Tradition of Dance Cards

Decades ago the best place to meet other young people in an area was at a dance. Of course, there were plenty of adults to watch that the young people behaved.

Some of the ladies were very popular and all the fellows wanted dance with those girls. To make it fair to the ladies and the fellows, women 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.

Many a popular girl who might have many people asking her to dance she could simply say that he dance card was full and any polite gentleman would have to conceded that he wasn’t going to dance with her that night.

This practice started in 1700s and becomes very fancy . An example of a 1850 dance card has a mother-of-pearl cover with sterling silver filigree and “pages” made of ivory! This method helped people who really wanted to dance could do so without constantly stopping to find a new partner.

Many individuals held onto these dance cards and there just might souvenirs of dances with your family heirlooms. They remained popular into the 20th century – 1910s-1940s. By the 1950s dance cards were very rarely used.

Photo: 1880s lady filling out her dance card.

Related Blogs:

Sock Hops

Scandalized Dances of the 1910s

Slang for the 1930s

< Return To Blog I have one of my Grandma's dance card from the 1930s. Every dance was with Grandpa! They must have been dating at the time.
Sara N Martin 19/08/22

Such a great family heirloom !!
alice 19/08/22

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