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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.

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

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

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

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

Santa Monica 1950 - World's Largest Square Dance

At the time, it was the world's largest square dance event. Santa Monica, California, was celebrating its Diamond Jubilee in square dance style. Lloyd Shaw was invited to be the Grand… ...more

Soco Gap Dancers

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

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

Recent Items

Saturday Night Square Dance - Jim Boyd, 1949

"Saturday Night Square Dance" was released in 1949 as a Soundie; the footage included here is all that we have been able to locate. (We would appreciate information from anyone having a… ...more

North Carolina Cloggers

Clogging in square dancing has a long history, going back at least as far as Sam Queen's Soco Gap Dancers. It is a form of dance that deserves its own detailed site, but we are including a… ...more

Jubilee Promenaders 1

The dancers had received national acclaim as the Lake of the Ozarks Dancers in appearances on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour (see Related Item). Their fast tempo, fancy jig steps, and lively… ...more

Lancers, 5th figure - Wayside Inn, 1932

This home movie is one of eight reels filmed in the 1930s at the Wayside Inn, Sudbury, MA. (More information about these films is available here.) The Inn at the time was owned by Henry… ...more