahjong, bridge or other games. Tables and walls would be decorated with a wide array of Halloween-themed items, really setting the party's mood. The games; winners would be given prizes to take home, like candy containers, lanterns or noisemakers. Only later did trick or treating come into vogue, with the holiday becoming then more firmly oriented toward children.



Halloween is the quintessential American holiday, although many of the most prized items today were manufactured in Germany. After World War I, Germany was devastated by the follies of their own foreign policy but hampered in its recovery efforts by the Versailles Treaty. Forced to pay reparations to the victorious allies for the devastation of WWI, an outlet earlier used assumed greater importance. Several American discount-merchandising magnates like Frank W. Woolworth and Sebastian S. Kresge strongly encouraged German artisans at this time to use their creative expertise to craft unique and wondrous items for export to the vast and growing American holiday market. What many consider to be the zenith of German Halloween production in terms of variety and design is from 1919 until 1935, when the expansive tendencies of the new German Reich brought this kind of trade to a close, not to resume until after the partition in the late 1940s. We shouldn't think of the German production of Halloween memorabilia from this early era in modern terms. Many, if not all, of the lanterns, candy containers and figurals were made in homes or very small firms, from either a fixed design or a mold, and all hand decorated. The overall quantity of items produced was quite small given the conditions present at the time of their creation. Tin noisemakers of an astonishing variety and ingenuity were made by a number of American firms. Among the most sought after tin items are those made by Bugle Toy, a company about which little is known. Other manufacturers included Chein, Kirchhof and T. Cohn. You can find tambourines, clangers, rattlers, ratchets and so on. Earlier tin items will have sculpted wooden handles, with later items or versions having plastic handles. From www.halloweencollector.com



Halloween noisemakers were once an essential part of Halloween, first in the early twentieth century when pranking was popular, then in the latter half when trick or treating had largely replaced pranking. During the pranking period, noisemakers were often homemade and designed to startle unsuspecting neighbors; probably the most popular noisemakers at this time were the ticktack and the rattletrap or horse fiddle (now commonly known as the rachet). When trick or treating became popular, noisemakers largely ceased being homemade and were mass-produced in a variety of styles, nearly all featuring colorful graphics. The earliest noisemakers were produced in Germany and were usually rattletraps of wood, often featuring a small composition Halloween character perched atop the noisemaker. Later the toys were manufactured in the U.S., usually made of tin and wood and later tin and plastic and produced almost entirely by four companies: J. Chein, T. Cohn, U.S. Metal Toy and especially Kirchhof. Noisemakers included rattletraps or ratchets (in square, round and oval shapes), bells, whistles, "frying pan" clangers, rattles (in both round and mallet styles), tambourines, clickers or "crickets" (which were often a traditional toad shape with Halloween graphics applied to the existing form), squeakers and horns (including "blow-outs"). From The Halloween Encyclopedia by Lisa Morton































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U.S. Metal witch w/wooden handle 5 1/2" x 3" identified on front