Archive for January, 2012

Delta Tau Delta Formal, 1930

Located in the Alumni Association Collection of the USD Archives is a cache of dance cards from events that took place at USD and in the surrounding area. Most of these cards date back to the early 1920’s, however, there are a few examples from the 1930’s and 1950’s.

For those unfamiliar with the dance card, here’s some general information and a little history. A typical dance card is a pamphlet with a decorative cover indicative of the event’s sponsoring organization. Generally, women (rarely men) would carry these cards to keep track of their obligations to dance with certain partners–each partner’s name would be written on a blank line within the booklet. Song titles, composers, and the names of dance chaperones could also appear on these pages. In addition, dance cards were often secured to ladies’ wrists or around their waists with a decorative cord. Sometimes, pencils were attached to these cords, although it was more common for the pencils to be carried by men.  Historians speculate that dance cards first came into use in 18th century Europe.  Their popularity  increased during the next two centuries, but leveled off and faded due to the rise of  the less formal dancing styles of the early to mid 20th century.

At first glance, the dance card appears to be a simple way of avoiding drama in the dance hall by ensuring that dancing is conducted in an orderly and prearranged fashion. Yet, as noted by NYU’s Dead Media Archive, the dance card can also be indicative of the patriarchal values that governed Western gender relations for the majority of the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries:

The dance card primarily operated as a prevention protocol—a mechanism for blocking a woman from engaging with more than one man at a time, as each dance only provided one line of engagement. The lines of the dance card function ideally as a record of compulsory monogamous heterosexual exchange—spaces waiting to be filled, lines waiting to be etched… the dance card was not a tool for women to “keep track” of their engagements but for men to arbitrate relationships of availability and exclusion on a metaphoric waltz of complex social and class networking.

The Dead Media Archive also notes that, at least in the case of dance/ball etiquette of  the Victorian era, it was considered proper for women to assume the passive role of waiting for men to fill out their dance cards. They were not allowed to peruse partners of their own choosing. Furthermore, men rarely carried cards, and there was nothing a woman could do if her partner failed to fulfill his obligation to dance with her.  In addition, it was difficult for women to be choosy about her partners. As long as a man made sure that he was properly introduced and  approached potential partners in a respectful manner, he was virtually guaranteed a dance with any woman of his choosing.  If a woman felt that a space in her dance card was about to be filled by an undesirable partner, her only line of defense was to claim fatigue or a prior engagement and sit out for the round. As the Dead Media Archive puts it: “Attached by braided cord to the wrist or dress, the very presence of the dance card tagged all women ‘available’ for selection in some manner—the question, ultimately, was not if a woman was available, but when.”

What intrigues me about the dance cards in Alumni Association Collection is that these cards appear to have belonged to a man and each line lists the name of a couple rather than an individual partner. I am not entirely sure what this means, however, I surmise that this method of filling out dance cards is demonstrative of changing times, a more relaxed and egalitarian mode of gender relations, or a less structured style of dance etiquette.  This way of filling out cards may also be an idiosyncrasy of the geographical region or a personal preference of the individual who owned the cards (most of the cards belonged to the same person.) If you have any information or theories about these dance cards, feel free to leave a comment or drop us an email.

USD Military Ball, 1926

Delta Tau Delta Pirate Dance, 1929

USD Military Ball, 1927

–Information from: “Dance Card“. Dead Media Archive. NYU Department of Media, Culture, and Communication, 2010. Web. 31 Jan 2012. <http://cultureandcommunication.org/deadmedia/index.php/Dance_Card&gt;; dance cards: Alumni Association Collection, USD Archives

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USD Photograph Collection, Series 4 no. 21

East Hall as it appeared around 1888 on the prairie. Photograph taken by Henry Butler, Vermillion.



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An example of edge silver mirroring from the USD Photograph Collection

To kick off a new year of blogging, I thought it would be interesting  to discuss a few forms of photographic material degradation, their causes, and steps one can take to prevent them.  One form of degradation that affects silver based photographic materials is silver mirroring, which manifests physically as a reflective, bluish cast that appears in the deepest shadows of a print or negative when it is examined in raking light.  Silver mirroring is often a good indication that older photographic materials have been subject to improper storage and unchecked humidity.  According to Bertrand Lavadrine, silver mirroring is a two stage process.  “First, air pollution and moisture oxidize some of the silver that forms the image.  The silver ions migrate to the surface of the gelatin.  When the ions come into contact with the atmosphere, they are transformed into metallic silver (colloidal silver) and silver sulfide.”  It is also important to note that the location of silver mirroring on a print or negative is indicative of specific archival storage issues.  For instance, as Gawain Weaver observes in A Guide to Fiber-Base Gelatin Silver Print Condition and Deterioration, silver mirroring that appears around the edges of a print or negative is most likely the work of humidity and air pollutants while silver mirroring that appears throughout or in localized areas of a print or negative is most likely caused by contact with wood pulp based papers, mats, or storage containers.  A simple way to prevent or mitigate the threat of silver mirroring is to store photographic materials in a cool, dry place.  Also, always store photographic materials in containers that pass the Photographic Activity Test.  Check out the George Eastman House‘s website for more information about silver mirroring and other forms of photographic degradation.  More posts about other forms of degradation to follow.

An example of silver mirroring throughout a photographic print from the USD Photograph Collection

Information gathered from: Lavedrine, Bertrand. A Guide to the Preventative Conservation of Photographic Collections. Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2003. Print. and Gawain Weaver, A Guide to Fiber-Base Gelantine Silver Print Condition and Deterioration, electronic publication, April 2008. Photographs: USD Photograph Collection, Series 4.

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USD Photograph Collection, Series 4 no. 827

Here is a photograph from the Military Science and Tactics folder, USD Photograph Collection. Pictured from left to right are: Theodor R. Syverson, Frank C. Falkenstein, and Orville W. Thompson, 1891-1892.

 From the 1903 alumni section of the Coyote yearbook pages 115 and 118:

Orville W. Thompson, A.B., was born at Vermillion, Nov. 13, 1871, where he still continues to reside. At present he is Cashier of the First National Bank, to which position he was elected in 1896. In May, 1900, he was selected as a member of the Republican State Central Committee. To his Alma Mater, Mr. Thompson has always been very loyal and is a liberal contributor to all her enterprises. The business manager of the Coyote found him, as ever, ready to help by his guaranty to the publishers.

Theodore R. Syverson, A.B., was born at Decorah, Iowa, Nov. 22, 1868. He received his education at the Public School of Watertown, S.D., and at the U.S.D. from which he was graduated in 1894. He took post-graduate work in 1895 until he was taken ill. He died in Chicago, July 27, 1895.

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USD Photograph Collection, Series 4 no. 1153
Officers of the Choral Society from 1902 or 1903. From left to right:
  • Music Instructor Alice Talcott
  • English Instructor and Professor of Law Jason Elihu Payne
  • Professor of English and Philosophy John D. Logan
  • Director of Music and Dean Ethelbert W. Grabill
  • Vocal Music Instructor Marjorie Woods
  • University Secretary Charles A. Sloan
  • Professor of Mathematics and Engineering Ralph McOmber Meyers
  • Professor of Greek Language and Literature Herbert Baldwin Foster


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