Carving up vegetables to light up and ward off evil spirits isn't new, it is a British tradition using turnip or rutabaga... pumpkin is much easier to carve with I suspect. But the tradition nevertheless continued until present day, with the standard grinning jack being the typical up until the 1990s.
But, in the more recent history of pumpkin carving, if the Pumpkin Master's website is to be believed, sometime over 60 years ago:
Paul Bardeen invented a pumpkin carving method using patterns and small saws. His children carved intricate pumpkins and carried them door-to-door to show the neighbors their creations. In 1986, as a tribute to their dad, the kids created a pumpkin carving kit to share with other families.
The company started selling those kits commercially sometime later and there are some amazing vintage kits from Pumpkin Masters that you can find sometimes on eBay or elsewhere.
This is the brand that has become rather ubiquitous in stores at that time of year and if you've ever bought a kit, you've likely got some Pumpkin Masters tools stored away somewhere.
Unfortunately, despite some great stencils that they created circa 1995-2005, the quality/inventiveness/difficulty of their stencils have declined over recent years. Here's hoping for another Xtreme Stencil set from them in the future!
Luckily, in this wondrous digital age, there are a huge number of places to get different stencils and lots of information on making your own stencils.
I'll post a little later on some of my favourite stencils!