A Full Dance Card at Monmouth College

With spring coming into full bloom, the IDHH would like to feature one of our earliest contributors, Monmouth College, and their unique collection of Greek life dance cards. Located in Western Illinois in the city of Monmouth, the college was founded in 1853 by Scotch-Irish pioneers affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. Notably, the College accepted women and students of color from its earliest days, being one of the first U.S. higher education institutions to do so. In fact, the College found itself with a primarily female student body shortly after its establishment, as virtually the entire male student body left for military service in the Civil War. Not to be outdone by the campus societies formed by male veterans returning to the College after the war, Monmouth College is home to Pi Beta Phi, the nation’s first “women’s fraternity” (what we would now call a sorority). 

Spanning nearly 30 years, the Dance Card Collection is a testament to the vibrant Greek life at Monmouth College and the rich social history of groups like Pi Beta Phi and Kappa Kappa Gamma, two early sororities known as the “Monmouth Duo”. Popular in European ballrooms during the 18th century, dance cards were originally used by women to record the names of dance partners at formal balls. They typically consisted of a booklet with a decorative cover and a decorative cord by which it could be attached to the wrist or clothing. The booklet might include sections providing details about the event menu and music, patrons and other featured guests, and most importantly, blank lines where dance partners’ names could be “penciled in”. In the hands of young college students, the dance cards reflect their owner’s individual personality as well as the variety and playfulness of the dance cards created for specific dances in campus Greek life such as the Rose Formal or the Holly Hop. 

Below are a few of our favorite items from the Dance Card Collection at Monmouth College:

Kappa Alpha Sigma. May 23, 1931. Monmouth College. Dance Card Collection. Courtesy of Monmouth College.
Tau Kappa Epsilon 1933. December 9, 1933. Monmouth College. Dance Card Collection. Courtesy of Monmouth College.
Sigma Tau Omega 1934. November 28, 1934. Monmouth College. Dance Card Collection. Courtesy of Monmouth College.
Sigma Tau Omega 1935b. April 12, 1935. Monmouth College. Dance Card Collection. Courtesy of Monmouth College.
Kappa Delta 1947a. December 12, 1947. Monmouth College. Dance Card Collection. Courtesy of Monmouth College.
Alpha Xi Delta 1958. May 31, 1958. Monmouth College. Dance Card Collection. Courtesy of Monmouth College.
Kappa Kappa Gamma 1959. May 23, 1959. Monmouth College. Dance Card Collection. Courtesy of Monmouth College.

Want to see more? 

Visit the IDHH to view even more items in the Dance Card Collection from Monmouth College, as well as items related to the pastime and art of dancing.

Unearthing the Roots of Earth Day

On January 28, 1969, an underwater oil well drilled off the coast of Santa Barbara, California suffered a blowout six miles from the coastline. Oil seeped out of the ocean floor bedrock at a rapid rate, creating an oil slick that would extend across dozens of square miles. The largest oil spill in American waters at the time, an estimated 3 million gallons of crude oil spilled into the Santa Barbara Channel over the course of the next month. The impact on the local marine environment was extreme as thousands of sea birds and marine animals were killed, and the clean-up efforts took months to address the damage of the spill. The enormity of this environmental disaster, and the increased awareness among Americans in the 60’s of environmental concerns generally, would prompt President Nixon to sign the National Environmental Policy Act in 1969 and inspire the creation of an annual Earth Day. 

Held on April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day was conceived as an “environmental teach-in” that would educate citizens about the importance of environmental conservation. The product of collaboration between Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelsen and activist Denis Hayes, the day eventually abandoned the “teach-in” model and saw numerous demonstrations and protests across the United States as more than 20 million people organized in city streets, which is still the largest organized demonstration in American history today. Over fifty years later, Earth Day is an annual reminder on April 22 to support efforts protecting our ever-changing environment and to contribute to a more sustainable world. 

Below are a few of our favorite items featuring early Earth Day celebrations in Illinois as well as the beautiful nature of Illinois:

Student Life, Protests and activism. April 21, 1970. Illinois Wesleyan University. IWU Historical Collections. Courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, Ames Library at Illinois Wesleyan University.
Des Plaines River, Libertyville, Ill. n.d. Cook Memorial Public Library District. Libertyville History. Courtesy of the Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society.
The Wishing Tree – Round Lake Beach, Round Lake, Illinois. 1933. Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County. Lake County History in Postcards. Courtesy of the Lake County Forest Preserves, Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County.
Lincoln School, Sterling, Illinois. 1970. Sterling Public Library. Sterling and Rock Falls Local History Collection. Courtesy of the Sterling Public Library.
Analyzing Nature. circa 1981. University of St. Francis. Sharing Our Past, A Visual History. Courtesy of the University of St. Francis.
Spoon feeding bird. n.d. Photographed by George Day. Bradley University. The Jack Bradley Photojournalism Collection. George Day of the Peoria Journal Star and Jack L. Bradley Photojournalism Collection, Virginius H. Chase Special Collections Center, Bradley University, Peoria, IL.
Pond, flowers, trees. 1916. Photographed by John H. Hauberg. Augustana College. From MSS 27 John Henry Hauberg papers, Special Collections, Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.

Want to see more? 

Visit the IDHH to view even more items related to the environmental observances of Earth Day and Arbor Day.