A dance card from a Sigma Chi dance at Indiana University in 1900

Anton T. Boisen, Marie L. Boisen, Samuel B. Wylie, and Reba Wylie were grandchildren of Theophilus and Rebecca Wylie who grew up here in Wylie House and attended IU. The two girls were members of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. Anton was a Phi Gamma Delta and Sam a Sigma Chi, as was Morton C. Bradley, Marie Boisen’s fiancée and later husband. Sororities and fraternities of the late 19th and early 20th centuries held frequent dances and parties, judging by the letters, dance cards and party favors in our archive. Some dances were planned far enough in advance to allow for having programs printed, but some were fairly impromptu so that the dance cards were made by hand. Dances of that time and earlier were fairly formal events, with the order and kind of dances planned in advance and listed on the program or dance card. Each woman in attendance (and perhaps each man) was given a dance card that often had a small pencil attached. The idea was that when a certain dance was promised to someone, that person would write his or her name on your dance card next to the dance that was promised and in this way, no one would forget who had been promised which dance and thus there would be no hurt feelings or disagreements during the evening. The cards tended to be fairly small so as to be easily carried throughout the evening. The cord or ribbon that attached the pencil to the card also made a handy carrying device and could be slipped over a wrist or tucked into a belt. The Wylie grandchildren kept over a dozen of these dance cards. They give us a glimpse of an era when the customs and entertainment of young people were quite different from today.