Tanks For The Memories

I collect dance cards.  I consider them dainty reminders of daintier times and prettier customs.  Imagine one, dangling from the powdered wrist of a lovely, hopeful debutante as she and her partner waltzed, schottisched, galoped, did the polka, quadrille ("…change lobsters, and retire in same order"), foxtrot, tango, Black Bottom or the Lambeth Walk!

My collection contains 70-75 cards, in date ranging from 1875 ('First Annual Invitation Ball of the Clinton Coterie') to 1947 ('Adah H. Patterson Junior Guild Presents Barnyard Hop').  Materials range from wood and metal to shredded straw to plastic celluloid.  One has a tiny sword (a military ball at the El Conquistador Hotel, in Tucson, AZ).  One – handmade – is in the shape of a painter's palette.  One, from 1915, was held at the Carnival Palace in New Orleans, for the 'King of the Carnival'.  My cards range in price from $2 to $65.  But I've seen magnificent ones that cost over $400.  Oh, I could go on and on.  I love them all.

This evening I received my most recent purchase, see above.  Now.  I don't know about you, but to me nothing says Spring Cotillion like a turreted tank, guns ablazing, towering over a parapet, about to crush a duo of hapless Germans.  Well, consider it a sign of the times.  It took place almost exactly 7 months before the end of World War One, and it was held at Westpoint Military School.  The original owner of this card, a Miss Curtis, sat out only 9 of the 20 dances.  I doubt I would do as well.  Well done, Miss Curtis, well done.

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7 responses to “Tanks For The Memories

  1. Absolutely fascinating stuff. And, not at all my cup of tea (history, I mean), but I find myself enchanted nonetheless. Thank you for expanding my horizons!And, Zola, how happy you look now. Bravo for being a survivor.

  2. Aubrey, a world away from our own, in many ways as brutal, in others reminding us that beauty and gentility have a place in every day and age. Makes me want to put on a pretty dress!

  3. Wow. I'm not sure if that card would make me want to dance, exactly, but to each his or her own 😉 I am in awe of Miss Curtis's dancing. My own dance card would be pretty pathetic, I think!

  4. The pencil is normally attached to the cord. Quite often, however, age decides to detatch the pencil – for its own use, I suppose. As in this case – the pencil was gone, but I had to buy it anyway!
    And some, like the New Orleans one I meantion, are blank, sans cord AND pencil…but the titles and colors were so fabulous, again – I had to buy it anyway!

  5. This is brilliant! I hope you're going to post pics of your other dance cards. I love not just the phenomena of dance cards, but just the bizarreness of them. I concur–I suspect Miss Curtis did better than I could have. 11 out of 20 dances. I once wrote a story in which in a fit of jealousy, a young man ripped a young woman's dance card off her wrist. Is the modern equivalent the cell phone?

  6. Redz, I'll post a few of the brighter ones in the 'photos' section. That is, if I can decide on which ones!
    Also, on eBay now, there's a dance card made up of brass, pewter and gold – starting price is $495, Buy It Now price is $525. It's the real stuff, and staggeringly beautiful.

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