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Standard Club Quadrille (clip) - Benjamin Lovett

Benjamin Lovett, a New England dancing master, was hired by Henry Ford and relocated from Massachusetts to Michigan. He recorded numerous albums with the Henry Ford Orchestra, as well as authoring Good Morning, Ford's country dance book.

Western Square Dances at Fox Creek, Colorado (ca. 1880-1930)

Article based on conversations with Bessie Stafford from the San Luis Valley, western Colorado.

"In these early days, the dances were held outside on the hard dirt, the music being supplied by local people, and the dances were called by local neighbors. ... The early dances were all-night affairs and the waltzes, polkas, schottisches, and other…

West Coast Blues - Blind Blake

There were hundreds of 78 rpm records with dance calls released in the 1920s and 1930s; this clip from Blind Blake's "West Coast Blues" is one example. Other African Americans callers who appear on 78s are Sam Jones, who recorded in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1924 (Billed as Stovepipe No. 1), Jim Baxter, an African American Cherokee guitar player from…

"Dancing to the Music: Domestic Square Dances and Community in Southcentral Kentucky (1880-1940)"

This detailed examination of the role of square dances in south central Kentucky is written by a folklorist, who based his findings on interviews with 20 musicians, dancers, and callers in that region. (Another look at Kentucky dancing, by researcher LeeEllen Friedland in the late 1970s, can be found here.)In his introduction, Feintuch writes:…

Henry Ford and Benjamin Lovett

Dave Taylor and Al Brundage called a dance in Lovett Hall in Dearborn, Michigan, around 1980. This article is Taylor's effort to tell some of the story of that venue.

[Editor's note: some of the information presented in this article is disputed by other sources, but we do want to make this perspective available, especially for the first-hand…

Edson H. Cole - website

In her 1939 Folk Songs of Old New England, Eloise Hubbard Linscott writes, "Edson H. Cole of Freedom, New Hampshire, has been fiddler, caller, and dancing master for more than 30 years. When he was a boy he was sent to Boston to study the violin but he had acquired his taste for music and his prompting from his uncle, Jim Cole, famous in the…

Edson Cole - Lancers Quadrille

Edson Cole was a New Hampshire fiddler and dancing master in the early part of the 1900s. Here, from a 78rpm recording, he is directing the changes for the Lancers. This site also includes the recording of Cole fiddling and calling for the Grand Chain.

Grand Square - Edson Cole

This dance starts with the Grand Square figure, along with other calls common to the 5th figure of the Lancers.Edson Cole was a fiddler and dancing master from Freedom, NH. He was documentedby Eloise Hubbard Linscott in her 1939 book, Folk Songs of Old New England. This 78 rpm recording was made available to Dudley Laufman, who released it with…

American Country Dancing on Colorado's West Slope

The article is based on oral history collected in 1979, though no footnotes or direct quotations are included. Instead, it is a generalized summary of the author's findings.

"Depending on the orchestra, both "country" (squares, polkas, schottische, etc.) and "city" (ballroom) dancing were popular around the turn of the century. Among the local,…

Devils Dream (clip) - Ernest Legg & Kessinger Brothers

Ernest Legg (1904-1970) was from Charleston, WV (Kanawha County) Kessinger Brothers were fiddler Clark Kessinger (1896-1975) and his nephew, guitar player Luches Kessinger (1906-1944) "Devil’s Dream" (Brunswick 256) was recorded in February 1928 in Ashland, KY

Virginia square dance, 1925, silent movie

This silent movie footage, created by Fox News, shows dancers and fiddlers recorded in an outdoor setting in Quitman [sic], Virginia. We cannot identify this location since it does not show up on current maps.

Origin of Appalachian Square Dance

Thurston rejects the notion that Appalachian squares did not originate from American Indian dances nor were they independently created. He concludes that they came from Europe, particular from the British Isles and even more particularly from Ireland. He demonstrates a strong connection between the structure of typical Appalachian squares with that…

Texas Cowboys - dance poems and lore

A collection of pieces related to square dance in southwest cowboy culture, published in 1925

Cowboy Dance (1923 article)

The Cowboy Dance

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Kentucky Set Running - 1914 firsthand account

After graduation from Vassar and a summer holiday with family, Marguerite Butler, at age 22, headed for Pine Mountain Settlement School in a remote area of eastern Kentucky to try to make some satisfactory contribution to a 1914 world where few such opportunities were allowed for women. A few nights after her arrival at the school, folks gathered…

Adirondack Square Dancing

The author describes her experiences traditional square dancing in the Adirondacks from 1918 to 1965, when she began modern squares. This story appeared in the final edition of Ralph Page's Northern Junket magazine.She describes how, as a 19-year-old school teacher (1933), she boarded with a family who had a dance at their house each Saturday…

Henry Ford’s Dance Revival and Fiddle Contests:
Myth and Reality

Square dance enthusiasts generally know something of the important role played by Henry Ford in encouraging an American square dance revival. This lengthy article by Paul M. Gifford examines this story in more detail and provides a more nuanced view than is commonly presented of Ford's actions and motivations.

"Barn Dances with Calls"

Article published in The Old-Time Herald (Volume 7, Number 8) discussing what can be learned from a careful study of old dance records. Includes a discography.

Farmhouse Fiddlers: Music & Dance Traditional in the Rural Midwest

This is an excerpt from a detailed and loving look at what the author terms "house-party music." His focus is Wisconsin, and he based the book on interviews with nearly 100 musicians and dancers. Profusely illustrated with photographs and quotations from the interviews, all carefully cited in the appendices.An early section describes "the pioneer…