My Card Is Full: The Evolution of the Farewell Ball Dance Cards

By Hayes Smith
February 2012

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My Card Is Full: The Evolution of the Farewell Ball Dance Cards

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 It was also a way for young women to remember her engagements:

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 In the etiquette of the ballroom young ladies should be very careful to keep their promises to their various partners. Little books are furnished as memorizers, and the same honor is imperative here as in greater things. (American Code of Manners 43)

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 The dance card acted as a reminder of who she was supposed to dance with for each dance, which helped with confusion in promising multiple dances. The dance card also allowed a convenient excuse when a woman accidentally promised the same dance to two men; she could simply claim that her “programme had got into such a state of confusion” and refrain from offending either party involved (Aldrich 113). After the ball has ended, the dance card can serve as a memento of the event, “Each dance is entered on the program—and many a delightful memory is kept alive by glancing at these names days after the dance is held” (Eichler 97). In this way, the card acts as a reminder both at the ball and after the ball is finished.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Dance cards were predominantly used before the 20th century, but certain groups upheld tradition and used them much longer. As Eichler points out in 1922, “The dance program is rarely used now except at college dances, or army and navy dances. It has lost prestige with the passing of the old fashioned ball” (97).

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Sample dance card page with partners for five dances filled in, from the scrapbook of Mary Lee Keith (Class of 1924). Goucher College Scrapbook Collection.The Archives and Special Collections at the United States Naval Academy holds an extensive collection of cards from many different events. The Academy, with its emphasis on tradition, used dance cards at their Winter Hops, the Ring Dance and the Farewell Ball into the 1960s. The USNA Archives provides a wonderful example of the evolution of the dance card, through the cards they have from the Farewell Ball, spanning from 1893 to 1976.

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