About

Square Dance History Project

Square dancing has been an integral part of American social life for centuries. Traditional square dance was vital for generations of Americans, especially in rural communities; in the post-World War II era, modern square dance similarly enjoyed participants numbering in the millions.

Despite its popularity, the history of square dance has not been well documented. Scores of books explain specific figures and calls, but there is no current source that offers a detailed discussion of the development of this form of American social dance. We hope this site helps to fill that need.

Featured Items

Princess Elizabeth square dancing - 1951

This photograph of then Princess Elizabeth square dancing took place during a visit to Canada in 1951. The press coverage helped spur the rapid growth of square dancing in that… ...more

Golden State Round Up 1964

Grand march at the Golden State Round Up, Oakland, CA, 1964. Each row is 4 squares, and there are about 50 rows That's 200 squares, or 1600 dancers. The event featured live music, with an 11… ...more

Schlitz beer ad, 1950

Full page ad for Schlitz beer that appeared in Newsweek magazine, August 21, 1950, attesting to the popularity of square dance in popular culture. Modern Western square dancers were not… ...more

Doonesbury - square dance

...in which Zonker, a character in Garry Trudeau's comic strip Doonesbury, presents a common view of one social activity... This "Doonesbury Flashback" appeared March 20, 2012, a reprint… ...more

Soco Gap Dancers

Photograph of the Soco Gap Dancers, North Carolina ...more

Old Folks' Frolic

This is a photograph from a news story in the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times of April 7, 1942. Caption: "These lively square dancers and other oldsters performing yesterday brought a… ...more

Cheyenne Mountain Dancers in DC (thumbnail)

This is a smaller version of the photograph. If you want a significantly larger file that can show faces clearly, click here. Identifications of the dancers are with the larger photo. ...more

Recent Items

Square Dance Institute - Rickey Holden, 1950

Syllabus of a workshop led by Holden in Massachusetts in 1950, introducing Texas style square dancing to New England dancers. In addition to notes on figures and styling, this handout… ...more

Square Dance Lessons - Doc Alumbaugh

A series of photographs with text illustrating basic square dance figures. This set, incomplete at the moment, appeared in a Rochester, New York, newspaper in 1950; Alumbaugh led a series of… ...more

Dancing with Style - Lloyd Shaw

Lloyd Shaw's Cheyenne Mountain Dancers took the country by storm on their many cross-country trips; their stylish dancing, and Shaw's ideas on the subject, influenced subsequent generations… ...more

Bar Nothin' Squares - record ad

This ad for Bar Nothin' Squares, the live album recorded with Bud Udick calling, proclaims proudly, "DON'T USE MONOTONOUS RECORDS WHERE ALL THE COUPLES DO THE SAME THING." It's an early… ...more