Dance Moves in D.C. and Beyond

Sometimes I come across a photo in our collections that just tickles me pink, but also makes me want to learn more. One such photo of two dancing dames alongside a congressman led me to pictures of the Charleston dance craze taking the nation’s capitol by storm and sent me digging deeper in the hopes of finding a fantastic story.

<em>Charleston at the Capitol.</em> Rep. T.S. McMillan of Charleston, S.C. with flappers, Miss Ruth Bennett and Miss Sylvia Clavins, who are doing the Charleston on railing, with U.S. Capitol in background. Photo by National Photo Company, between 1920 and 1930. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b39896

Charleston at the Capitol. Rep. T.S. McMillan of Charleston, S.C. with flappers, Miss Ruth Bennett and Miss Sylvia Clavins, who are doing the Charleston on railing, with U.S. Capitol in background. Photo by National Photo Company, between 1920 and 1930. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b39896

Not only did our catalog reveal related images, but the Library’s subscription newspaper databases turned up articles citing outrageous moments from the early years of the Charleston dance craze, including athletes refining their footwork and teens literally dancing to death. Even the fear of buildings collapsing due to the synchronous vibrations of the Charleston led cities across the U.S. to prohibit the dance from public halls!

Frank Farnum coaching Pauline Starke. And now the Charleston is moving into the movies! Pauline Starke will introduce it to the movie public at large when in the role of a chorus girl in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's "A Little bit of Broadway", she performs it on the screen. Frank Farnum, originator of the step, gave her first-hand (or foot) instructions. Photo by National Photo Company, 1925. //www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/cph.3b45868/

Frank Farnum coaching Pauline Starke. And now the Charleston is moving into the movies! Pauline Starke will introduce it to the movie public at large when in the role of a chorus girl in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s “A Little bit of Broadway”, she performs it on the screen. Frank Farnum, originator of the step, gave her first-hand (or foot) instructions. Photo by National Photo Company, 1925. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b45868

A March 11, 1926 New York Times article revealed that wrestlers and football squads at both Penn State and West Virginia University performed the Charleston in their cleats as part of their training regimen. Several other articles quoted doctors who noted the health benefits of the Charleston, as long as the moves are executed properly with precision! In the two photos below,  Miss Vivian Marinelli demonstrates the finer points of the Charleston to a D.C. basketball team, hopefully refining their footwork along the way.

Miss Vivian Marinelli giving Charleston dancing lessons to basketball players of the Palace Club, the Washington, D.C., entry in the American basketball league. Left to right: Kearns, Manager Kennedy, Conway, woman playing piano, Miss Marinelli, Grody, and Saunders. Photo by National Photo Company, February 15, 1926. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b44031

Miss Vivian Marinelli giving Charleston dancing lessons to basketball players of the Palace Club, the Washington, D.C., entry in the American basketball league. Left to right: Kearns, Manager Kennedy, Conway, woman playing piano, Miss Marinelli, Grody, and Saunders. Photo by National Photo Company, February 15, 1926. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b44031

The Charleston as an aid to the game. Photo by National Photo Company, between 1920 and 1932. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b36551

The Charleston as an aid to the game. Photo by National Photo Company, between 1920 and 1932. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b36551

It seems athletes shook things up with more than just Charleston dance moves. The below photo shows some dancers inspiring Washington National baseball players to twinkle their toes as well!

Women dancing and two Washington National baseball players clowning on baseball field. Photo by National Photo Company, 1924. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c03763

Women dancing and two Washington National baseball players clowning on baseball field. Photo by National Photo Company, 1924. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c03763

According to news sources, the Charleston not only made an impact in the United States, but also around the world. The Boston Daily Globe shared a story on March 15, 1927, of how an Australian man’s intimate knowledge of the Charleston saved his life from an attacking cannibal tribe- when he broke into dance they followed suit, hoping to learn the dance themselves, and they ultimately returned him to safety. This dance certainly made its way around. Have you given it a whirl?

Miss Blanche Lehman and Miss Tereta Sheaffer in dance number of the second edition of Uncle Sams Follies. Photo by National Photo Company, between 1920 and 1930. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c11100

Miss Blanche Lehman and Miss Tereta Sheaffer in dance number of the second edition of Uncle Sams Follies. Photo by National Photo Company, between 1920 and 1930. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c11100

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