Square Dance History Project
The rich story of North American square dance finally has a home in the digital age.

About the 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.


Pop Sweet

This item recounts a chance encounter between Margot Mayo, the leader of the American Square Dance Group, and Pop Sweet, a traditional fiddler/caller from western Massachusetts. Her excitement at… View item

A Callers' Association? - 1952 discussion

CALLERLAB, the association of modern western square dance callers, was established in 1974. However, discussions about creating caller associations had been going on for many years before that. This… View item

Social Dance in the Mormon West

Detailed look at the role that social dance played (and still plays) in Mormon society. The publication includes a lengthy essay by Larry Shumway looking at dance throughout Mormon history, including… View item

Frazee's Nightmare - Les Gotcher, 1954

Commercial recordings bring us excellent sound quality and precise calling. In contrast, one of the delights of live recordings is hearing the caller deal with real-life challenges on the dance floor.… View item

Eight to the Center - Les Gotcher, 1954

This live recording comes from a Les Gotcher Square Dance Institute. You'll note that Gotcher starts the music while squares are still forming up; he calls out that another couples is needed in the… View item

Square Dance Camps - 1951

As the wave of square dancing took off in the post World War II era, callers and organizers responded with a number of weekend and weeklong camps to cater to the growing interest. This editorial from… View item
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Stu Jamieson

The biographical information comed from The Old-Time Herald. The line drawing portrait is by Margot Mayo and appeared in Promenade magazine published by Mayo's American Square Dance Group (Vol 5; No… View item
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Astro-Nauts and Convair Hoedowners

This set of pictures is from two clubs in San Diego, CA whose members were involved with two plants run by General Dynamics Corporation. The timeline is late 1950’s through late 1960’s. This was… View item

Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes - Selmer Hovland

This singing square is based on a popular song of the day. Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes" was written in 1952 and appeared in several country versions and a #1 hit in a pop version by… View item

Spinning Wheel - Selmer Hovland, 1954

Excerpt from another live recording of Selmer Hovland at Kirkwood Lodge View item

Middle of the Mound - Selmer Hovland, patter

This is a live recording of Selmer Hovland, from Wagon Mound, New Mexico, calling at Kirkwood Lodge, Missouri. Hovland was a staff member at a Square Dance Institute that featured Les Gotcher. (One of… View item
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Kirkwood Lodge ad - 1954

This advertisement is for Kirkwood Lodge (Osage Beach, Missouri), the venue sponsoring the second annual Les Gotcher Square Dance Institute. The 1950s saw a dramatic increase in the number of square… View item