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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.

Soco Gap Dancers

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

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

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

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

Recent Items

Parisian Varieties Quadrille

Mid-19th century quadrille, five figures, with music including waltz, polka, and mazurka.Les Variétés ParisiennesA new Quadrille, composed by the "Société… ...more

Ladies to the Center

This short article by Texas dance historian Olcutt Sanders looks at the role played by women in that state's dance history. Sanders notes the early absence of women:

"A scarcity of woman… ...more

Waltz Quadrilles

This detailed booklet describes waltz quadrilles, a style of dance enjoyed by dancers in this Oklahoma City group. The author are careful to draw a distinction with traditional dances, and… ...more

Herb Greggerson bio

This profile of El Paso caller Herb Greggerson was written in 1946. It mentions Greggerson's Blue Bonnet Set heading off on their first US tour in 1939; this was after the team triumphed… ...more

Chain Lightning - Butch Nelson (clip)

Another example of Butch Nelson's calling, with fast-paced patter keeping dancers moving briskly. Again, the patter clearly shows the caller's western roots.

"And the coyotes howl and the… ...more