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Peter Beemer manuscript - Idaho

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Peter Beemer manuscript

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Peter Beemer manuscript - Idaho


This is a collection of mid-19th century dance tunes from a remote Idaho location; as such, it is a useful record of the music being used for dances of the period. This website also contains background information on dancing in the mining community that is the source of the manuscript.

In 1862, gold was discovered on Warren Creek in the mountains of central Idaho, at that time a part of Washington Territory. In the mid 1860’s a Warren miner and musician named Peter Beemer wrote down music for a hundred and twenty four instrumental tunes, and arranged them for a small dance orchestra.

Dancing was an important social and recreational outlet for people in mining communities in the Far West, as it had been in their home communities. Like other immigrants to the West, the miners attempted to re-create the society they knew back home, to the best of their ability. The community dance helped instill some civility into the rough and tumble mining camp environment. As mining camps developed into towns, dance halls often were among the first buildings to be constructed.

The dances done included square dances, or “quadrilles,” by far the most popular dance in the pioneer West, as well as the other fashionable ballroom dances of the era: waltzes, polkas, schottisches, mazourkas, varsoviennes, other couple dances, and longways set dances. At Warrens there was probably a prompter for the quadrilles, and there may well have been a dance instructor available. As in many other pioneer communities, the scarcity of women sometimes forced the male dancers to improvise by dancing with each other, with the gent dancing the woman’s part often tying a bandanna around his arm.


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