What Did Dance Cards Actually Look Like?

As an avid reader of 19th-century novels (and L.M. Montgomery), I am well aware of the tradition of the dance card, a courtly tradition which lingers today only as a figure of speech. But because movies rarely bother filming that bit of it, I’ve often found myself kind of lost for a visual. I remember Anne wearing one on her wrist at the dance she attended with Diana in the Anne of Green Gables miniseries. But in general I hadn’t a sense of how large or ornamental these things were.

Happily, the Internet was pleased to inform me. It turns out they come in a few different forms. They could have paper, pasteboard, or even leather covers. Some were just a standard little booklet, others more multipurpose. And a lot of them were totally beautiful. Like this one:

Priest of Pallas (1890)

This is the dance card from Kansas City’s Priests of Pallas festival, circa 1890.