Clowns— Clowns have been popular Halloween figures ever since COSTUMING began to figure prominently in the holiday’s celebrations. Clowns—principally the “whiteface” comic figures typically found in circuses— bear some resemblance to MUMMING performers, as well as the HOBO (also a prominent Halloween figure). In the early part of the 20th century, clown costumes were home-made, featuring a jumpsuit with pompoms, a comic hat, and colorful or oversized shoes; the hobo-style clown might, however, be garbed with ragged clothing and suspenders. A made-up face, with white greasepaint, red nose, and exaggerated features, may or may not have been part of the costume. By the 1950s, as Halloween costuming became commercialized, popular television clowns including Bozo and Clarabell (from the Howdy Doody children’s show) became bestsellers for companies like Ben Cooper and Peter Puppet Playthings, Inc.
Clowns also provided the theme for Halloween PARTIES (especially those designed to resemble CARNIVALS) and performances, like the “Witch and Clown Drill” (with girls dressed as WITCHES and boys as clowns) listed in a 1927 Halloween booklet.
The Halloween Encyclopedia Second Edition written by Lisa Morton © 2011 Lisa Morton. All rights reserved