Putting Together a Vintage Halloween Party: Great-Grandma Used Dennison’s Bogie Books

Putting Together a Vintage Halloween Party: Use Dennison’s Bogie Books

Halloween parties in the United States became popular during the 1880s and 1890s, when they were held primarily as social events to bring young people together. The decorations used then were natural autumn objects like pumpkins, gourds, cornstalks, moss and dead branches. By 1910 however, several American and German manufacturers had started making products specifically for Halloween parties, such as pressed paper jack-o-lanterns, rattles, horns, figurines and paper decorations. The Dennison Paper Company easily transformed its existing line of gummed labels, greeting cards, tags, boxes, crepe paper, tissue paper and sealing wax into a wealth of holiday items.

When imports of German Halloween products were halted during the First World War, Dennison simply increased its output to fill the void. Since Halloween decorations were usually thrown out after the holiday—rather than saved like Christmas decorations—those original pieces are very rare today.

In order to advertise and sell its stock, Dennison issued its first “Bogie Book” catalog in 1909. It showed all of its products and how to decorate rooms with them. Three years later, in 1912, Dennison officially began issuing its annual Bogie Books in paper booklet format. The company produced one for every Halloween season thereafter until 1926. The small pamphlets (subtitled “Suggestions for Halloween”) contained 24 to 32 pages and measured 5 ½ inches by 8 ¼ inches. They sold for 5 cents each until 1921, when the price was increased to 10 cents. They were instant best-sellers in limited production runs.

Dennison’s Bogie Books included table decoration ideas.

The Instructions showed which items worked well with others.

Dennison’s Bogie Books also showed room decoration ideas.

In 1927, Dennison switched to other Halloween party magazines in various titles and formats and issued them sporadically until 1934. But the original 16 Bogie Books are the most collectible today. They captured the spirit of the season with vivid, colorful covers in stunning artistry. And they were filled with imaginative party ideas for both children and adults. In addition to costumes and table decorations, the Bogie Books explained how to make crepe paper flowers, nut cups, party favors, dance cards, score cards, fans, posters, centerpieces, noise-makers and baskets.

The 1912 Bogie Book sold for $885 in October 2011.

It included suggestions for supper parties and table seating.

Decorations were detailed for balconies, chandeliers, lamp posts, windows, ceilings, performance stages and even automobiles. Recitations, quotations, pantomimes and songs to use at the parties were included. Games (with extensive rules) and different types of dance moves were suggested. Helpful hints were also offered for getting a party “started” and for adding to the spirit of the occasion. And the books also contained ideas for charms and fortune telling events. Special sections were designed for teachers to use in classrooms and other sections suggested banquet ideas for crowds of 100 or more. Today, the pamphlets are a fantastic source for studying period clothing and styles as well as the hobbies and customs of the day.

The 1914 “Dennison’s Bogie Book” is a favorite among collectors. This one sold for $600 in 2010.

Food suggestions ran the course from desserts, cakes, cookies, donuts and punch as well as main dishes and finger foods. Because of their black color, licorice, chocolate and raisins were used often, as were autumn fruits and vegetables. It’s fun to note the differences in party foods from almost 100 years ago, particularly the absence of appetizers and dips.

For collectors of vintage Halloween decorations, the advertising pages for Dennison products in the back of the books are the most important. All of the party ideas in the Bogie Books included Dennison stock and even called out the individual inventory numbers. That information now helps identify the dates when certain pieces were first issued and allows provenance and age to be accurately determined for a variety of collectibles. Dennison sold heavy cardboard die cuts (which are the most sought-after today), napkins, crepe paper (plain, decorated or with borders), construction paper, place cards, invitations, festoons, streamers, masks, whistles, hats, tablecloths, silhouettes, paper plates, cups, gummed stickers, cake decorations, ice molds, bon bons, confetti and many other products.

The 1923 “Bogie Book” included detailed patterns for making “slip over” costumes from muslin, crepe paper, construction paper, festoons and other products they sold.

The earliest books (1912-1916) are the hardest to find and can command very high prices at auction, selling for $500 to $1,200. And only a handful of the 1909 catalogs even exist. The later editions are a bit easier to locate, but they can still bring $75 to $150 in good condition. Bramcost Publications began issuing modern reprints in 2009 and those can be found for $12 or less. They are a fun and inexpensive alternative for those who want to recreate a Halloween party from almost 100 years ago.

Liz Holderman is a Worthologist who specializes in collectible books.

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