by Laine Farley
A special interest in my bookmark collection is for those that serve the dual purpose of greeting cards. As the greeting card industry developed, it was natural for similar themes and designs to be used for bookmarks. By far, the most common occasion was Christmas bookmarks, often with a calendar for the new year included, with Easter and Valentine bookmarks following not far behind. Halloween bookmarks, however, are rare. Their scarcity reflects the relatively short period when Halloween greeting cards were produced. The book The Romance of Greeting Cards, edited by edited by James D. Chamberlain, University Press of Cambridge, 1956, devotes a very short chapter to Halloween cards, noting on p. 109:
Hallowe’en cards came into being in 1908 at the beginning of the new era in cards and they sold fairly well until the thirties when the sending of cards for the occasion went into a decline from which it has never fully recovered.
From the beginning, the card designs were built around ghosts, witches, black cats, scarecrows, jack-o-lanterns, bats, and wishes for good luck and safety from all harm were the common verse themes. Bright yellow was the dominant color, with black, emblematical of the night and artistically effective, too, as its traveling companion and complement.
Examples of the first cards are few. The earliest Hallowe’en greeting the author has traced was a yellow paper card with a solid black background on which appeared the faint outline of a black cat and white-faced witch and the following doggerel rhyme:
The earliest ones in my collection are undated but probably from the 1920s-1930s based on the design.
Recently, I acquired a set of reproductions with graphics that appear to be from the same time period. These examples are small and a bit fuzzy, but one has a verse as follows:
When the Owl & Witch
to gather are seen,
There’s mischief brewing
Although more recent examples typically do not have verses or greetings, they do carry lively (or deadly?) graphics for the season. Some publishers feature Halloween related titles or images as well.
The back of this bookmark has a place for children (or even adults) to record their Halloween activities, thereby increasing the chance that the bookmark will be saved.
Of course, nowadays it is easy to find Halloween bookmarks. They feature the usual themes of witches, ghosts, skeletons, jack-o-lanterns, cats, bats and scarecrows, as well as literary and movie themes. It is possible to find those with vintage graphics, and even a few with actual greetings, although they mostly just have a wish for a Happy Halloween.
Besides ready-made designs, there are also printables including those that can be colored, and examples such as this one for making foldable corners.
Anyone can make clever bookmarks with some stiff colored paper (or even old file folders) adorned with stamps and stickers, as these from an office party with the theme “Spooky Books” illustrate.
Sending Halloween bookmarks as greeting cards is a practice that will probably not be resurrected. They still can be used for trick or treaters, parties, and decorations (one suggestion was to put them in potted plants). However they are used, they will continue to appeal to collectors who like to reflect the range of holidays and celebrations from this time of year.