Take for instance the URL we stumbled upon recently. This short YouTube video clip shows us the dance scene in ‘The Great Train Robbery,’ a 12 minute silent film made by Thomas A. Edison, Inc. and produced by Edwin S. Porter. This was filmed during November 1903 at Edison's New York studio, in Essex County Park in New Jersey, and along the Lackawanna Railroad. The scene portrays a Square Dance and Virginia Reel in a barroom dance hall. This typical Western dance house scene shows a large number of men and women in a lively quadrille. A ‘Tenderfoot’ appears on the scene. He is quickly spotted, pushed to the center of the hall, and compelled to dance a jig, while the bystanders amuse themselves by shooting dangerously close to his feet. Suddenly the door opens and the half dead telegraph operator staggers in. The crowd gathers around him, while he relates what has happened. Immediately the dance breaks up in confusion. The men secure their guns and hastily leave in pursuit of the outlaws.
We have yet to find an older film depiction of square dancing. The link for the video is below. Although it lasts but 52 seconds, we found it fun to watch and hope you do as well.
We would now like to pose a question to our readers.
What do the clubs Polka Dots, Blue Nova Round Dance, Fiddlesteppers, Red Hot Country Squares, Rollin’ Wheels, Plus.Com, Swing Thru’s, Rocky Mountain Squares, and Mountaineers all have in common?
No, it’s not that their members dance or have a good time! The clubs, currently or in the past, have danced at venues known as Grange Halls. Golden Gate Grange, Grandview Grange, Maple Grove Grange, Victory Grange, Wheat Ridge Grange; these buildings have been home to many ‘square through fours’, ‘right & left grands’, ‘promenades’ and ‘phase II two-steps.’
Did you know?
- The Grange, officially referred to as The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, is a fraternal organization in the United States that encourages families to band together to promote the economic and political well-being of the community and agriculture. It was founded after the Civil War in 1867.
- When the Grange first began in 1867, it borrowed some of its rituals and symbols from Freemasonry, including secret meetings, oaths and special passwords. This is no longer practiced.
- The Colorado State Grange was established in the Colorado Territory in 1874 to give support and encouragement to rural and agricultural communities.
- The Grandview Grange at University Blvd. and Orchard Road was home to the Mountaineers for 37 1/2 years, until the snowstorm of March 18, 2003 claimed it as one of its victims, collapsing the roof and buckling the walls.
Thank you Grange Halls Past, Present and Future!
Again, as Your Council Historians we’ll endeavor to seek out those callers, those dancers, those communities, those events, those writings, those images of the past that may enrich our own experiences as square dancers today.