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Cowboys' Christmas Ball - Anson, Texas

Poem written in 1890 describing the Cowboys' Christmas Ball in Anson, Texas. For more information about the author, see this website on cowboy poetry. The Ball continues, following the original rules requiring women to wear skirts and men to check their hats and spurs. Chittenden's poem was set to music and included in John Lomax's Cowboy Songs and…

Description of a Quadrille, 1870, West Virginia

Satirical description of a quadrille, from a West Virginia newspaper; no mention is made of a caller

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…

Square Dance in Haywood County, NC

Detailed look at western North Carolina, a region rich in square dance traditions including that of Sam Queen and the Soco Gap Square Dancers. Jamison starts his article with a look at the turn of the century house dances and "Shindigs" then surveys the grand hotels and the tourist trade. His survey continues through the post World War II era.

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,…

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…

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…

Frontier Dances - Bob Cook

A native of Colorado, Bob Cook's dancing experiences go back to the time when he was a seventh grader at the Cheyenne Mountain School. He was a member of the Cheyenne Mountain Dancers from 1939 to 1941. In this series of articles published Square Dancing magazine from May 1971 thrugh September 1972, Cook looks at a series of chapters that created…

History of Square Dancing - Ralph Page

Between 1972 and 1974, Ralph Page wrote a series of essays entitled A History of Square Dancing. For ease in downloading, we have collected them into "chapters" that group together similar topics. The essays were published in the magazine Square Dancing as follows:Dancing In New England 11/1972The Revolutionary Era 1/1973Direct Ancestors…

Square Dancing in the 1800s

Fred Feild is a long-time caller and square dance enthusiast; now living in Tucson, he was instrumental in creating the Chicago Barn Dance Company in the mid-1970s. In recent years, he has started looking through historical sources for contemporary accounts of square dancing, and he posts his findings on a Word Press blog. Generous in sharing his…

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At the Keith Ranch (1893)

This short story, published in 1893, focuses on events at a square dance at a Colorado ranch. Although the plot itself is melodramatic, the author includes helpful bits of information about the dancing, including various snippets of calls ( The Girl I Left Behind Me). Mention is made of the "caller-out," a job that rotated among different men. The…

The History of Square-Dancing - S. Foster Damon

The History of Square Dancing, published by S. Foster Damon in 1957, is one of the few books that presents a broad picture of the subject. The book was a reprint of his 1952 article published in the Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society.Dance caller and researcher Fred Feild summarizes Damon's main points about the development of squares…

Contemporary Accounts of Dance From the American West in the Nineteenth Century

Doctoral dissertation based on primary sources; includes a look at dances on the pioneer trails, in logging camps in mining camps, rural social life and urban social life.

From the author's introduction:

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This study originated with an attempt to establish evidence for a theory of how dance was an integral part of the growing society of…

The Lancers - Ralph Page's historical notes

In the pages of his Northern Junket magazine, caller and dance historian Ralph Page enjoyed sharing articles based on his dance research. He included a six-part series on the Lancers. California caller and choreographer Chris Page (no relation) created a highly personal index to some of his favorite pieces from the magazine, including links to this…

Haynes Family manuscript - Oregon

This manuscript of sixty-five dance tunes was handed down through several generations of the Haynes, Shuck, and Adams families who came West over the Oregon Trail from Ohio, Kentucky, Iowa and Missouri between 1847 and 1853. Many of the family members were musical, and over the years several people contributed tunes to the manuscript, from which…

Quadrille - J. Scott Skinner, 1905

The People’s Ball Room Guide, published by musician James Scott Skinner in 1905, is a description of 19th century ballroom dances.A website devoted to Skinner's work includes a series of videos illustrating quadrilles and Lancers set to Scottish tunes and danced in Scottish style.Skinner himself was taught to dance by William Scott; the two…

"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:…

Nineteenth Century Social Dance (article)

Library of Congress overview of dance history, including links to specific books in their collection.

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Quadrille - late 19th century

From a series of dances videotaped for the Library of Congress, illustrating different styles throughout several centuries of American dance.