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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.

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

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

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

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

Soco Gap Dancers

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

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

Recent Items

Rickey Holden Interviews

These are four interviews conducted with Rickey Holden— dance caller, organizer, author, editor and publisher. He was co-author of The Contra Dance Book (1956) andInstant Hash (1962)… ...more

West Texas Square Dances - Index

This is the cover and index of the booklet published by Jimmy Clossin and Carl Hertzog, showing dances that were common to that region around 1950. The book offers a dictionary,… ...more

1954 National Square Dance program - Dallas

This is the program for the 3rd National Square Dance Convention, held April 8–10, 1954. ...more

Lines About Squares - Western Square Dancing

In this article, part of his long-running column, the author looks at the typical programs of Western square dancing in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He discusses the different kinds of… ...more

The Girl I Left Behind Me (clip) - Lee Bedford, Jr.

In his brief look at the development of singing calls, Tony Parkes cites the publication of this dance in 1928 as "the earliest description of a singing square I've found so far (in fairly… ...more