Dance Cards

This is an activity once very acceptable and now long forgotten – using dance cards. Young people before there was acceptable individual dating, socialized in groups sponsored by older adult friends, family relatives or parents. Men and ladies were able to socialize at dances, to mingle, with everyone watching of course. It became acceptable for the use of dance cards held by the ladies to keep track of which young man had the next dance.

Ladies could jot down the names of their would-be partners in order, usually using a very discreet little pencil. At very formal events the order of the dances was laid out in the card (usually it was more like a booklet). This way you’d know who waltz #3 was reserved for and who was planned for the 2-step. Sometimes the songs were laid out as well, making it even easier to remember who was set to dance when.

For the unattached woman who might have many people asking her to dance she could simply say that her dance card was full and any polite gentleman would have to concede that he wasn’t going to dance with her that night.

The dance card could be a simple small sheet of paper or a wealthy lady might have a special container, such as a small case or the pages concealed in ivory covered or silver case. The card had a pencil attached, but in case it did not many young women were advised to carry little pencils in cases to their dances. The whole idea of dance cards relieved some of the pressure of finding a dance partner and meant that people who really wanted to dance could do so without constantly stopping to find a new partner.

Many ladies held onto their dances for decades, even after marriage, a souvenir of a more carefree time of their lives. The practice of using dance cards goes back to the 1700s, all during the 1800s and into the early 1900s to 1910s. With the more carefree, roaring twenties, dances cards were not used as much. For very special dances, such cards would still be used even into the 1950s.

Photo: Dance card case in silver and a simple Dance card with a pencil.

Related Blogs:

Scandalized Dances of the 1910s

The Stroll Dance of the 1950s

Ancestors’ Social Life of the 1950s

< Return To Blog I have Grandma's dance card from the early 1930s. Every dance had Grandpa's name next to it!
Sara N Martin 25/02/22

How wonderful !!!!
alice 25/02/22

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