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Outdoors: Orange and black

Orange and black poison dart frog

It seems that the graphic artists who worked for the Dennison Paper Company in 1909 are responsible for the fact that orange and black are the “official colors” of Halloween.

Though superstitions pertaining to “All Hallowed Day Eve” date back thousands of years, in the United States, Halloween was not an occasion for partying until the 1850s.

Until the early 20th century, the costume parties were for adults and the decorations were just natural items: chrysanthemums, corn shocks, apples and maybe a pumpkin or two.

As Halloween parties became all the rage, the Dennison Company seized the opportunity to make a fortune by selling crepe paper Halloween decorations and party favors and printing special party invitations. 

Obviously, black would be an appropriate color for witches' hats, cats and bats.

And of the fall colors, orange seemed to provide the best bold, eye-catching contrast.

Back then, I don’t suppose they used the term “pop,” but the black/orange paring did.

It works in nature.

Paired black and orange is considered warning coloration.

It’s the opposite of camouflage. 

Conspicuous coloring warns a predator that an animal is unpalatable or poisonous.

Think of foul-tasting monarch butterflies and ladybugs.

Predators may eat one or two but quickly learn to avoid these orange and black insects.

In tropical areas, orange and black frogs and snakes often are poisonous.

You may read articles explaining all sorts of symbolic meaning to the orange and black of Halloween.

But know, it’s not folklore.

It’s color theory.

"Outdoors with Coggin Heeringa" can be heard every Wednesday on Classical IPR.