UB Yesterday: 1909

Dance Hall Days

By Sally Jarzab


Nowadays, there’s probably an app for that, but around the turn of the 20th century, there were dance cards—fancy little booklets in which attendees of formal dances could keep track of their schedule of partners for the evening.

This handsome specimen is from the annual ball of the Barrettonian Society, a UB Department of Dentistry student association founded in 1893. The card belonged to Olin E. Jones, a 1911 graduate of the school who went on to establish a dentistry practice in his hometown of Wellsville, N.Y. The dances marked with an X—mostly waltzes, it appears—likely indicated those which Jones had reserved for his date.

Olin E. Jones in 1907. Photo: Courtsey of the Thelma Rogers Genealogical and Historical Society

The dance card is one of many mementos tucked into the yellowing pages of Jones’ scrapbook, now on display in the lobby of the dental school in Squire Hall. From a train ticket stub and registrar records to examination cards and a commencement program, they collectively tell the story of his busy University of Buffalo years.

But it wasn’t all “skill and drill,” so to speak. Among the academic ephemera can be found black-and-white photographs of a downtown frat house and newspaper clippings documenting the boisterous behavior of “those awful U.B. boys,” along with several more dance cards, all fully penciled in.