Franck Antoine Bail (1858-1924) Carving the Pumpkin 1910
The Halloween Pumpkin: An American History on History.com
October 25, 2013 By Stephanie Butler
"For pottage & puddings & custards & pies,
Our pumpkins & parsnips are common supplies, We have pumpkins at morning & pumpkins at noon,
If it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon."
-Early American Pilgrim Verse, c 1633
"Modern Halloween comes from the Irish festival Samhain, an occasion that marked the passage from the summer harvest season to the dark of winter. Tradition dictated huge bonfires be built in fields, & it was believed that fairy spirits lurked in the shadows. To distract these spirits from settling into houses & farms, people would carve rudimentary faces into large turnips, & set candles inside. The turnip lanterns would rest along roadways & next to gates, to both light the way for travelers & caution any passing fairies against invading." (The original jack-o'-lanterns were carved from turnips, potatoes or beets.)
John Greenleaf Whittier, born in Massachusetts in 1807, wrote the poem "The Pumpkin" (1850):
Oh!—fruit loved of boyhood!—the old days recalling,
When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling!
When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin,
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!
"The celebration of Halloween in America didn’t take off until waves of immigrants from Ireland & Scotland arrived in the mid-1800s. Pumpkins are native to North America, so while it’s not known exactly when the first pumpkin was carved & lit, but mention of pumpkins as jack o’lanterns comes at around the same time. In 1866, the children’s magazine “Harper’s Young People” reported that “a great sacrifice of pumpkins” had been made that for that year’s Halloween celebrations."
Author of children's books Agnes Carr Sage, born March 17, 1854 in Brooklyn, New York, wrote, in the article, "Halloween Sports and Customs" in Harper's Young People (1885): "It is an ancient British custom to light great bonfires (Bone-fire to clear before Winter froze the ground) on Hallowe'en, and carry blazing fagots about on long poles; but in place of this, American boys delight in the funny grinning jack-o'-lanterns made of huge yellow pumpkins with a candle inside."