Pencilled In

Dance Card for the 1899 Independent Order of Oddfellows Annual Ball

Twenty-four opportunities to dance were to occur at the I.O.O.F. Annual Ball in 1899, which meant twenty-four opportunities to dance with someone new. A dance card was a tool which meant partners could be pencilled in before the dance or to hurriedly jot down the name of someone found in the moment.

When thinking of such a ball, we likely imagine an evening like the Victorian-era ball we have absorbed from literature and film. However, a Daily Telegraph article the following day paints the picture of an Independent Order of Odd Fellows’ (I. O. O. F.) Annual Ball as unique as the name itself.

Costumes ‘sent out from the old country’ were worn in an opening procession, turning these 19th century men into ‘high priests and great men of the Old Testament.’ These costumes were changed out of after the first ‘lancers,’ a variation of a fashionable late 18th and 19th century square dance called the ‘quadrille’ where four couples danced together. It is easy to conjure up an image of the strange and mystical mood the procession and costumes would set for the rest of the evening.

This sort of dance card was usually carried by women, however this card possibly belonged to a man instead . The names ‘H. Casey’ and ‘Clarke’ are recorded on the card but there is no record of a Mr. Clarke or Mr. H. Casey. Instead, it is likely the first name is related to T. Casey, one of the Masters of Ceremonies, and the latter probably associated with a Mrs. and Miss Clarke. The Telegraph detailed that these women provided the band and assisted in providing supper, which took place upstairs ‘amidst a profusion of lovely flowers.’