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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.

Doonesbury - square dance

...in which Zonker, a character in Garry Trudeau's comic strip Doonesbury, presents a common view of one social activity... This "Doonesbury Flashback" appeared March 20, 2012, a reprint… ...more

Old Folks' Frolic

This is a photograph from a news story in the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times of April 7, 1942. Caption: "These lively square dancers and other oldsters performing yesterday brought a… ...more

Golden State Round Up 1964

Grand march at the Golden State Round Up, Oakland, CA, 1964. Each row is 4 squares, and there are about 50 rows That's 200 squares, or 1600 dancers. The event featured live music, with an 11… ...more

Santa Monica 1950 - World's Largest Square Dance

At the time, it was the world's largest square dance event. Santa Monica, California, was celebrating its Diamond Jubilee in square dance style. Lloyd Shaw was invited to be the Grand… ...more

Cheyenne Mountain Dancers in DC (thumbnail)

This is a smaller version of the photograph. If you want a significantly larger file that can show faces clearly, click here. Identifications of the dancers are with the larger photo. ...more

Soco Gap Dancers

Photograph of the Soco Gap Dancers, North Carolina ...more

Schlitz beer ad, 1950

Full page ad for Schlitz beer that appeared in Newsweek magazine, August 21, 1950, attesting to the popularity of square dance in popular culture. Modern Western square dancers were not… ...more

Recent Items

An Evening with Lloyd Shaw

Richard Marold was director of the Cheyenne Mountain Heritage Center at the time of this presentation. He developed this one man show in which he appears as Dr. Lloyd "Pappy" Shaw, speaking… ...more

Dorothy Stott Shaw

This is a compilation of several articles written by Cal Campbell and originally published in The American Dance Circle, the quarterly journal of the Lloyd Shaw Foundation. Although Lloyd… ...more

Computer training for dancers - C4

In 1975 Bruce Roe, a circuit designer who worked for Bell Telephone Laboratories and a long time Chicago-area challenge square dancer dancer, developed a dancer training tool to assist in… ...more

Lonesome Me - Don Beck

Recorded December 1985 at Bay Path Barn, West Boylston, MA. The caller had been one of the founders of Tech Squares at MIT and was that club's first caller, in 1967. Another clip on YouTube,… ...more

Don Beck - patter

Recorded December 1985 at Bay Path Barn, West Boylston, MA. The caller had been one of the founders of Tech Squares at MIT and was that club's first caller, in 1967. Another clip on YouTube,… ...more