Before Trick or Treating became popular in the 1930s, Halloween was about parties, games, spooky stories, and mischief. Many of the cards I have in my collection interpret superstitions that revolved around young people magically discerning who they will marry in the future. Some women looked into a mirror with a lit candle at midnight on Halloween to catch a glimpse of their intended. Others divined the first letter of their future mate’s name by the shape of a long peel shaved from an apple.
My cards also reflect the pranks and mischief that were an important part of the holiday. But what I love most is the iconography: the old-world witches, ghosts, bats, Jack-O’-Lanterns, black cats, etc. In the era I collect there aren’t any cards with vampires, mummies, or Frankenstein’s monster. These creatures, though born in history and literature much earlier, wouldn’t become part of Halloween until the Universal movies of the 1930s.
There probably won’t be Trick or Treating this year due to Coronavirus. Instead, Halloween 2020 will likely resemble the holiday interpreted in my cards. It may be more about spooky stories, games, mischief, and little bit of old-world magic – my favorite! Happy Halloween!
Curator of Collections
We have thousands of objects in our collection, so it is not surprising that things occasionally get misidentified. It turned out that we do not have as many opium pipes as we thought we did. Here are a few examples of pipes in our collection.
|Chinese water pipe, c. 1850-1870|
Tobacco, except for snuff, was made illegal during the Ming and early Qing Dynasties in the early 17th century. Even though the penalty for breaking the law was harsh, people of all classes still indulged in the practice and tobacco was an important part of social gatherings and entertainment. Water pipes were expensive and were used as decoration when not in use. This type of pipe is often mistaken for an opium pipe, but it was used for smoking tobacco. Many historic photographs of opium dens show opium pipes along with water pipes, which leads to the confusion.
|Chinese opium pipe|
This is a Chinese opium pipe made of bamboo. Opium smoking was an accepted social practice in 19th century China. The Chinese who came to California during the Gold Rush brought recreational opium smoking with them. This pipe is missing a bowl, which would have been attached to the metal fitting on top of the pipe, called the saddle. Smoking opium is different than smoking tobacco and required several tools and a lot of practice. That is why most opium smokers preferred opium dens, where attendants would prepare the pipes for them.
The opium was first heated over a lamp and shaped with a needle into a small pill, called chandu. The pill was placed in the bowl on the pipe’s saddle and heated by the lamp. Once the opium simmered, the smoker inhaled the fumes. Smoking opium was usually practiced lying down, because it was the most comfortable position to hold the pipe over the lamp. Opium pipes were long since space was needed between the smoker and the heat source.
|Chinese long-stem tobacco pipe, c. 1875|
This is a Chinese long-stem tobacco pipe that dates to around 1875. The length of the pipe stem affected the taste. The longer the stem the milder the taste.
|Japanese Kiseru tobacco pipe, Natamame style|
This is a Japanese Kiseru tobacco pipe. Kiseru were made from metal or a combination of metal and wood or bamboo and came in various styles. This one is the Natamame. It is flat to fit easily in the belt of the kimono. This type of pipe has been used in Japan since the 16th century when tobacco was introduced by Portuguese traders. A small amount of shredded tobacco is placed in the tiny bowl at the tip of the pipe. It is enough for a few puffs before the ashes are dumped out, and a fresh supply is added.
|Tyrolean pipe, c. 1907-1927|
This pipe is called the “Tyrolean” for Tyrol, the Austrian and Italian region in the Alps. It is sometimes called the Jaeger pipe, the wine pipe, or the German hunter pipe. This style pipe has a large bowl or reservoir called the abguss, used to hold juices and tar to improve the fragrance and flavor of the tobacco. This style was popular in Central Europe since the 18th century and the one in our collection dates to 1907-1927.
|Punch pipe, c. 1850-1900|
This is a tiny figural clay pipe c. 1850-1900 that portrays Punch, one of the characters of the traditional puppet show Punch and Judy. Pipes representing political figures, animals, occupations, or other symbols were popular during this time-period. Clay was a common and inexpensive material for tobacco pipes. These pipes were fragile, and their long stems broke easily. This one was made in a casting mold.
|Plains Indians style "peace pipe," c. 1900-1940|
This is a Plains Indians style “peace pipe” with a pipestone carved bowl and wooden stem c. 1900-1940. It is not an original sacred pipe, but one made for sale. Traditionally ceremonial pipes were smoked to offer prayers or to seal a treaty.
|Sea snail shell pipe, c. 1850|
Pipes have become objects of great creativity and ingenuity. This one was made around 1850 out of a polished sea snail shell giving a broader meaning to the old saying “smoke 'em if you got 'em.”
What amusements were available to a miner during the Gold Rush? What did they have to look forward to after the backbreaking work of mining a claim? The circus! Saloons and music were common forms of entertainments, but circuses arrived early and returned annually. These shows started in the 1850s and continued into the 20th century.
The first circuses started in America in the late 18th century. These were small European endeavors with acrobatics, trick riding, and clowns. In 1825, showman Joshua Purdy Brown, started the first real American circus.
When public amusements were banned in Wilmington, Delaware during the Second Great Awakening, Brown erected a “pavilion circus” outside the city limits, starting America’s tradition of canvas, big top circuses. With expansion moving westward, circuses did as well.
|Placer Herald, June 10, 1853|
The Placer Herald announced the arrival of Lee & Marshall’s National Circus and Hippodrome on June 10th, 1853. Lee and Marshall were operating a primarily equestrian exhibition out of Sacramento. These early gold rush circuses relied on show drama and equestrian skills.
Articles reference a dedicated “Circus Lot” in Auburn that was used for shows. It was located behind the Methodist Church.
A variety of shows continued to rotate through Auburn, typically June through September. In 1856, Rowe & Co.’s Circus arrived with Adonis, the dancing horse, and Mr. R. Wills, the Wizard Bugler.
Dan Rice’s Great Show stopped in 1860. Rice would go on to become the most famous circus clown of the 19th century, and even ran for president in 1868.
While early shows primarily utilized horses, elephants and other exotic animals became more prevalent with the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. The railroad made it easier and less expensive to ship larger shows with a greater variety of animals.
Wisconsin showman Dan Castello took his circus from Omaha to California on the newly completed railroad in May 1869. He arrived in Auburn in September, and his whole season was immensely profitable. Castello would convince P.T. Barnum to join the venture a year later and the circus eventually became the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus—The Greatest Show on Earth.
|Placer Herald, September 18, 1869|
By this point, the railroad and the circus became synonymous in America.
The Great New York and New Orleans Zoological Equestrian Exposition set up in Auburn on July 25, 1873. The show boasted a variety of animals including zebras, kangaroos, gorillas, and a drove of Bactrian camels.
These large circuses were more extravagant. In 1877, the Grand Trans-Continental Tour of Forepaugh’s Aggregation was the most elaborate to date. Forepaugh featured the “only living male hippopotamus, or river horse, in America,” as well as lions, tigers, bears, a rhinoceros, and a “magnificent museum of wonders.”
|Placer Herald, August 25, 1877|
The arrival of the circus was usually well received, though the occasional complaint appeared in the local paper about the quality of the animals, acrobatics, or conduct of the performers.
The yearly arrival and departure of summer circuses continued into the 20th century until the fair became a more popular local attraction.
Our interpretive projects look a lot different that usual this year. With our museums closed we have finally realized an opportunity to prioritize getting content online and for those of you keeping track at home, since March we have published seventy-two virtual history projects.
You may now take a virtual walking tour of Dutch Flat or Auburn and see historic photos associated with the buildings while you journey. There are grounds tours of the Gold Rush Museum and the Bernhard Museum. Soon, there will also be grounds tours for the Griffith Quarry Park and the Foresthill Divide Museum. Kasia has produced twenty-three artifact highlights and has many more on the horizon.
One of the great things about these is that we can feature things that may not be in display condition or that didn’t quite fit into one of the themes of our brick and mortar museums. Even thought they are virtual, these have the effect of bringing the object so much closer to the viewer than we usually are able and the Bernhard Ring and the 1910 Wedding Cake Topper are good examples of how special a small object can become when given a chance to really see it.
History projects have explored many things including Rattlesnake Dick, the Hidden Treasure Mine, Newcastle, the Hawver Cave, the Lincoln Highway, and the geologic beginnings of Placer County. With our Living History and Gold Rush Programs unfortunately on pause, we are also looking for ways to reach students where they are through online content.
Through it all, we are learning a lot - both about the history of Placer County as well as what works and what doesn’t in developing these projects. The bulk of the research comes from the Archive and Research Center and there is an exciting new venture for this facility, as well. In the next couple of months we are hoping to launch our catalog online where at least some of our records will finally be searchable to the distance researcher. Stay tuned for this and in the meantime, don’t hesitate to let us know if you have any questions, thoughts, or suggestions for projects we should explore.
President, Placer County Historical SocietyGreetings,
I hope everyone is staying in and staying well. These certainly are challenging times. So many of us are missing usual routines and our volunteer work. We can only hope we can see an end in sight. There is hardly anything happening at the Historical Society but I have a few things to share.
Karri Samson, John Knox, and I are working on some additional plaques for buildings in Auburn. We are working on 805 Lincoln, 835 Lincoln, 922 Lincoln, 928 Lincoln, 823 Lincoln, and 1590 Lincoln. If anyone knows the owners of the above buildings, please let me know to save the time tracking them down. We always need the owner’s permission to place a plaque on the building.
Also, the replacement for the Charbonneau plaque in the Fire House Park in Old Town should be coming soon. The wording on the plaque was incorrect and we are replacing it. We are also involved with E Clampus Vitus in installing a plaque for Emily Casement, the “Fire Queen,” in the same park. That one is on track for the Fall.
|Proof for Emily Casement Plaque for Fire House Park |
We don’t currently have any general dinner meetings planned for the near future. This too, like so many things, is on hold.
A special note, Betty Samson, a Society member for many years just celebrated her 95th birthday! We wish her all the best and miss seeing her at the dinner meetings.
April McDonald-Loomis, President
Calendar of Events
If you have a question about meetings for a specific historical organization going into September or October, please contact them directly.
Colfax Area Historical Society
Jay MacIntyre, President
Donner Summit Historical Society
Foresthill Divide Historical Society
Fruitvale School Hall Community Association
Gold Country Medical History Museum
Golden Drift Historical Society
Historical Advisory Board
Joss House Museum and Chinese History Center
Lincoln Area Archives Museum
Loomis Basin Historical Society
Maidu Museum & Historic Site
The Museum of Sierra Ski History and 1960 Winter Olympics
Native Sons of the Golden West Parlor #59
Newcastle Portuguese Hall Association
North Lake Tahoe Historical Society
Old Town Auburn Preservation Society
Placer County Genealogical Society
Placer County Historical Society
Placer County Museums Docent Guild
Rocklin Historical Society
Roseville Fire Museum
Roseville Historical Society