Yesterday, the Student Life and Culture Archives at the University of Illinois posted a link to a scrapbook in its collection. As one who has been on the Illinois campus and has studied the history of its fraternities and sororities, it was easy for me to get lost in the scrapbook. I imagined the campus as it looked in the early 1900s. Among my favorite pictures was one of what I presume to be Pi Phis in a tree. They climbed that tree wearing skirts and heeled shoes.
There’s an invitation from the Omicron Chapter of Chi Omega to attend a four o’clock tea. It was sent through the mail and the address consisted of “Pi Phi House, Champaign.” There’s also a full page handout explaining the freshman hazing that went on between classes (it was typical at most colleges, not just Illinois).
And there were dance cards galore. I am often asked about dance cards. They are often for sale on eBay, probably taken from scrapbooks such as this one, and sold to make a greater profit on the individual pieces than on a scrapbook itself (criminal in my mind, but so be it).*
The dance card was given to a woman attending a party, banquet or dance, as a way to keep track the man with whom she would dance. The dance card has a line for each dance and the man would write his name beforehand. Dance cards, known by the French name programme du bal or the German name Tanskarte were propular in 19th century Vienna. They were also popular in collegiate culture of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Examples in the scrapbook range from the seemingly hand-crafted to the elaborate leather embossed. Sometimes they had attached small thin pencils to make the process easier on the men who signed the dance cards.
For more pictures of the scrapbook belonging to Louise J. Pellens, University of Illinois, Pi Beta Phi, Class of 1909, see http://ow.ly/mLcP308wTsZ
*A reader of the blog sent me this info, “I am a vintage dancer (1860s-1920s ballroom) and the dance card is not only essential to keeping track of our ever-changing partners, it’s a delightful souvenir (as it was to these girls). Only one company still makes those tiny pencils.”
© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2017. All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest www.pinterest.com/glohistory/