Halloween Brownies were well known in 1902. They were a hit at parties for children. Today, at least in the area I live, the only reference to Brownies, besides the food, of course, is the group of Girl Scouts, grades 2and 3. But that is not what this article is about.
"So what exactly is a Brownie as it applies to a Victorian Halloween" you ask? Palmer Cox, in his book The Brownies Their Book, describes them as such:
BROWNIES, like fairies and goblins, are imaginary little sprites, who are supposed to delight in harmless pranks and helpful deeds. They work and sport while weary households sleep, and never allow themselves to be seen by mortal eyes.
Even if you haven’t heard the term before, the decorations described below would be good for children to create. As for the “dancing Brownies,” I leave that up to you whether your children will find them as fascinating as did the children of 1902.
The following information is from Dainty Work for Dainty People, published by American Book and Bible House in 1902. It has been edited for use on this site.
Dainty Work for Dainty People, 1902, published by American Book and Bible House
This is the night when the "witches" are supposed to be out in large cities; while in the country, hallow e'en parties are the rule, where fortunes are told and fun had generally.
A Brownie Party is nice for hits night, when weird little brownies can be made with pins, peanuts and a little black paint, and used for favors. Peanut dolls also make nice gifts for a party of this kind and are made by string peanuts together for head, body, arms and legs, painting a face and dressing in tissue paper.
Peanuts may also be marked with black paint and make very solemn looking owls. These things scattered over the table add to the effect and to the fun. Jack-o'-lanterns made from pumpkins, should be used to light the room, and all the guests should be dressed as Brownies. Children on such occasions like to frolic in sheets and pillow cases, pull candy, pop corn, roast chestnuts, duck for apples, sail nut shells with fortune candles aboard, sink mud balls enclosing lover's initials, name apple seeds, etc.
For the entertainment of all, the Dancing Brownies, perhaps, produce the best fun. Two Brownies are cut from cardboard and gaily painted and decorated. The arms, legs, and shoulders should be put on loosely by a cord run through and a knot on each side. Tie a stout, black thread to one Brownie, who should in turn be tied about four or five inches from the other brownie and a long end left on either one. When it is desired to have them dance, tie one end to a table or chair leg a few inches from the floor, just high enough to allow the Brownies to stand. Take the other end of the thread and stand a short distance away. Then, by pulling gently on the string, the Brownies may be made to dance. As the black thread is invisible, it is a wonder how the dolls are made to dance. The thread is sometimes thrown over a curtain pole and the Brownies made to dance in front, while the person who pulls the thread is hidden back of it.
Imagine what your little ones could do with some peanuts in their shells, markers, paints, paper, tissue, and other craft items. I plan on doing this with my grandsons and see what they come up with.
If you didn't want to make your Halloween Brownies dance, they could be used as decorations for your table or windows.