The Jack-o-Lantern at War: 1918




Jack o’ Lantern, high elf of Hallowe’en, is to be transformed by order of the food administration.

The merry twinkle of Jack o’ Lantern’s wide open eyes will be a trifle subdued this year. The gleam must come from a non-smoking candle with a regulated flame instead of the old flaring lights that made Jack a winking, blinking elf.

Big Mouth Barred.

And instead of the great, generous mouth, with its jagged teeth, that made the kiddies shiver with glee, the 1918 Jack o’ Lantern will smile properly from a neat buttonhole of a mouth.

It’s all because every pumpkin, whether it falls into the Jack o’ Lantern class or not, must eventually form “makings” for golden brown pies for the boys over there or for the home folks.

After your Jack o’ Lantern, with small, careful cutouts for features, has spent his little hour on the window sill, remove the candle, cut him into little bits, then boil him.

Here’s Sugarless Pie.

Now you are ready to make a pie.

And here, according to the food administration, is the proper sugarless way to proceed:

“With the mashed and strained pumpkin mix one-half cup of sorghum, one teaspoonful of cinnamon, two cups of milk, one-half teaspoonful each of ginger and salt and two eggs. Next make a wheatless crust of 1 1-2 cupfuls of rye flour, one-half cupful of barley or corn flour, water to make a dough, one-fourth to one-half cupful of fat and one-half teaspoonful salt.”

“Have fun with your pumpkins,” said Herbert Hoover, “but eat them afterward.”

Grand Forks [ND] Daily Herald 31 October 1918: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mr Herbert Hoover was, of course, later the President of the United States. At the time of this writing, he was head of the U.S. Food Administration, which administered food reserves, particularly for the troops and their allies overseas. There was rationing at home, hence the omission of sugar and wheat. “Meatless Mondays” and “Wheatless Wednesdays,” were two programmes for voluntary participation in rationing.

Mrs Daffodil might add that Mr Hoover sounds a bit of a spoil-sport. If the pumpkins were to be turned into pie, why could not the eyes and mouths be cut to regulation size and the scraps saved to be boiled?  Where is the Hallowe’en menace in a “neat buttonhole of a mouth?” “Small” and “Careful” are not adjectives associated with the holiday.  And why the fussy specifications about the  jack-o-lantern’s candle?   Requiring “a non-smoking candle with a regulated flame” smacks of an officious government interfering in the private pleasures of its citizens. It is this sort of thing that breeds Bolsheviks.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.



4 thoughts on “The Jack-o-Lantern at War: 1918

    1. chriswoodyard Post author

      It was, in fact, designed for scaring the young into early graves, apparently. Every year the papers published shockingly long lists of Halloween casualties, in the same way they did for Independence Day in the United States. There was definitely a “trickster” element to the holiday, which to-day seems to find its fullest expression in “extreme” haunted house attractions and amateur Hallowe’en decorations designed to be as grewsome as possible. One is uncertain whether stealing pumpkins, tipping outhouses, or playing ghost to panic the neighbourhood were the more reprehensible actions.
      With all best wishes for a safe and happy Hallowe’en,
      Mrs Daffodil

      Liked by 1 person


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s