Pitcher, German, c.1898-1934, by bequest of Nella Moss, 1936.4.1562.
Not all jack-o’-lanterns look as chipper as this one, and for good reason. The original Irish tradition of carving jack-o’-lanterns was meant to keep away the marauding spirit of Stingy Jack. Legend says that Stingy Jack asked the devil to have a drink with him. True to his nickname, Stingy Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink and convinced the devil to shape shift into a coin as payment. Instead of using the satanic coin as payment, Jack pocketed it where he also had a small silver cross. The cross prevented the devil from changing forms. Jack released the devil on the condition that when he died the devil would not take his soul. The devil begrudgingly agreed, but eventually got his revenge. When Stingy Jack died God would not take such a wretched being into heaven and the devil contractually could not take Jack to hell. So every Halloween, Stingy Jack miserably wanders the earth and can only be deterred from breaking and entering by placing jack-o’-lanterns around one’s house. In Ireland, these were made with native turnips and potatoes, but early Irish immigrants to America found pumpkins to be much better substitutes. Happy Halloween!