These delightful little 1940s gems showed up in our archive this week. Yes, they are our newest dance card additions!
What’s a Dance Card?
In the bygone days of formal courtship, dance cards played a large role in matching young couples. Dance cards were used to record and “reserve” dances between members of the opposite sex. The dance cards noted which songs were to be played and in what order. A man, or a woman, could then request a partner to dance during different songs with them. At the end of the evening, the dance card would be filled with the names of people who the student had danced with – or at least the people that had promised to dance with a student. A peek inside this dance card, from a 1926 junior prom (pictured next page), gives us an idea of what a dance card would have looked like by the end of the evening. If these dance cards are to be believed, there were some exciting people who showed up at OSU’s dances including Marie Antoinette, Marie Curie, Pochantas…
The dance cards themselves ranged from simple scraps of papers to the elaborate pamphlets. Often, they would come attached with little pencils so that students could easily “pencil” themselves into a certain dance slot. String or ribbon would also be attached to the dance card so that it could be worn around one’s wrist whilst dancing. The oldest cards in the University Archives date from the late 1890s – these are mainly from military balls. Dance cards really became popular at OSU in the early 1900s, when Americans experienced a ballroom craze. Young couples flocked to dance halls to learn the foxtrot, waltz, and two step.
Many of these dances were held at the MU – and students went all out to decorate it. For a Hawaiian themed dance in the 1950s, big glass tanks were brought in and filled with hundreds of gold fish. In 1951, the MU transformed was into the merry land of OZ. Students constructed miniature cities and towns for the enjoyment of their classmates. Instead of the Emerald City, students were invited into the Orange City – and were invited to view the world through these Orange Color glasses, which doubled as a dance card. Gradually, though, dance cards lost their edge and weren’t cool. By the 1960s, they were gradually made to commemorate dances given by fraternities and sororities. The last dance card was made in 1967.
Thanks to former student workers Kelsey and Ingrid Ockert for providing all these fabulous dance cards details! If you want to learn more about dance cards see more photos, check out the “Shall We Dance” set.