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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

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

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

Schlitz beer ad, 1950

Full page ad for Schlitz beer that appeared in Newsweek magazine, August 21, 1950, attesting to the popularity of square dance in popular culture. Modern Western square dancers were not… ...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

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

Recent Items

Yee Haw! A Curious Stroll Down Square Dancing’s Memory Lane

A quirky and informative movie of how square dancing has been portrayed in historical, non-theatrical motion pictures aggregated from The Internet Archive. The collection illustrates some of… ...more

Karl Byarski - Michigan fiddle and dance recordings

Paul Gifford is a researcher and musician with a particular focus on tradition Michigan fiddling. He writes:---I put up a large collection of home recordings of fiddling made by Karl… ...more

Ralph Piper - Teaching the Waltz

This is a handout by caller Ralph Piper for use at a class during the American Squares week at Camp Ihduhapi, MN, in 1953. He provides a brief description of different styles of waltz, a… ...more

African-American quadrille, 1914

SIlent movie footage from 1914 showing African-American dancers in square formation. A comment on a YouTube posting of the same clip says, "That band in the background was possibly Sid… ...more

Monterey Polka Quadrille

The Monterey Polka Quadrilles by Charles Durang (1848) (Finale [Figure 5] - Colonel May)Reconstructed by Richard Powers (1983)Music by Fleeting Moments Waltz & Quickstep Orchestra… ...more