Lisa Morton has written several books on the history of Halloween. One aspect that fascinated her about this great holiday is the, now forgotten, practice of sending elaborately decorated cards for Halloween. At her website, lisamorton.com, she scanned most of her collection and has made them available (with commentary) to the public.
We spoke to Lisa about the lost art of Halloween cards and asked her what her favorite cards are.
Interview with Lisa Morton, Halloween Expert
How did the tradition of sending cards on Halloween originate? Why did it stop?
Lisa Morton: Back in the days before telephones (yes, there really were such days!), people stayed in touch via cards and letters. Postcards were a cheap and popular way to communicate, and they were produced by the thousands and in nearly every subject. There were probably around 3,000 different Halloween cards produced up until about 1920, when telephones came into popular usage throughout the U.S.
How did you get into collecting them and where did you find them?
Lisa Morton: When I was working on my first Halloween book (THE HALLOWEEN ENCYCLOPEDIA), I also had to provide illustrations for the book and the cards were both beautiful and in the public domain (since they were mostly produced prior to 1923, the public domain cut-off). I fell in love with the gorgeous, colorful, whimsical graphics and continued to collect them after I finished the book. Back in the early 2000s, Halloween collecting was still in its infancy and cards could be found
at antiques store, paper collectibles show, and ebay, and they were still relatively cheap. Now, however, the cards are often very expensive and more difficult to find.
John Winsch card from 1912
What are some of your favorite cards?
The king of postcard manufacturers was the John Winsch Company, and their Halloween cards are among the most dazzling. I also love the mischievous work Bernhardt Wall, whose cards mostly depict grinning, anthropomorphic pumpkin people and playful witches. It's also worth mentioning that there are some contemporary artists who produce Halloween postcards, often in limited editions; for example, I'm a big fan of the artist Matthew Kirscht, who even produces embossed and gilt cards.