When George Drake (Law1905) attended the first annual charity ball in the university’s Armory building on Feb. 3, 1905, he carried a red, heart-shaped dance card to record his partners’ names for each dance.
He carried other bright-colored and uniquely designed dance cards for several other events, too, including a reception for then-CU President Baker in the university gymnasium Oct. 10, 1902, and a Friday-night Halloween dance for Pi Beta Phi on Oct. 31, 1902.
Quickly scribbled names or a clear “X” for skipped waltzes or two-steps appeared on dozens of dance cards throughout his college career, carefully preserved in a scrapbook now housed in the CU Heritage Center.
Dance cards were common on college campuses into the mid-1900s. Many variations of the cards have been donated to the Heritage Center over the years.
“Some are handmade with newsprint and drawn title pages, while others have elaborately engraved metal covers or moving components,” said Mona Lambrecht, Heritage Center curator. “Ephemeral in nature, each card is a valuable snapshot into student life.”
As dancing evolved, the cards became less useful. According to a 1918 booklet from the Library of Congress called Tips to Dancers, the rise of “modern dancing” was one reason to eschew multiple dance partners and instead remain with the person a dancer arrived at the party with.
“It is not considered a very great pleasure to dance ten dances with ten different partners, all of whom may be but mediocre dancers,” the booklet stated.