A few weeks ago the subject of this column was a collection of “love letters” that the Fenton History Center received after a century of being stored under some floor boards in a Jamestown residence. Among the letters were invitations and some business letters. The invitations included weddings, parties and surprise parties, dance schools, and dances or balls.
There seemed to have been dancing schools during the time this collection was accumulated. 1899 through 1903. The pattern for these evenings would include an hour and a half of instruction followed by a reception or ball or assembly. Apparently the second half of the evening would include a buffet and most likely a chance to practice the dances that had been taught in the first part of the evening. Miss Annie Peterson and Miss Maud Taylor conducted a series of weekly dances every Tuesday evening commencing November 21, 1899. Instruction was from 7 to 8:30 with a Reception following until midnight. The cost and the number of weeks were not indicated on the invitation. Charles Lawson and Frank Jensen had the opening ball of the Lawson & Jensen Dancing School on Oct. 17, 1902 in the K. of P. [Knights of Pythias] Hall in the Broadhead Block. It included Buffet Refreshments and the music was by Prof. Bratt’s Orchestra. Gentlemen’s ticket was 50 cents while the Ladies’ Ticket was 15 cents.
Other invitations were from the volunteer fire companies and from some of the fraternal lodges in Jamestown. The balls given by the volunteer fire companies were fund raisers for the equipment and supplies which were not provided by the city. Many of these balls were masquerade balls. Christmas and Thanksgiving were popular times to have these balls, but since some the fire companies could have theirs at the same time as the others, early spring and early summer also saw balls held. The invitations included the usual what and where with date and time and did include the name of the orchestra providing the music, as well as, the price of the tickets. The going cost of the tickets seemed to 75 cents for gentlemen and 25 cents for lady spectators.
One invitation was for the “Second Grand Ball given by the Famous Pleasure Club.” That organization is at this point a mystery but we do have four names on the invitation as the Committee of Arrangements. They are D. D. Crocker, A. E. Vickstrom, D. M. Kane and J. C. Hanson. This will be added to the list of research to do!
Some of the invitations had fancy print while others included illustrations to go with the masquerade theme. The most unusual invitation came from the Wood-Workers Union, No. 90 of the A.W.I.U. [Amalgamated Woodworkers International Union] for their First Annual Masquerade Ball in Warner’s Hall on Washington’s Birthday in 1901. Again the orchestra was Bratt’s and the admission was 75 cents for Gentlemen and 25 cents for Lady Spectators. The back of this invitation, as with many of the others, included on the back where one could arrange for carriages, often the members of the invitation committee were named and if it was a masquerade ball the days that someone from Buffalo would be in the hall with costumes. The unusual part of the Wood-Workers Union’s invitation was that it was printed on wood, a piece of veneer that looks like it could be bird’s eye maple.
Hopefully you have received invitations this year to weddings, graduations and maybe even a dance.