Dance cards became popular items at balls and assemblies in the early 19th century when the more formal balls used in the previous century were abandoned.
The minuets, danced one couple at a time in a rigidly prescribed order defined by the social rank of the dancers, gave way entirely to less formal dances as quadrilles and dances done with a single partner, like the waltz and the polka.
In the new social context the 'Dance cards' ('carnet de bal' in French) were used by ladies to keep track of the gentleman to whom they had promised dances in the course of the evening.
The ladies participated in the ball with their personal 'Dance card' contained into an elaborate cover of bone, silver or ivory, often with miniature petit point canvas inserts.
They were small enough to be readily portable and, together with the 'posy holder' (tussie mussie), were an indispensable complement to a lady's accessorizing.
silver dance card holder
Personal 'Dance cards' were less common at the end of the 19th century when a simple card or a card folded in half were prepared by the 'dance committee', reporting the description of the occasion for the event, the location and the date.
The interior of the 'dance card' usually contained a list of the evening's dances, with spaces provided for the names of the gentlemen to whom the lady had promised them. Covers were especially colorful and elaborate and afterwards served as mementos of the occasion.
This one is an ancient leather and silk 'dance card holder' with silver 'guilloché' covers, made in 1835 by Birmingham's silversmith Joseph Wilmore. According to Jackson's he entered his mark in the register between 1803 and 1807. He is an interesting maker as it is believed that he also entered his marks in London. This would allow him to set up a London workshop.
This 'dance card' has a pencil holder on its side and three ivory sheets on the inside. The book was held closed when the pencil was placed through the silk loops. Faint traces of the names written on the ivory still survive. The silver is fully hallmarked with 'anchor' (Birmingham), duty mark (King William IV), date letter (M = 1835) and 'JW' (silversmith Joseph Wilmore).
silver dance card holder silver dance card holder
silver dance card holder silver dance card holder
silver dance card holder silver dance card holder
silver dance card holder with Napoleon and Josephine silver dance card holder with Napoleon and Josephine
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