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 The Farewell Ball June 3rd 1969 card provides a very interesting look at the evolution of the dance card. Very similar to the previous cards, it measures 11.5 x 9cm and lists the title page, orchestra, woman receiving, officer representative, social director, hostesses and committees. It has a white cardstock cover with blue ink and a blue cord. It also includes the Navy “Blue and Gold” song. What it doesn’t include, however, is a program of dances or even a space to write down dance partners. The point of this card is to provide a souvenir of the dance and provide information about it, but it no longer serves a way for women to write down the names of their partners.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 The cards from 1970, 1971 and 1972 are the same as the 1969 card. However, the 1971 card contains one change: the midshipman’s oath appears after the title page. The all have white cardstock covers, 11.5 x 9 cm, with navy blue ink and navy blue cords.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 The Farewell Ball, June 4th 1974 card presents another interesting change in the evolution of the dance card. The card no longer has a cord. The 11 x 9 cm card has a white cardstock cover with blue ink, but no cord with which a lady could attach it to her wrist. The cards from the 1975 and 1976 Farewell Balls have all the same internal elements, but measure 13 x 9 cm with a light blue cardstock cover printed in dark blue ink.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 The progression of the Naval Academy Farewell Ball dance cards shows the decreased emphasis on dance and the move from the dance card as a reminder of the gentleman a woman had promised to dance with to a souvenir and program for the ball. The earlier dance cards contain little information about the ball itself; they focus on the dances, listing the order, the type of dance and the name of the song. Slowly, information is added to the card. In the 1920s, there was a place to write down memories and draw the flag under which the two would meet. These additions keep the focus on the dancing and the use of the dance card as a reminder and as a memento. In the 1940s, the cards begin to list the woman receiving, the committee who planned the ball and other information not directly related to the dancing. Also, the dances are no longer identified by type or name, they are simply numbered. This shows another step away from the focus on dancing. At this stage, the cord also becomes purely decorative. The cords attached to these cards aren’t long enough to secure around a woman’s wrist; they simply add a bit of decoration to the card. By the 1969 and into the 1970s, the dance cards no longer provide space to write the dances. They have transformed into souvenirs from the ball, giving information about the ball and incorporating quotes, song lyrics and lists of the people involved.

Works Cited

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Aldrich, Elizabeth. From the Ballroom to Hell: Grace and Folly in Nineteenth-Century Dance. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1991.
The American Code of Manners: a study of the usages, laws and observances which govern intercourse in the best social circles, and of the principles which underlie them. New York: W. R. Andrews, 1880.
Eichler, Lillian. Book of Etiquette. Oyster Bay: Nelson Doubleday Inc., 1922.
Johnson, Sophia Orne. A Manual of Etiquette, with Hints on Politeness and Good Breeding. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1885.
Goucher College, Special Collections and Archives. Scrapbook Collection, Mary Lee Keith. Farewell Ball Dance Card, 1922.
The Nimitz Library, United States Naval Academy, Special Collections and Archives. Student Life, Dance Card Collection.

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