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( -ii nnE Üi:' T hlA M LiBEAE
JAMES J. DAVIS. Secretary







3 (* 2, 7

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis




Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Letter of transmittal___________________________________________________
Purpose and scope of study_________________________ZZZZZZIZZZIZ
Legislative regulation of public dance halls_____ 1111111111111111111111
State legislation__________________________________________ Z.ZZZZZZZ
Definitions of places covered__________________________________
Licenses and permits________________________________________________ 4
Posting_______________________________________________ Z ZZZZ
Restrictions on attendance of minors______________________ ZZZZ
Hours of operation___________________________________________
Supervision____ ____________________ ._,________________ ZZZZZZ
Regulation of physical and social conditions___________________ Z
Penalties for violation_________________________________________"
Municipal regulations_______________________________________ ZZZZZZ
Cities reporting as to dance-hall ordinances_ZZZZZZZZZZZ
History and trend of legislation________________________________
Analysis of provisions________________________________________ ZZ
Administration of dance regulations in 15 cities_________________________
Enforcement officials_________________________________________ ZZ-ZZZ
Methods of enforcing regulations___________________________________ Z
Investigation before the dance_________________________________
Supervision of the dance______________________________ ZZZZZZZZ
Special problems in enforcement___________________________________
Evasion of license and permit provisions______________________
Regulations concerning children and young persons___________ ” Z
Supervision in different types of dance hall____________________
Supervision of out-of-town dance halls______________________ZZZ
Community recreation________________________________________________ ”
Introduction_________________________________________________ ZZZZZZ
Organization___________________________________________________________ 36
Administration_____________________________________________ ZZZ
Recreation program__________________________________ ZZZZ ZZZ ZZZZZ
Athletic sports_____________________________________________________ 38
Esthetic expression____________________________________________
Social activities_______________________________________________
Development of recreation program________________________________
Conclusions_______________________________________ ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
Appendix A. Provisions of Minnesota law_______________________
Appendix B. List of references on dance halls_______ __ _ _
Appendix C. Dance-hall legislation of 1926, 1927, and 1928ZZ” ZZZ"Z"” Z

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



n it e d

S tates D

e p a r t m e n t of



C h il d r e n ’s B


Washington, June 19, 1928.
S m : There is transmitted herewith a report on public dance halls,
their regulation and place in the recreation o f adolescents, by Ella
Gardner, the specialist in recreation o f the Children’s Bureau. The
report consists of an analysis of State laws and city ordinances reguatmg public dances and public dance halls and a description of the
methods developed in 15 cities in the administration of such laws or
ordinances. A brief report on the character of the public recreation
as it aliects the dance-hall problem in cities with extensive recrea­
tion programs is also included.
Acknowledgment is made o f the cooperation given the bureau by
omcials m charge of dance-hall inspection and of public recreation
in the cities visited.
Respectfully submitted.
G r a c e A b b o t t , Chief.
Hon. J a m e s J . D a v i s ,
Secretary o f Laborc
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Inquiries received by the Children’s Bureau as to methods of supervision o f commercialized amusements, especially public dance halls,
P i 1C Pr°vision of recreational opportunities for boys and girls
ot adolescent age have increased during recent years. At the request
of agencies in several cities the Children’s Bureau, therefore, under­
took to assemble information as to the legal machinery with which
communities are endeavoring to protect young people from the evils
o l the unregulated commercial dance hall. An effort was also made
to discover what features o f their community recreation programs are
successful m meeting the demands of young people of this age.
1 recenf years the public dance hall was unregulated and re­
garded by many persons as impossible of successful regulation. In
small towns as well as in large industrial centers it had a bad reputatlon; , A„he Tories of crime and debauchery which newspapers re­
p o r te d from time to time as having their origin in one of these
parks or academies or “ halls ” revealed the fact that they were
frequently connected with saloons and so-called hotels which encour­
aged immorality on the part o f the dance-hall patrons and tolerated
the presence o f criminals. Police attended these dances not as inspec­
tors or supervisors but in order to be at hand to interfere in case o f
brawls or too flagrant disorder o f any kind.
With the development o f the community recreation movement
studies were made of commercialized recreation, and with the facts
as to the conditions in the dance halls made public, attempts were
inade af public control or regulation. The investigations revealed
that the public dance halls offered almost the only opportunity for
this form o f social recreation to many farm boys and girls who came
to the towns for their amusements, to large numbers of young people
7 ™ ™Br® working in industrial centers away from their parents and
childhood friends, and to many city boys and girls whose parents
through poverty or ignorance made no provision for the social needs
o f their children. The movement for the regulation of commercial­
ized recreation and the provision of community dance halls and other
forms o f recreation for young people developed almost simultane­
ously as a result.
The investigations did not reveal uniformly bad conditions in the
public dance halls, and this fact furnished the best argument for
successful regulation. Some dance-hall managers had demonstrated
¿hat it was profitable to offer well-conducted dances in attractive halls
with good music; more, probably men with less business ability as
well as with less character, sought to increase their earnings by toler­
ating excesses o f one sort or another; and some exploited the innocent
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



desire o f young people for gayety and a good time by exposing them,
through the dance hall, to the worst elements in the community.
The problem presented by the dance hall has two special phases in
its relation to and effect upon young people. The first is its value or
danger to very young boys and girls, those between 14 and 18.
Should these children be admitted to the dance hall? I f so, what
safeguards should be thrown around them; and if not, how should
they be excluded, and what counter attractions, if any, should be
offered by parents, school, municipality, and other agencies? The
second is the dancing of the older group of adolescents, those who are
in school or employed but whose chief form o f recreation it seems to
be. For them the question has been how to keep the dance hall from
becoming a demoralizing influence and how to make it a real recrea­
tional opportunity rather than a brighter form of boredom. This
report describes some of the attempts that have been made to accom­
plish these purposes.
Regulation of public dances and methods o f enforcement rather
than dance-hall conditions were made the subject of the study.
Officials in all cities of 15,000 population or more (approximately
500) were requested to send copies o f their ordinances and regula­
tions concerning public dances, reports on the administration o f the
ordinances, and on the recreation provided by the community. Re­
plies were received from 416 cities. Copies of State laws pertaining
to the control of public dances were obtained from the 25 States that
have passed such legislation, and these together with the city
ordinances have been analyzed and summarized for this report.
Fifteen cities in different parts of the country which offer examples
of different types of control o f commercial dances and o f provision
for community recreation were visited by bureau agents in 1925 and
1926— Butte, Mont.; Chicago, 111.; Dayton, Ohio; Detroit, Mich.;
Duluth, Minn.; Houston, Tex.; Los Angeles, Calif.; New Bedford,
Mass.; Ottumwa, Iowa; Paterson, N. J .; Portland, Oreg.; Rochester,
N. Y .; San Francisco, Calif.; Seattle, Wash.; and Wichita, Kans.
Two other cities (Gary, Ind., and Oakland', Calif.) were studied from
the standpoint of community provision for recreation only.
In these cities officials in control o f public-amusement inspection
and those in charge of community recreation were interviewed, and
dances were visited in the regular dance academies, in rented halls,
in outdoor pavilions, in amusement parks, in cafes, in cabarets, in
closed halls, in schools, armories, and other public buildings, and in
halls outside the city limits. The opinions and experience o f persons
closely in touch with the boys and girls—teachers, juvenile-court
officials, and other social workers—were sought as to the success o f
the existing program and as to needs which had not been adequately
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Twenty-eight States have laws that specifically regulate the opera­
tion of public dances and public dance halls. Some of these laws
affect all public dances and public dance halls within the State or all
not regulated by city ordinance, whereas others apply only to dances
held outside the limits o f municipal corporations. Practically every
State has authorized cities and towns to prohibit or to regulate and
license public amusements, including public dances and public dance
halls; and a number make the license or perm itla compulsory, desig­
nating in the law the officer who shall have the power to issue it..
None of the 28 States regulating the public dance by State law
prohibits cities and towns or counties in the State from making addi­
tional rules and regulations. Consequently, a number of cities in the
States mentioned in this section supervise dance halls and dances by
municipal ordinances. In case of a conflict in provisions the State
law, of course, would take precedence.
The State laws relate to the following subjects: Licensing, investi­
gation to determine suitability of place in which dance is to be held
and affidavits as to the character of applicants as prerequisite to the
issuance of a license or permit, posting of the license or of the dance
hall law, minimum age of participants, hours when minors may
attend, hours of closing, Sunday prohibitions, lighting of premises,
conduct of dancers and type of dances, and supervision by police
officers or specially qualified matrons.2
Six States (Minnesota, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania,
South Dakota, and Washington3) have fairly comprehensive State
laws regulating dance halls, which define the terms, require permits
or licenses, specify lighting requirements during the dance, regulate
the hours of operation and the minimum age of attendance, provide
for supervision o f the dance, and specify penalties for violations.
Only the laws of Minnesota and North Dakota, however, cover all
public dances within the State.
Twenty-two other States have legislation relating to dance halls, but
except in Arizona, where the conduct or operation o f a public dance
hall is prohibited under penalty of fine up to $300 or imprisonment
up to six months in the county jail, or both fine and imprisonment,
1 This section was compiled by E’reda Ring, assistant in legal research, in the Children’s
Bureau. The statements apply to laws in force in 1925. Later legislation' is summarized
in Appendix C (p. 56).
la The words n license ” and “ permit ” are used interchangeably in some of the laws,
but in others they have different meanings. In this report “ license ” is used to indicate
the written authority granted for the maintenance or operation of a public dance hall,
and “ permit ” to mean the special authority granted for a public dance.
2 The Minnesota law, which covers the subject quite completely and is of state-wide
application, is summarized on p. 53.
8 Minn., Gen. Stat. 1923, secs. 10161-10174, as amended by act of Apr. 22, 1925, ch. 302
"Laws of 1925, p. 383; N. Dak., Supp. of 1925, secs. 5 4 8al-548all, 3163al-3163al0, 9241a,
9609al—9609a3, pp. 263-266, 807-809, 1402, 1411, 1412; Oreg., act of Feb. 21, 1923, ch.
163, Gen. Laws of 1923, p. 232, and Oreg. Laws 1920, secs, 3682 and 3683, as amended by
act of Feb. 23, 192-5, ch. 147, Gen. Laws of 1925, p. 221; Pa., Stat. 1920, secs. 2834-2844,
pp. 267 and 268; S. Dak., act of Mar. 12, 1921, ch. 334, Laws of 1921, p. 449: Wash.,
act of Mar. 14, 1923, ch. I l l , Laws of 1923, p. 294.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



the laws cover only one or two phases of the subject. Some States
other than those mentioned in the following pages as restricting
public dancing on Sunday or prohibiting the use or sale of intoxicat­
ing liquors in public dance halls or at public dances have probably
enacted measures embracing these two features.

A “ public dance ” or a “ public dance hall ” is defined by only
five State laws. The North Dakota and Pennsylvania definitions are
similar to those of Minnesota (see p. 53). Oregon and South Dakota
provide that a public dance hall is a place or space open to the public
where dancing may be engaged in upon the payment o f a fee.
Seven States (Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada^ Oregon,
and Washington) provide that their laws regulating public dances
and public dance halls shall apply only to dance halls outside the
limits of incorporated cities and towns, Illinois and Iowa specifically
including “ roadhouses” in the regulations.
Georgia has no special law requiring licenses for public dance
halls, but has a provision making it a misdemeanor to operate a dance
hall beyond the limits of an incorporated town in any county con­
taining a city with a population of 80,000 or more without obtaining
the written consent of half the freeholders living within 2 miles of
the place where the hall is to be maintained. The Pennsylvania law
applies only to public dance halls and public dances in cities of the
first, second, and third class.
Seventeen States (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota,
Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New
York North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South
Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin) have laws dealing with some phase
of public dancing in force with certain exceptions throughout the
entire State. Nebraska excepts cities of metropolitan class having a
public-welfare board with authority to regulate public dancing; Ohio
excepts public dances held in charter cities where the licensing author­
ity is vested elsewhere than in the mayor; South Dakota excepts
public dance halls situated within municipal corporations or within
1 mile thereof where such halls are regulated and licensed by the
municipal corporation.

Fburteen States require licenses or permits, or both, for the opera­
tion of public dance halls. Idaho, Iowa, Massachusetts, Nevada, and
South Dakota require licenses for the operation of public dance halls.
In Idaho the license is secured from the county commissioners; m
Iowa, from the township trustees; in Massachusetts, from the mayor
or selectmen; in Nevada, from the license board of the county (com­
posed of the board of county commissioners, the sheriff, and the
district attorney); and in South Dakota, from the county commis­
sioners. In Idaho a bond is required of the person to whom the
license is issued. In none of these States does the law lay down
special acts or requirements to be performed by the applicant. The
presumption is that the issuing body will make its own rules..
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



Oregon provides for a license, issued upon the filing o f an applica­
tion which must be signed by 12 freeholders, residents of the school
district in which the dance hall is to be located. At the same time
the applicant must file a bond for not less than $500 conditioned upon
his compliance with the terms of this provision. Michigan provides
for an annual license and stipulates that the character of the appli­
cant shall be taken into consideration before the license is granted.
In Illinois the person requesting a license must file an application
giving his name, birthplace, residence, and prison record, if any.
He must also establish that he is of good moral character and that the
building in which the proposed dance hall is to be located is in proper
condition, having adequate toilet and ventilation facilities and com­
plying with health and fire regulations.
North Dakota requires a license from the State attorney general
and a permit from the governing body o f the place where "the dance
is to be held and provides for an official investigation before either
o f these is granted. In Pennsylvania cities licenses are issued by the
mayor after an application has been submitted and an investigation
made establishing that all rules and regulations o f the city and State
have been complied with. In addition, permits must be secured from
the mayor’s office for all public dances.
Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, and Rhode Island do not require
licenses but require permits. Minnesota requires proof o f the satis­
factory character of the applicant and of the place where the dance
is to be held before the permit is granted. In Ohio permits are
granted by the mayor in incorporated cities and towns and by the
probate judge o f the county if the dance is to be held outside the
corporation limits.
In Rhode Island permits are issued by the town councils or boards of
police commissioners. Two New Mexico provisions passed in 1861
and 1869 require the justices o f the peace or probate judges to grant
permits for every dance, but provide that if in the opinion of the
authority granting the license the permittee is not competent to
preserve order he must procure some one to act as police officer
during the dance.
Provisions pertaining to the issuance of licenses and permits are
applicable in three States (Kansas, Vermont, and Wisconsin) when
a specified local body, in accordance with the law, has adopted rules
and regulations governing dances and dance halls, or has been elected
for the purpose of regulating and supervising such halls. In Kansas
the governing body of any city may elect a citv board of public
welfare for that purpose. After the ejection of such board it is
unlawful for a public dance hall to be conducted unless it has re­
ceived a license from the board, which makes investigation before
issuing the license. In Vermont a penalty is imposed for maintaining
a dance without first obtaining a permit, if such permit is required
by the selectmen o f the town, the trustees o f an incorporated village,
or the aldermen of a city. The Wisconsin law authorizes county
boards to enact ordinances, by-laws, or rules and regulations gov­
erning dance halls in the county, excluding cities which have or
may adopt dance-hall regulations. When a county board of super­
visors has adopted such an ordinance or resolution it is unlawful
to conduct a dance hall without obtaining a license from the board.
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Minnesota requires the dance permit, and Oregon, Pennsylvania,
and Washington require the dance-hall license, to be posted in a
conspicuous place in the dance hall while the dance is being held.
North Dakota requires the posting o f the section of the law relating
to age restrictions and Massachusetts the sections relating to age,
hours o f attendance, and lighting requirements. Idaho provides that
dance-hall owners may adopt and post reasonable regulations for the
healthful and orderly conduct o f the halls. I f these posted regula­
tions are violated, such violation constitutes a misdemeanor on the
part of the patrons.

Fourteen States have placed certain restrictions upon the attend­
ance of minors at public dances. The laws of New Jersey, North
Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Washington state that persons
under 18 years of age shall not be permitted in public dance halls
unless accompanied by parent or legal guardian. South Dakota
makes it unlawful for such a person to enter or remain in the dance
hall, and Washington makes misrepresentation o f age a misdemeanor.
In Minnesota unmarried persons 16 to 18 years o f age must be accom­
panied by parent or guardian or present the written consent of one
of these. In Oregon it is unlawful for the operator of the dance hall
to allow a minor under 18 to conduct or assist in conducting a dance
or to furnish or assist in furnishing music.
Massachusetts prohibits the admission o f any one under 17 years
of age between 6 p. m. and 6 a. m. unless accompanied by a parent
or guardian or adult member of the family with which he or she
resides; Wisconsin requires such minors to be accompanied at public
dances by a parent or lawful guardian.
Persons under 16 years of age may not attend public dance halls
in Illinois unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian (or
proper escort); and in Pennsylvania persons under 16 are not per­
mitted to attend after 9 p. m. Minnesota requires a parent or guard­
ian to accompany unmarried persons under 16 years o f age. In New
York it is a misdemeanor to permit any person actually or apparently
under the age of 16 in a dance house unless accompanied by parent
or guardian or by an adult authorized by the parent or guardian.
The Connecticut law does not permit persons under 14 years of
age— or after 6 p. m., boys under 14 years of age and girls under 16
years of age—in public dance halls unless accompanied by a parent
or guardian. Rhode Island prohibits the attendance of any boy
under 14 years of age and any girl under 16 unless accompanied by
and in full charge of an adult person not furnished by the pro­
prietor, manager, or doorkeeper o f a public dance hall or by the
agent of such person.

In Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Washington public dances must M
be discontinued and the halls closed at or before 1 a. m. (from
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



1 a. m. to 6 a. m. in Minnesota and Washington), but with special
permission the time can be prolonged in Washington and can be
extended to 2 a. m. in Pennsylvania. Dancing is prohibited in public
dance halls in Oregon between midnight ana 6 a. m., and in South
Dakota between 2 a. m. and 7 a. m. on week nights and from mid­
night Saturday to 7 a. m. Monday.
Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana,
North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Wisconsin, as well
as South Dakota, prohibit dancing on Sunday, and Nebraska has a
law against such dancing, which, however, does not apply to public
dance halls in cities o f metropolitan class having a public-welfare
board with authority to regulate public dances. Minnesota pro­
hibits public dancing before 12 noon on Sunday. Some other States
have laws forbidding operation of or attendance at public amuse­
ments on Sunday, and although public dancing is not always
specifically mentioned it has been construed as falling within the

Minnesota, New Hampshire, and North Dakota require one or more
police officers, detailed by the chief peace officer or sheriff in Minne­
sota and by the mayor or selectmen in New Hampshire, to be in at­
tendance at all public dances, fees for such service to be paid by the
applicant. In North Dakota the law provides that State inspectors
with full powers of police are to be appointed to visit and inspect
dance halls.
South Dakota provides for free entrance to the dance hall by the
county sheriff and the chief probation officer of the county court and
stipulates that the board of county commissioners miay require the
employment o f a matron or special officer to supervise public dances,
such person to be appointed by the board at a fixed compensation to
be paid by the person operating the dance. In Wisconsin, if by-laws
have been adopted by the board o f supervisors o f the county, a county
dance supervisor must be present at each dance.
Pennsylvania states that the halls are subject to inspection by the
police department at all reasonable times and whenever open for
dancing. A ll police officers are given power to cause a hall to be
vacated when any ordinance or law is violated. Peace officers of
Washington have access to dances and halls for inspection and en­
forcement of the dance hall act. New Mexico requires every permit
holder to be sworn to preserve good order. I f incompetent to do so,
he must present some one to take oath to act as police officer, or he
must procure the attendance o f the sheriff or the constable of the


Minnesota, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania,
South Dakota, and Washington all require the hall and adjoining
rooms, corridors, and stairways to be brightly lighted. South Da­
kota also has a provision that adjoining grounds used by the dancers
must be adequately illuminated.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



Prohibitions of persons and dances.

Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Washington prohibit
indecent or suggestive dances, and Illinois makes it unlawful for any
known prostitute, procurer, vagrant, or intoxicated person to be pres­
ent in a public dance hall. Wisconsin specifically prohibits the pres­
ence of intoxicated persons or the use of intoxicating liquors in the
dance hall or on the premises, whether the hall be licensed or not
under provisions of any local or county regulation. Ohio prohibits
the presence of intoxicated persons or the use o f intoxicating liquors.
In Oregon, as a condition in the applicant’s bond, no intoxicating
liquors are allowed in or about the dance hall.

In some o f the States violations of these laws are punishable by
fine or imprisonment and by revocation o f the license or permit,
these penalties being specified in the law itself; in other States the
fixing o f the penalty is left to the licensing body or other regulatory
For the infraction o f different provisions o f the law in a given State
different penalties may be imposed. This is the case in several States
where the law has not been the result of a single legislative action.
The penalties when fixed by State law vary considerably: Illinois
imposes a fine of from $25 to $500, or imprisonment in the county jail
from 30 days to 6 months, or both fine and imprisonment, and revoca­
tion o f the license if the hall disturbs the peace, or if disorderly or
immoral practices are permitted, or intoxicating liquors sold on the
premises, or the age restriction violated; Pennsylvania, fine of $25 or
revocation o f the license, or both; Washington, fine o f not more than
$250, or imprisonment not more than 90 days, or both.
For violations of the age requirement in Connecticut the penalty is
a fine of not more than $50, and in New York not more than $500, or
imprisonment in the penitentiary or county jail not more than one
year, or both fine and imprisonment; for violation of the age and post­
ing requirements in Massachusetts fine of $5 to $100 or forfeiture of
the license, or both, and o f the lighting provisions, fine of $100 to
$1,000. For violation o f the requirement for attendance of police
officers in New Hampshire fine of not more than $10 is provided. In
Washington and Wisconsin a child who wrongfully misrepresents his
age in order to gain entrance to a dance is guilty of a misdemeanor,
and in Wisconsin he is dealt with as a juvenile delinquent.
Violations o f the prohibition of public dancing on Sunday are
punishable by a wide range of fines and imprisonment imposed in
some States upon participants in the dancing and in others upon the
licensee or permittee of the dance hall. In Connecticut, for example,
those present at Sunday dancing are subject to a fine of $4, while in
Georgia the owner, manager, or tenant o f any public place who per­
mits dancing on Sunday is guilty o f a misdemeanor and therefore may
be punished by a fine of not more than $1,000, or by imprisonment to
work in the chain gang for not more than 6 months on.the public
roads or for not more than 12 months on other public works.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

A^ uur/rrnyi & meoeaittoai,




"" L



In addition to the laws passed by the various States regulating
public dance halls and public dances such legislation has been enacted
by many cities. As in the case of the States, measures vary greatly,
ranging from mere licensing requirements to comprehensive ordi­
nances governing every phase of the subject, including provisions
for detailed supervision and protective work.

In 1924 the Children’s Bureau sent inquiries in regard to municipal
regulation of public dances and methods of enforcement to 492 cities
having a population o f 15,000 or more. No information was received
from 76 cities. O f the 416 cities replying, 240 had ordinances and
176 did not. O f the 240 having ordinances, 133 had ordinances that
were fairly comprehensive; 76 required a license or permit to conduct
or operate a public dance hall or public dance, some o f these having
additional requirements relating to age or supervision; 21 had laws
on special phases only of the subject, usually regulating age o f
admission or hours of attendance; 7 cities had ordinances, copies of
which were not sent to the Children’s Bureau; and 3 prohibited the
operation o f dance halls. Thirty-four o f the 76 cities from which
no reply was received are situated in States that regulated public
dances and public dance halls by State law—2 in Arizona, 4 in
Connecticut, 1 in Maine, 4 in Massachusetts, 7 in New Jersey, 1 in New
York, 6 in Ohio, 6 in Pennsylvania, 2 in South Carolina, and 1 in
y ^ ' Wisconsin. Seventy-four o f the cities which reported no municipal
ordinances relating to public dances are also in States in which State
laws were in effect—3 in Connecticut, 2 in Maine, 18 in Massachu'}
setts, 1 in Minnesota, 1 in New Hampshire, 6 in New Jersey, 20
in New York, 9 in Ohio, 9 in Pennsylvania, 3 in Rhode Island, and
2 in Wisconsin.
Even in cities in which no dance-hall regulations have been adopted
the general powers o f the police would include supervision at public
dance places. Thirty-five cities specifically left entire control to
the police department or other regulatory authority, such as the
mayor’s office, which made rules and regulations that were frequently
drawn along the same lines as the ordinances and were often just as
stringent and specific. It is quite possible that the provisions given
in the following pages as covered by ordinances or written police
regulations in various cities and towns %ave also been covered in
actual practice in some of the cities from which no information was
received or which reported no law.

An examination of the dates o f enactment o f dance-hall legislation
shows that there has been a steady increase in this type of provision
in the past 15 years, with about 75 per cent o f the more complete
ordinances enacted since 1918. This increase may be attributed to the
Jpk fuller recognition o f the social factors involved in this type o f
amusement and the consequent need for regulation and supervision,
or, as suggested by some city officers, it may be the direct result o f
conditions arising out o f the demand for excitement and the conse­
quent increase in the number o f dance halls following the war years.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



In 1893 Bayonne, N. J., passed an ordinance which is still in force,
prohibiting any girl under 16 years of age from attending a dance
house unless accompanied by one o f her parents or her legal guardian.
In 1902 Plymouth, Pa., passed an ordinance, still in force, requiring
a license issued by the burgess for all public balls and dances to which
an admission fee is charged, providing that halls or rooms in which
a dance is held must be closed not later than 1 a. m., prohibiting the
attendance of any person under 16 years of age unless accompanied
by parents, and fixing a fine of not less than $2 nor more than $10 for
each violation. In the same year an ordinance went into effect in
Beaumont, Tex., requiring a license to be obtained for the operation
of every public dance house and a permit from the mayor for every
public dance or public ball. The chief of police was to be notified of
the time of such dance and the permit was to be filed with him or his
deputy. He was to detail one or more policemen to be in attendance
at the dance to preserve order and arrest all persons guilty of
disorder. Fines were the punishment for violations o f this ordinance.
The tendency of legislation that regulates the public dance is to
require licenses for halls and permits for dances, to fix an age limit
for admission and hours of attendance of minors, and to prohibit
certain types of dancing and conduct in the hall. A number of cities
also provide for frequent police inspection or continuous supervision
of the public dance and prohibit the issuance o f return checks and the
diminution or extinguishment o f lights during the dance.

Definitions of places covered.

Public dances, public dance halls, and other places covered by the
laws and ordinances are defined differently in the different cities.
Some, like Akron, Ohio, go into no detail but simply provide that the
law applies “ to public dance halls,” or, like Elyria, Ohio, “ to any
dance to which the public generally may gain admission either with
or without payment o f a fee for such admission.” The Colorado
Springs, Colo., ordinance4 is typical o f the majority o f ordinances
that define more specifically public dances and public dance halls:
The term “ public dance,” as used in this ordinance, shall be held to mean
any dance or ball to which admission can be had by payment of a fee, or by the
purchase, possession, or presentation of a ticket or other token, or at which a
charge is made for caring for clothing or other property, or any dance whatso­
ever to which the public generally may gain admission, either with or without
The term “ public dance hall,” as used herein, shall be held to mean any
room, hall, place, or space in which a public dance shall be held, or hall,
academy, or other place, in which classes in dancing are held and instruction in
dancing given for compensation, except as provided in section 2 [when held or
given in a private residence].

Cabarets and hotels are included within the definition o f public
dance hall in certain cities. Dunkirk, N. Y., for example, has an
ordinance that applies to any public place o f any description in
which are conducted dances to which an admission fee is charged
whether the dance is o f a public or private nature and whether or not
it is conducted for profit. This would seem to apply equally to
dances given by a fraternity or society, which are specifically in40rd. No. 897, passed Feb. 26, 1913, as amended by Ord. No. 1101, passed Nov. 29,
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eluded in a number o f ordinances. Asheville, N. C., for instance,
has such a clause including “ any dance to which the public may
gain admission by the payment of dues or subscription of membership
in any society, group, or other organization.’''
On the contrary, Rockford, 111., and a number of other cities pro­
vide that the ordinance restrictions shall not affect dances given by
a society, fraternity, or church.
Other exemptions from ordinance provisions are made by certain
cities. For example, Waukegan, 111., exempts dances limited to per­
sons having an invitation; Niagara Falls, N. Y., exempts dances
held in any room, space, or place located in or upon the premises of a
hotel or inn containing at least 50 bedrooms for guests; San Diego,
Calif., exempts all bona fide dances for guests held in hotels, and
also dances given by incorporated philanthropic societies, incorpo­
rated fraternal organizations, and military or naval organizations
of the United States or of the State o f California.
As a rule, ordinances apply within the city limits only, but some
ordinances have a wider application. Billings, Mont., stipulates
that public dances and public dance halls held or situated within
3 miles of the city also fall within the scope o f the provisions.
Fort Wayne, Michigan City, and Richmond, Ind., have ordinances
that apply equally to places within 4 miles o f the city limits not in­
cluded within any other incorporated city or town. Such provisions
are made to regulate road houses and pavilions outside the city limits
in order that dancers will not resort to them to escape from the sur­
veillance to which the city dances are subject.
Where the terms are not defined by the ordinance itself the en­
forcement may cover every type of place and dance mentioned in
the most stringent specific law, or it may be construed to regulate
only a minimum o f places, according to the policy of the local en­
forcing officers.
Licenses and permits.

The first step toward municipal supervision of public dancing is
the establishment o f regulations providing that all halls in which
public dances are held must be licensed at regular intervals, and fol­
lowing this that a special permit be issued to those persons or organi­
zations desiring to hold a public dance or a series o f such dances.
Such provisions have been incorporated in the regulations of 210
cities reporting on this point to the Children’s Bureau. Eighty-three
additional cities from which no information was received or which
reported that no ordinance was in effect are situated in States requir­
ing a license or permit, or both, as follow s: 33 in Massachusetts, 1 in
Minnesota, 19 in Ohio, 21 in Pennsylvania, 1 in New Mexico, and 8 in
Rhode Island.
Some o f the municipal ordinances provide that the licensing
authority may refuse to issue or renew the license at his discretion,
but others provide for investigation of applicants and inspection of
the building by designated municipal departments before license can
be granted. Generally these ordinances provide for fine or imprisj(konment for failure to secure the necessary license or permit or for
other violations.
Ninety-one cities have ordinances requiring a license to maintain
a public dance hall (7 o f these also require a permit for the dance)
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but do not provide for an investigation before the issuance of the
license. Under the ordinances of these cities the requirement of
a license would appear to be no more than a method of raising
The ordinances or other official regulations of 76 cities contain
detailed provisions requiring a written application for a license to
operate a dance hall, with some or all o f the following information:
Name, address, and residence of the applicant; affidavit as to moral
character; previous court record; locality o f proposed dance hall;
and sanitary, lighting, and safety features in the hall and premises
connected therewith. A few cities require advance newspaper publi­
cation of the intention to operate a dance hall in the desired location
or the actual consent of a proportion of the freeholders in the locality.
In one city the hall must not be within 600 feet o f a public park or
playground, and in another city the ordinance specifies the streets
on which dance halls may be located.
The application for a license is submitted to the city council,
mayor, chief o f police, or other designated authority, who may at
his discretion authorize the issuance of the license. In certain in­
stances, before approval is given, the described premises must be
investigated by the building inspector, chief o f police, chief of fire
department, and members o f the board of health, or by some o f these,
to see that it meets city and State requirements.
O f the 76 cities with detailed license provisions, 47 require dance
permits to be secured by those desiring to give a public dance. In a
number of cases the applicants must furnish satisfactory proof as to
their character and the purpose of the dance. This enables the authorities to gain certain desirable information as to the persons con­
ducting the dances in addition to the information on hand relating
to whoever maintains the hall, both of whom are equally important
in a plan for supervision. I f the licensee o f the hall is the person
holding the dance and has already filed personal information at the
time he secured the license, nothing is gained by requiring similar
statements for a dance permit, and many cities exempt him from the
permit requirements in such cases.
In 28 cities, although licenses must be procured before the opera­
tion o f any dance hall with an official investigation as a condition
to the issuance o f such license, it is permissible to hold dances in
other than licensed halls if a permit is secured for such dances. In
23 o f these 28 cities an official investigation is required before such a
permit is granted.
Fifteen cities do not require licenses to condtict a dance hall but
stipulate that a permit must be secured by the person or association
holding a public dance or a series of public dances. Permits are
granted sometimes for a single night, sometimes for six months or
a year. Frequently these applications must contain data similar to
that required of. applicants for dance-hall licenses, and the same
inspection and investigation must be made before approval.

Fifty-three cities reported municipal regulations requiring that
the license or permit, or both, be posted in the dressing rooms, near
the entrance o f the dance hall, or in some other conspicuous place;
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13 that the ordinance or police regulation or abstract thereof be so
posted; and 8 that both license or permit and the law or regulation
be posted. In the absence o f municipal regulation State laws with
posting requirements are applicable in 65 additional cities; State laws
requiring posting o f licenses or permits apply in 26 cities (4 in
Minnesota and 22 in Pennsylvania) ; and State laws requiring posting
o f the State law apply in 39 cities (38 in Massachusetts and 1 in
North Dakota).
Restrictions on attendance of minors.

Regulations in respect to the age o f persons admitted to public
dances and public dance halls have been adopted by 142 of the cities
reporting to the Children’s Bureau. Seventeen cities prohibit the
admission of those under a stipulated age, although 7 of these apply
only after 9 p. m .; 83 prohibit persons under stated ages attending
dance halls unaccompanied; 1 prohibits the attendance o f those under
16 and requires persons 16 and 17 to be accompanied; and 41 require
persons under a certain age to be accompanied after a specified hour.
The regulations requiring that persons under a given age be accom­
panied generally specify the parent or guardian, but the various
ordinances differ slightly in this respect. In certain localities it is
sufficient if the minor is with an escort or older person; in others it
is necessary that the parent or guardian give written consent to the
attendance of the minor with his particular companion.
A few cities make a distinction in the minimum age of attendance
for girls and for boys. The age restrictions apply to admission or
attendance at the dancing place or the dance, whichever is covered
by the ordinance, but no distinction between these has been made in
this section.
State laws relating to minimum age of persons attending or taking
part in public dances affect 165 cities not included in the preceding
summary— 16 in Connecticut, 36 in Massachusetts, 2 in Minnesota,
33 in New York, 1 in North Dakota, 21 in Ohio, 22 in Pennsylvania’
6 in Rhode Island, and 28 in New Jersey.
Under 21 years.—According to -data at hand no city ordinance
specifically prohibits all persons under 21 years from attending or
taking part in public dancing. Walla Walla, Wash., however, makes
it unlawful for boys under 21 years to attend or be present at a public
dance unless accompanied by parent or legal guardian. Denver
Colo., requires a keeper or proprietor of a public dance hall to keep
a register containing the name and address of every person actually
or apparently under 21 years who attends, the date o f such attend­
ance, and the name and address o f the male escort o f all females under
21 years admitted. The inspector of amusements may require such
persons to sign their names and addresses in the register before being
permitted to enter the dance hall.
Pueblo, Colo., 'and Auburn, Me., require all minors to be accom­
panied by parent or guardian (or chaperone in Auburn), and ac­
cording to information from East Chicago, Ind., no minors are
allowed at public dances in that municipality by police regulation.
Under 18 years.—Absolute prohibition o f the attendance o f ali
persons under 18 years of age at public dance halls is made in Oak­
land and Riverside, Calif., and at public dances in St. Paul, Minn.*
o f all unmarried persons below this age in Des Moines, Iow a; and o f
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all persons under 18 years after 9 p. m. in Wilkinsburg, Pa. San
Diego, Calif., does not allow persons under 18 at cabarets; Los
Angeles, Calif., prohibits their admission except at a public dance
in bona fide hotels and cafés or other places where meals are regu­
larly served, and even in such places they are not allowed to take
part in the dancing.
The following 36 cities require persons under 18 years o f age
attending public dances or public dance halls to be accompanied by
parent or legal guardian or other designated person: Bakersfield,
Fresno, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose, Calif.; Colorado
Springs, Colo.; Pocatello, Idaho; Bloomington, Freeport, Gales­
burg, and Jacksonville, 111.; Council Bluffs and Fort Dodge, Iowa;
Duluth, Minn.; Joplin and Springfield, M o.; Billings, Butte,
and Great Falls, Mont.; Lincoln, Nebr.; Concord, N. H .; Albu­
querque, N. M ex.; Binghamton, N. Y . ; Asheville, N. C .; Dayton,
Hamilton, Lima, and Middleton, Ohio; Sioux City, S. Dak.; Mem­
phis, Tenn.; Ogden City and Salt Lake City, Utah; Richmond, V a .;
Seattle, Spokane, and Tacoma, Wash.
In St. Paul, Minn., and Akron, Ohio, minors under 18 may attend
if accompanied by a parent or guardian but are not permitted to take
part in the dancing.
Pocatello, Idaho, in addition to requiring minors under 18 to be
accompanied, has a provision that a register shall be kept in the
hall containing the name o f every person under 18 and o f the accom­
panying parent, guardian, or person having the consent o f the parent
or guardian; Hibbing, Minn., requires unmarried persons 16 to 18
years of age to be accompanied by parent or guardian, or to present
the written consent of one of these; and Madison, Wis., requires per­
sons 16 to 18 years o f age to be accompanied by parent or legal
guardian, or a person authorized in writing by a parent or guardian.
The requirement that persons under 18 years of age be accompanied
applies to girls only in eight cities: Stockton, Calif.; Indianapolis,
Ind.; Kansas City, Mo.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Waco, Tex.; North
Yakima and Walla Walla, Wash.; and Superior, Wis. (escort only
required); to unmarried girls only in four cities: Cedar Rapids,
Mason City, Ottumwa, and Sioux City, Iowa; and to boys only in
one city : Port Arthur, Tex.
In 20 cities the ordinances require that persons under 18 must be
accompanied at public dances and public dance halls after a specified
hour— 6.30 p. m. in Alameda, Calif.; 8 p. m. (by parent or legal
guardian or husband over 18 years of age) in Hutchinson and
Wichita, Kans.; 9 p. m. in Waterloo, Iow a; Leominster, Mass.; New
Brunswick, N. J .; Canton, Cleveland, Cleveland Heights, East Cleve­
land, and Lakewood, Ohio; Portland and Salem, O reg.; Bethlehem,
P a.; and Oshkosh, Wis. (applies to persons 16 to 18 years of a g e );
10 p. m. in Denver, Colo.; Milwaukee, Sheboygan, and Wassau, W is.;
and 11 p. m. in La Crosse, Wis.
Under 17 years.—None o f the ordinances filed with the Children’s
Bureau prohibits entirely the attendance or admission o f minors
under 17 years o f age. Fifteen cities provide that persons under 17
years of age shall not frequent public dances or public dance halls
unless accompanied by parent or legal guardian or some other person
mentioned in the law. This group is comprised o f Pasadena, Calif.;
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Boston, Cambridge, Gloucester, Lynn, and New Bedford, Mass.;
Grand Rapids and Pontiac, Mich.; Berlin and Manchester, N. H .;
New Rochelle, N. Y .; Lorain, Ohio; and Fond du Lac, Green Bay,
and Racine, Wis.
Seven other cities require minors under IT to be accompanied after
an hour specified ,in the regulations, and since the hours specified
are sufficiently early to include the hours during which persons gen­
erally attend dances, these regulations have practically the same
effect as the ones in force in the cities named in the preceding para­
graph. The time in these cities is set as follows: After 6 p. m. in
Long Beach, C alif.; after 7 p. m. in Kalamazoo, Mich., and in
Toledo, Ohio; after 8 p. m. in St. Louis, M o.; after 9 p. m. in
Muskegon and Jackson, Mich.; and after 9.30 p. m. in Elyria, Ohio;
Long Beach has in addition a provision that, at the request of the
manager, proprietor, or doorkeeper or managing agent o f the pro­
prietor of the public dance or public dance hall, the person seeking
admission must register his or her true name, age, and address in his
or her own handwriting.
Under 16 years.—Two cities (Santa Barbara, Calif., and Charles­
ton, S. C .), prohibit the attendance o f persons under 16 years of age
at public dances or public dance halls. Seven other cities (Altoona,
Erie, Johnstown, Nanticoke, Philadelphia, Reading, Pa., and Madi­
son, W is.), prohibit such attendance after 9 p. m. Unaccompanied
minors under 16 years of age are not allowed at public dances and
in public dance halls in 15 cities: Rockford, 111.; Elkhart, Ind.;
Quincy, Mass.; Hjbbing, Minn, (unmarried persons under 16 must
be accompanied by parent or guardian); Omaha, Nebr.; Jamestown,
Niagara Falls, and Syracuse, N. Y .; Oklahoma City, Okla.; New
Castle and Plymouth, P a.; Providence, R. I . ; Eau Claire, Oshkosh,
and Superior, Wis. Unaccompanied girls under 16 are prohibited in
3 cities (Miami, Fla., Bayonne, N. J., and Port Arthur, Tex.), and
unaccompanied boys under 16 in 1 city (Indianapolis, Ind.).
Parents, guardians, or other legally authorized persons must ac­
company minors under the age of 16 in public dances and dance
halls after a certain hour in 13 cities: 7 p. m. in Battle Creek, Mich.,
and Chillicothe, Ohio; 8 p. m. in Fort Wayne, Michigan City, and
Richmond, Ind.; 9 p. m. in Leavenworth, Kans. (except a married
woman under 16 accompanied by her husband), Minneapolis, Minn,
(curfew law applies to all public places, dance halls not being spe­
cifically mentioned), Buffalo and Yonkers, N. Y., and Newport, R. I.
(exclusion optional with the p olice); 9.30 p. m. in Northampton, Mass,
(applies to all public places, dance halls not being specifically men­
tioned) ; 10 p. m. in Wichita Falls, Tex.; and 11 p. m. in Beloit, Wis.
Sacramento, Calif., requires that persons under 16 years of age
be accompanied by parent or guardian after 8 p. m. from January
1 to the last of February and from September 1 to December 31; and
after 9 p. m. from March 1 to August 31. This applies to all public
places, dance halls not being specifically mentioned.
Other age restrictions— Portland, Me., prohibits the attendance of
persons under 15 years of age at public dance halls unless accom­
panied by parent or guardian; Bluefield, W. Va., prohibits the ad­
mission o f persons under 12 years o f age to a dance hall unless ac­
companied by parent, guardian, or other authorized person over 21
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years of age, not acting for the proprietor o f the hall. Detroit, Mich.,
has an ordinance prohibiting children under 12 years of age in any
public place between 10 p. m. and 6 a. m. unless accompanied by
parent or guardian.
Hours of operation.

The majority o f the 104 cities that reported legislation definitely
limiting the hours of operation, require public dances to be discon­
tinued and public dance halls to be closed at or before a specified
hour r inging from 11.30 p. m. to 2 a. m., or later with the special
permission o f the chief o f police. Twenty-eight cities have definite
hours not only for closing but for the period during which the halls
must remain closed and no dances may be held. The period when
dancing is not permitted in a public dance hall varies from 11 p. m.
to 8 a. m. in one city to 2 a. m. to 6 a. m. in another. In addition to
the cities having these regulations 25 cities (22 in Pennsylvania and 3
in Minnesota) are covered by State laws wnich contain similar pro­
hibitions, and other cities have police regulations or ordinances ap­
plying to public places and public amusements in general covering
this point.
Many o f the ordinances state the time for closing but authorize the
chief of police, mayor, or other designated official to extend the hours
of operation, some setting a maximum hour under the extended pe­
riod, others leaving that to the discretion of the designated authority.
This results in greater leeway and seems to be the most popular sys­
tem. Several ordinances also provide that dancing may be prolonged
until a later hour on New Year’s Eve and on the eve of other holidays.
An interesting provision in the ordinances of 15 cities that allow
dancing until a later hour is that which states that no ticket shall be
sold nor accepted for admission after a fixed time. This hour is 9.30
p. m. in Lincoln, Nebr.; 11 p. m. in Colorado Springs, Colo., and
Joplin and Springfield, Mo.; 11.30 p. m. in Waterloo, Iowa; and
midnight in Denver, Colo., Buffalo, and Mount Vernon, N. Y., Canton,
Cleveland, Cleveland Heights, and Lakewood, Ohio, Portland and
Salem, Oreg., and Bethlehem, Pa.
Local conditions largely determine the value of these early closing
hours. To close supervised dance halls early when unregulated
cabarets and still more dangerous places remain open accomplishes
little. However, advantages resulting from these regulations were
reported. For example, an official in one city said that 11.30 p. m.
was set as a closing hour in order to get the young people out of the
dance hall in time to catch a bus or car which did not run after mid­
night. Before the passage o f the ordinance girls were sometimes
invited into automobiles on the pretext of being taken home but
instead were taken to road houses or other places.
In a few cities dance-hall operators have taken advantage of the
wording o f the ordinance to defeat its purpose. I f only the hour when
dancing must stop is set dances were stopped at that time for 10 to 15
minutes and then continued. I f the ordinance prohibits dancing and
keeping dance halls open after a certain hour evasion seems impossible,
but the definite closed period is considered the safest provision.

Municipal authorities, under their general police powers, may make
and enforce regulations governing public dances and public dance
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halls. Even without the formal framing of any regulations, the
police may supervise such dances. This general supervisory power
is seldom exercised, however, except that members of the police force
are often required to attend or remain near halls where disturbances
or other infractions of the law occur frequently. Approximately 169
cities reported legislation in effect requiring some supervision of
dance halls and dances. Twenty-six other cities may regulate this
feature by virtue o f State laws: Four in Minnesota, 1 in New Hamp­
shire, 1 in New Mexico, 20 in Pennsylvania.
Police regulations and municipal ordinances often provide strict
supervision and adequate inspection of all dance halls and public
dances; In some cities continuous attendance at all public dances of
one or more police officers detailed by the chief of police or the
mayor, or of an attendant, generally floor manager or matron, to
represent the management, or of both, is required. Another type
of ordinance requires supervision and inspection regularly or at
stated intervals and provides that certain city officials shall have free
access to the dances at all times, but requires no constant supervision.
Many o f the ordinances that require continuous supervision by a
specified officer or officers also contain the provision for free access
by certain city officials.
Supervision by matrons and police.—Twenty-two cities provide
that a police officer or dance inspector and a matron or floor manager
must be present during the entire dance. The ordinances in some
of these cities require that the matrons be selected or approved by
the mayor or chief o f police, although they are hired by the person
owning the hall or conducting the dance. In 8 o f these 22 cities
the wages of the police officer and o f the matron are paid by the
licensee of the hall or dance, the amount o f the fee therefor being
stated in the ordinance.
A number of the ordinances state what duties the supervisor must
perform. For example, Eau Claire, Wis., provides that the floor
manager shall see that standards o f decency and good taste are
maintained and that disorderly or improper conduct is not tolerated,
and must remove objectionable persons. A female dance inspector,
a matron, or a policewoman appointed by the mayor must also be
present at every dance to see that all rules, regulations, ordinances,
and laws are enforced. Santa Barbara, Calif., provides that all
dances are to be under the immediate supervision of a matron o f good
moral character who shall be in attendance during the entire dance.
The matron shall have free access to all rooms connected with the
hall that are used by women patrons. She is to observe and report to the
police officers in attendance any misconduct on the part of the patrons.
Eighty-six cities require supervision by the police or by matrons
employed by the manager o f the d&nce or dance hall. Cedar Rapids,
Iowa, makes it unlawful to hold a public dance without having in
attendance during the entire dance two peace officers, one o f whom
shall be a woman and both o f whom shall have all the powers o f police
officers. The person, firm, or corporation giving a public dance is re­
quired to pay to the city treasurer $3 a day as a fee for the services o f
each of these officers. The peace officers are to exercise complete
supervision oyer the public dance, to prohibit and prevent all dancing
that in their judgment is of a questionable or indecent character, to
maintain peace and good order in the public dance hall, and to en
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force all the provisions of the dance-hall ordinances as well as the
other ordinances of the city and the laws of the State.
In a few cities the dances are supervised by censors who are police
officials named by the mayor or chief of police for this special pur­
pose. Meriden, Conn., has a by-law which states that the chief of
police is authorized and empowered to employ one or more women
censors to be in attendance at any public dance. It is the duty of
these women censors to observe the conduct o f persons attending any
dance and to report to the proper authorities any improper or unlaw­
ful conduct. A board o f censors in Enid, Okla., is given more power.
Here the section of the ordinance relating to supervision reads as
follow s:
The mayor and commissioners of the city of Enid, Okla., are hereby em­
powered and authorized to appoint a board of censors to consist of three
disinterested persons, whose duties shall be to censor each and every dance
held in the city of Enid, Okla., except such as are held in private homes, and
who shall at once, and without notice, upon the performance of any dancing
which is considered to be improper, have full power and authority to imme­
diately order such dance to be terminated.®

Indianapolis, Ind., places the responsibility o f compliance with the
ordinances upon the matron by providing that “ such matron shall
have the right, and she is hereby clothed with authority, to cause
any person who offends against the decent proprieties o f a social
gathering in the manner o f dress, manners, or language to be ejected
from the room or building in which such dance or ball is being held,
and to carry out her orders in that behalf she may call to her assist­
ance any policeman or the person holding such permit, whose duties
shall be to enforce her orders in so ejecting such offending persons.”
In this city the application for dance permits must be made at police
headquarters 24 hours before the time of the dance. The superin­
tendent o f police then names “ some matronly woman of exemplary
character to be present at such dance or ball, and her name, together
with the date and the hour when such dance is to take place, is to be
stated in such permit.” The matron is paid by the person to whom
the permit is issued and is required to be on the floor at all times, but
is not allowed to dance.
Police inspection.— Sixty-one cities reported regulations which
provide for the attendance o f supervisors at public dances and public
dance halls but which do not make this attendance compulsory or
continuous; that is, either the matter of appointing or detailing
special officers is optional with some municipal authority or it is pro­
vided that city dance hall inspectors or members o f the police, fire,
and public-welfare departments shall have free access to all such
places at all times for inspection and supervision but are not required
to be present at all times. The ordinances o f some o f these cities
require inspection by members o f some o f these or other departments
at fixed intervals, at least once a month being a common requirement.
In actual practice a number of these cities probably have regular
inspectors or supervisors in constant attendance.
Burlington, Yt., provides for neither supervision nor inspection,
but the law contains a statement to the effect that the licensee must
insure maintenance o f law and order at all times. Paris, Tex., and a
* Ord. No. 1265, approved Jan. 11, 1923, sec. 3.
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few other places have similar provisions. In Sheboygan, Wis., the
licensee is given power to use necessary and reasonable force to sup­
press indecent and boisterous dancing.
Regulation of physical and social conditions.

Certain cities have very definite provisions in their ordinances
regulating the physical and social conditions in dance halls; others
have passed measures to apply to certain phases only.
Individuals excluded.—Seventy-nine cities report provisions that
exclude certain persons from public dance halls. In some cities the
restrictions relate only to persons under the influence of liquor, but
in others they exclude persons under the influence o f drugs, boister­
ous or disorderly persons, and those of questionable or disreputable
character or o f known immorality. Thieves and criminals are ex­
pressly prohibited in a few places.
Alameda, Calif., provides that no person shall be admitted to a
public dance if the person conducting the same has been notified
that such person was expelled from any public dance. El Paso, Tex.,
prohibits the attendance o f women known to be immoral. Madison,
Wis., makes it unlawful to permit the attendance or presence on the
premises o f any person under the influence of liquor or drugs, any
idlers, loiterers,_or other hangers-on, and any person who is reported
on a list o f objectionable persons which is prepared by the dancehall proprietors holding annual permits and filed with the mayor.
Alcoholic liquors.—It is a violation o f the ordinances of 59 cities
to bring, sell, give away, use, or possess alcoholic liquors in public
dance halls or rooms adjoining or connecting therewith or at a public
dance. Other cities enforce general measures relating to the sale or
use o f intoxicating liquors in dance halls as well as in other places.
Personal conduct and type o f danemg.—Approximately 100 cities
regulate personal conduct and the type o f dancing which must pre­
vail in dance halls and dances, ranging from a single general
prohibition, as in Lynn, Mass., where “ no unrefined dancing” ’ is to
be allowed, to far more specific instruction, as in Lincoln, Nebr.,
where the ordinance makes it unlawful for any person to participate
in a dance o f a coarse or vulgar character or offensive to public
morals and decency prohibits the use of profane or obscene language,
undue familiarity between partners, indecent, boisterous, or disor­
derly conduct, or any lewd or lascivious behavior, and defines “ the
standard position ” to be maintained by partners while dancing.
Under this ordinance, “ the lady shall place her left hand on the
gentleman’s right shoulder or arm and her right hand on the gentle­
man’s left hand, the gentleman’s right hand on the lady’s back, and
at all times the patrons shall keep their bodies at least 6 inches apart.”
In Kalamazoo, Mich., the ordinance makes even more detailed
provision o f what may or may not be done by the dancers.
The attempt is made by these regulations to eliminate indecent or
suggestive dances or motions of the body, as well as profane language
and boisterous conduct. Many other features, however, are also
dealt with. Alameda, Calif., includes a provision that “ no one not
properly dressed shall be permitted to dance ” ; Indianapolis, Ind.,
and several other cities require ladies to remove their wraps and
prohibit loitering in halls and stairways or upon the sidewalk in
front o f the hall.
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A number o f ordinances specify the dances that shall not be per­
mitted, such as cheek-to-cheek or head-to-head dances and special
dances described as the Toddle, Shuffle, Grizzly Bear, Bunny Hug,
Texas Tommy, and Camel Walk. Port Arthur, Tex., permits only
dances approved by the National Association o f Dancing Masters,
and in Muskegon, Wis., men may not dance together. In Kansas
City, Mo., persons may not sit in the windows or stand in the door­
ways or upon the dance floor when not dancing; in Manchester, N. H.,
and in some other cities the ordinances prohibit men from remaining
in ladies’ rooms. Riverside, Calif., prohibits the exhibition of
immoral or obscene motion pictures at any public dance hall.
Lighting and sanitation.—Approximately 100 cities have provi­
sions that contain one or more o f the following requirements: Dance
halls must be brightly lighted; stairways and adjoining rooms and
emergency exits must be well lighted, open, and in a clean and sani­
tary condition; ventilation must be sufficient; separate toilet rooms
for men and women must be provided and kept in a sanitary condi­
tion; and an adequate supply of drinking water must be available.
Under the lighting requirements Elkhart, Ind., stipulates that the
lighting shall be sufficient for one to see and recognize persons across
the dance hall. Several cities specify the degree o f light to be main­
tained. Kansas City, Kans., for example, provides that the inten­
sity o f light to be maintained at all times must be not less than 1 can­
dle-foot at a plane 3 feet above the floor.
“ Shadow ” and “ moonlight ” effects or the lowering or extinguish­
ing of lights during the dance or intermission or while the hall is
open to the public is prohibited in 18 cities.
Smoking.— Ordnances of 83 cities prohibit smoking in dance halls,
but all but 5 of these permit persons to smoke in any room or rooms
especially provided for such purpose by the management o f the dance
hall, or in the men’s room.
Pass-out checks.—A source of disorder in public dance halls results
from the practice o f patrons leaving the hall and anterooms at fre­
quent intervals throughout the evening, during which absences from
the dance halls drinking and other offenses are often committed. To
control this practice, 40 cities have ordinances that prohibit the
issuance o f pass-out checks and require that the regular admission fee
be demanded for each entrance to the dance hall. Alameda, Calif,
and Lincoln, Nebr., have such a clause, which applies, however, only
after 10 p. m. and 9.30 p. m., respectively; Madison and Oshkosh,
Wis., prohibit the issuance o f pass-out checks which permit persons
to leave and reenter the building except during a definite intermission
period o f 15 minutes.
Entrance fees.— Separate fees for individual dances in addition to
or in place of the regular entrance charge are prohibited in nine cities.
Four of these and five others alsa provide that there shall be no
discrimination between the sexes in the amount of the regular charge.
Kalamazoo and Pontiac, Mich., state that there shall be no discrimi­
nation through the offer o f free admission to either sex; Portland,
Oreg., and Tacoma, Wash., stipulate that the fee for females must be
at least half that for males; Bakersfield, Calif., which has a clause
prohibiting separate or individual fees for dances or any admission
except upon payment o f the regular admission fee, provides that the
minimum fee for men shall be 25 cents. O f the cities reporting, Paris,
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Tex., is the only city that does not permit a charge for admission to
the hall, but only a charge for each couple that dances.
Penalties for violation.

Fines.—Fines for violations are included in the dance-hall ordi­
nances of 152 cities. Some of the ordinances fix a flat rate to be paid
for each and every violation, others the amounts for violation of
the different provisions, and still others the minimum and maximum
sums, leaving the fixing of the exact penalty to the mayor or judicial
authority. Elizabeth and Paterson, N. j!, and Allentown, Johns­
town, and Wilkinsburg, Pa., provide for a fine o f $25 for each offense;
Ashville, N. C., provides for a fine o f $50. Attleboro, Mass., has the
lowest fine of any city, with a maximum of $5 for each offense. The
majority o f the ordinances range from a minimum of $25 or $50 to a
maximum o f $100 or $200, although a $500 maximum is not unusual.
In Green Bay, Wis., a fine of $25 to $1,000 is authorized for violation
of the ordinance.
Appleton, Wis., prescribes definite fines for violations o f the vari­
ous provisions o f the ordinance. For noncompliance with the
requirement for the license the fine is $5 to $15, and in default
thereof 5 to 15 days in the county jail; with the requirement for
permit the fine is $5 to $25 and in default thereof 5 to 20 days in
the county jail; with age provision $2 to $10 and in default thereof
a maximum o f 10 days in the county jail; with provisions relating
to intoxicating liquors and indecent conduct $1 to $10 and in default
thereof a maximum o f 10 days in the county jail.
Imprisonment.—As in the Appleton, Wis., ordinance just referred
to, a sentence in the city or county jail may be imposed in addition
to or in lieu o f a fine in 55 cities and is imposed in default o f pay­
ment o f the fine in 22 additional cities. The period of imprisonment
varies in different places, but a maximum o f 30 days is the usual term.
Revocation o f license or 'permit.— Some of the ordinances specify
that the license or permit is revocable at any time by the mayor, city
manager, or other authority—generally the same one who issues
the license or permit. In a few cities conviction of violation of the
ordinance automatically causes such forfeiture.
In Saginaw, Mich., the license is to be revoked if improper dancing
is permitted or the lighting requirement is not complied with. The
commissioner of health and safety can revoke the license for noncompliance with sanitary, fire, or other requirements. These viola­
tions constitute misdemeanors punishable by a fine of not more than
$100 or imprisonment in the city jail for not more than 90 days,
or both fine and imprisonment.
. Violations by minors.— Some of the cities having minimum-age
provisions state that misrepresentation o f age by a minor shall not
excuse the proprietor or manager from a charge of violating the
law. The minor himself, however, is also guilty in such case, and
his violation of the ordinance is punishable. One such city is Denver,
Colo., where a person under 18 violating any provision o f the ordi­
nance may be dealt with according to State law by the juvenile court
o f Denver as a delinquent child; and persons violating any provi­
sions of the ordinance when the violation concerns or involves a
minor may be .proceeded against as provided in the State laws for
contributing to the delinquency o f minors.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

In the 15 cities—Butte, Mont.; Chicago, 111.; Dayton, Ohio; De­
troit. Mich.; Duluth, Minn.; Houston, Tex.; Los Angeles, C a lif; New
Bedford, Mass.; Ottumwa, Iow a; Paterson, N. J . ; Portland, Oreg.;
Rochester, N. Y .; San Francisco, Calif.; Seattle, Wash.; and Wichita,
Kans.—visited in the course o f this study the control of public danc­
ing is attempted chiefly through (a) the investigation o f individuals;
applying for licenses and the inspection of halls to be used, (b) the
inspection or supervision of the dances, and (c ) the insistence by the
management upon the maintenance of certain standards o f conduct.
All except 2 of these cities have dance-hall ordinances. In one of
the cities (New Bedford, Mass.) without a special ordinance, the provisions of the State law are applicable; in the other (Chicago, 111.)
public dances are controlled, except for the license requirement, by
police regulations. In the latter city the dance-hall inspector has
recommended an ordinance in the belief that action by the city council
would be o f assistance in the enforcement o f the regulations.
Licenses or permits, or both, were required in all the cities, and 12
required a preliminary investigation of the character of the applicant
and of the safety and sanitary condition o f the hall before they were
granted. In addition, Houston, Tex., required that an applicant for
a permit put up a bond of $1,000.

In most o f the cities visited the licensing authority also had charge
of the enforcement o f the ordinance or law. In Detroit, however, the
department of recreation issued the licenses, and the women’s bureau
of the police department supervised the public dances. This dual
responsibility had been found undesirable, as there was too much
opportunity to “ pass the buck.” In nine cities the dance-hall regu­
lations were enforced by the police department, in three by a special
branch of the city government working independently of or with the
police, and in two by a private agency cooperating with the police.
In one city no one was definitely responsible for visiting the dance
O f the nine cities in which the police department, either through
a special division or through special officers, was responsible for en­
forcement seven delegated this work to the women’s division or to
women officers, and the other two usually assigned both women and
men officers to the work.
In Detroit the commissioner o f recreation cooperated with the
police in enforcing the ordinance, although his chief responsibility
was in making the preliminary investigation before the license was
granted and in working with the women’s division of the police when
licenses were to be revoked. The women’s division o f the police
department had full charge o f inspecting the dances after a license
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



* 23

had been granted. In Butte the assistant county probation officer was
acting as dance-hall inspector. She was appointed by the mayor
to do this in addition to her other work. Any city official was eligible
to the appointment, which carried no extra salary. The police gave
some assistance. In Paterson two inspectors, a man and a woman,
were appointed to serve directly under the board of aldermen.
In Chicago and San Francisco private agencies with police sup­
port had the responsibility of controlling the dance-hall situation.
In San Francisco the board of police commissioners cooperated with
the public dance-hall committee of the San Francisco Center, an influ­
ential civic organization of women. The police commissioners issued
the dance permits, but the dance-hall inspectors, although paid by
the dance-hall managers, were appointed and supervised by a chief
supervisor who was directly responsible to the public dance-hall com­
mittee o f the center. In Chicago the Ball Room Managers’ Asso­
ciation and the Juvenile Protective Association hired a dance-hall
supervisor and were responsible for the training and supervision of
the hostesses in the halls. The dance-hall managers had organized
partly to anticipate official censorship, and had drawn up a code of
regulations to be enforced in all the halls whose proprietors were
members of the organization.

The investigation o f the licensee and the hall to be licensed before
the issuance of the license was usually made by the agency in charge
of enforcing the ordinance. In 9 of the 15 selected cities this agency
was a division of the police department, acting independently or
in cooperation with other city or private organizations; in 3 the
investigation was made by specially appointed officers; and in 3 no
preliminary investigation was required.
The investigations varied in thoroughness. In Wichita at least
three references were required of the applicant. In investigating
these references the dance-hall inspector not only discussed the finan­
cial standing o f the applicant but definitely asked his sponsors to
vouch for his fitness to operate a place of public amusement affecting
large numbers of the young people of the city. The applicant was
also interviewed so that the point of view of the city officials might
be explained and his cooperation sought in advance o f the granting
of the license. In Detroit a man appointed by the recreation depart­
ment spent his whole time doing the preliminary work required be­
fore a license could be granted for dance halls or other commercial
amusement. He inspected the physical condition of the buildings
with the cooperation of other city departments and took up the
applicant’s moral reputation with the police. I f the application was
for a dance-hall license the women’s division o f the police depart­
ment passed on the moral character of the applicant, as this division
was responsible for subsequent inspections. Officials in both Wichita
and Detroit felt that a large part-of the success of their dance-hall
control was due to the care with which licenses were granted. In
some cities applicants for permits for single dances or for a series o f
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



dances to be held in rented halls were investigated with the same care
as those who applied for licenses; in other cities the owner o f the hall,
which of course had to be licensed, was held responsible for the con­
duct o f all dances held in it.

Special officers o f various types were required to be employed in
the dance halls by the ordinances. An inspector, who was also
known as the chief supervisor in some cities, was usually employed by
the city. A hostess, also called the matron or supervisor, was gen­
erally employed by the dance-hall manager, sometimes with and
sometimes without the inspector’s approval. Constables and peace or
reserve officers were appointed by the city and paid by the manage­
ment, but doormen, instructresses, and similar employees were almost
always selected and paid without the advice or help of the city
officials. In some cities, however, the inspectors checked up on the
ages o f instructresses if they seemed very young.1
The well-trained inspectors in two cities impressed the bureau’s in­
vestigators as understanding and sympathizing in a helpful waj with
the problems of the boys and girls with whom they came in contact.
On the other hand, the inspectors in one city displayed their police
badges as they entered a hall, spoke to no one except for a formal
conversation with the manager, and watched the dancers with an air
of disapprobation. The latter type was rare, fortunately. The
majority of the inspectors looked up the managers and introduced
their guests, discussed in a helpful fashion any problems that might
be presented, and left with a friendly word of commendation or
To make the preliminary investigation before the license was
"ranted was one of the duties o f the inspectors in six cities—Wichita,
Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, Dayton, and Paterson. The officers
o f the dance-hall committee o f San Francisco investigated applicants
for licenses at the request of the police. In Detroit all applications
for dance-hall licenses were submitted by the department of recre­
ation, which made recommendation's to the women’s division o f the
police department before the license was granted.
Permits for one-night dances were granted after investigation by
the inspectors in come of the cities, but in the majority the inspectors
had no responsibility for the approval or rejection o f such permits.
The majority o f the dance-hall inspectors considered the regular
supervision of the halls their chief duty. A few of the larger cities
detailed several men and women to do this work. Los Angeles had
three, Detroit two teams o f two policewomen each, Dayton one full­
time and two part-time women officers, and Paterson a man and a
woman, the woman doing most o f the supervision and the man doing
most of the investigation o f applicants.

Inspectors were appointed and paid by the city except in Chicago
and San Francisco, where they \^ere employed by private agencies.
1 In this report an “ inspector ” is the person responsible for the inspection of the
dance halls, a “ hostess ” is the woman in charge of supervising the individual hall, and
an “ instructress ” Is a paid dancing partner.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



Eight cities—Dayton, Duluth, Los Angeles, New Bedford, Paterson,
Portland, Rochester, and Seattle—required inspectors to pass the
regular civil-service examination for positions in the police depart­
ment. Four o f these—Los Angeles, Paterson, Rochester, and Se­
attle—specified no other qualifications than the ability to pass this
test, but four—Dayton, Duluth, New Bedford, and Portland—either
demanded a knowledge o f case work and the ability to develop the
dance-hall program along helpful lines or consulted with citizens’
organizations in securing a capable person.
In practically all the cities visited the inspectors were conscientious,
interested, and anxious to do creditable work. This was true not
only of the specially trained workers but also of the few political
appointees who had found their way into the field, and o f the un­
trained and rather timid women who were greatly handicapped by
their lack o f training and experience. In two cities, however, the
duty of inspection was assigned to police officers who were changed
from time to time and who had in consequence little opportunity to
become familiar with the problems o f the dance halls and with
means o f improving conditions in them.
Differences in opinion were found among the inspectors as to what
constituted supervision, reflecting, often unconsciously, quite differ­
ent administrative theories. The degree of thoroughness with which
the inspectors performed their duties also differed widely. The
majority spent at least 20 minutes to half an hour at a well-attended
dance, scrutinized the crowd fairly carefully to see if any very
young-looking persons were present unchaperoned, glanced in the
dressing rooms, and possibly spoke with the manager or hostess.
Some inspectors felt it was sufficient to call the manager’s attention
to some infringement of the ordinance without following up the
matter; others saw to it that the situation was corrected. A few
inspectors made the most perfunctory visits and ignored or failed
to see questionable conditions in the halls. This difference in their
feeling of responsibility was particularly marked in connection with
one of the most difficult problems to handle—the presence o f young
girls and boys. Some officials merely questioned a young person as
to his or her age and accepted the statement given as final. Others,
when in doubt, insisted on proof, telephoned or took the young per­
son home, or checked up on the address given. Some inspectors felt
they should not undertake the actual enforcement of ordinance re­
quirements, but instead should place the responsibility upon the
dance-hall managers. The statement, “ We try not to make our­
selves conspicuous,” was frequently heard in these cities. Infringe­
ments of the ordinance rulings were pointed out to the managers by
these inspectors and the correction left to them.
The majority of the inspectors knew where and when dances were
to be given. A few felt no responsibility for searching out onenight dances and club affairs and did not go to them unless, as one
said, they “ just happened to.” In Detroit the dance halls were
grouped according to their need for inspection. Some were visited
once or twice a year, some once a month or once a week, and others
were under constant supervision.
Educational work with the managers and with the parents of
minors found in the halls to secure their cooperation in solving
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



the dance-hall problems was considered by some officers to be the
most important part of their work; others thought that such work
belonged to other agencies if it needed to be done at all. In Wichita
the director o f policewomen found that the ordinance and the vari­
ous provisions necessary to enforce it were accepted readily when the
need and purposes for which they existed were thoroughly under­
stood. She sought the active cooperation of the managers in making
the dance halls what they should be rather than a forced observance
o f the letter of the law. As a part of her duties she spoke to and
conferred with many clubs and civic organizations. Individual
parents were reached through a careful follow-up of the young per­
sons found in the halls. Thus the interest of the dance-hall man­
agers, the general public, and the parents was enlisted. In Portland
the head of the women’s protective division of the police department
said that after a meeting of the dance-hall managers at which the
points of the ordinance were taken up and discussed there was
excellent conduct in the halls. Prospective changes in the ordinance
were discussed with the managers also and if they were “ absolutely
opposed ” the change was put off for a time in an effort to secure
their acquiescence by further discussion of the need. In one city
it was reported that the fact that the managers were not won to
the support of a change in the ordinance lost the women’s division
the cooperation it had previously had from them, bringing in its
place a great hostility to supervision and persistent resistance to
the age ruling, to which the managers objected and which was, in
fact, impossible o f general enforcement without their cooperation.
In some instances the cooperation of the managers was obtained
because the supervision was o f some practical advantage to them.
In Wichita the managers saw that the supervisor might protect their
interests when an out-of-town orchestra was refused a permit to give
a series o f dances on the ground that their project was purely com­
mercial, whereas the local managers were cooperating with the city
officials in order to offer decent dances for young people. In another
city the managers found it convenient to place upon the inspectors
the responsibility for the regulations they enforced, thus protecting
their own reputations as “ good fellows.”
Several inspectors cited cases in which the wisdom of patient
educational work with the managers had been proved. One inspector
told of sending home a girl whose bad dancing a manager had
refused to correct. A visiting policewoman commended her action,
but the inspector felt she had done a very bad piece of work for, she
explained, “ It’s always easier to send a couple home when you’re
angry than it is to leave such decisions to the managers and make
them realize you expect enforcement by them.”
In contrast with such an attitude several inspectors were found
who seemed unwilling to be at all friendly or even interested in the
managers and their mutual problems. This was particularly true
in one city iii which two stiffly disapproving, bored women did the
inspection. Failures in handling various situations with the man­
agers were reported, and the refusal of the dance-hall managers to
cooperate in improving conditions was accepted as inevitable. A
social worker in this city said that the managers regarded the police­
women as uninterested in their problems and submitted without
cooperation to their visits and requests.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



Case work with the dance-hall patrons was sometimes undertaken
by the inspectors. In one city the head of the policewomen consid­
ered it one of the most interesting parts of the dance-hall supervision
and thoroughly approved o f the great amount of it undertaken by
her inspectors. The same view was held in a second city where the
hostesses rather than the inspectors were Responsible for an intensive
follow-up program. In other cities, however, it was the opinion
that the inspectors should not undertake this intensive and timeconsuming work. This was true in one city, where the work of the
department was considered strictly investigational and all cases were
referred to other agencies for treatment.

In 8 o f the 15 cities visited hostesses were employed in the halls.
In 4 cities they were required by law. In 2 cities the members of the
ballroom managers’ association agreed to employ them, although in
1 o f the 2 cities only the larger halls and a few cabarets had done so.
In another city the code of regulations drawn up by the commissioner
o f public safety required an “ accredited chaperone ” at every dance,
but no examination was made o f the references supplied by these
women and the requirement was not strictly enforced. In another
city, after some urging by a group of interested citizens, a hostess
had been employed in the largest hall, and an effort was being made
at the time of the study to place another in a popular academy.
In all these cities the managers paid the hostesses, the amounts
varying from $3 to $5 an evening. To secure the independence of
the hostess and at the same time leave the expense o f this supervision
upon the managers, several cities added the fee for the hostesses and
police officers to the license fee or to the rent o f the hall, in which
case they were paid by the city or by the hall owner.
The dance-hall managers selected their own hostesses in the major­
ity o f the cities, but the inspectors of Seattle, Portland, and Chicago
approved the applicants before they received their positions, and in
San Francisco the inspectors who were appointed by the public dance
hall committee appointed the hostesses, although they were paid by
the managers. Several managers expressed appreciation of the in­
spector’s assistance in this part o f their work. One o f the inspectors
made the point that, although this cooperation was valuable, she had
no real power to appoint or dismiss.
Many officials were interested in methods o f preventing the mana­
gers from interfering with the work of the hostesses. Some felt this
was unavoidable when the women depended upon the managers for
their salaries. One inspector thought that all hostesses should be
paid by the city. Another wanted them paid by the management but
appointed by the inspector as a means of giving them independence
in their work. The head supervisor in another city recommended
that the managers have full responsibility for selecting and paying
them, on the theory that if the police department undertook this work
there would be trouble and “ charges o f graft and favoritism.”
In the cities where the inspectors passed upon applicants before
managers appointed them an effort was made to secure well-qualified
women as hostesses. This, it was explained, was due to the fact that
managers had learned that it was a help rather than a hindrance to
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



have women who were o f the right type and wanted to appoint those
who would be approved.
In San Francisco previous experience in social case work was con­
sidered desirable. It was found difficult to secure women with the
proper experience and general qualifications for hostesses and the
chief supervisor devoted much time to training them for the work.
In Chicago the secretary o f the ballroom managers’ association who
was also an officer o f the Juvenile Protective Association selected the
hostesses, some o f whom were social workers. In some of the other
cities no special qualifications were demanded, the wife o f the mana­
ger frequently being called the “ hostess,” although she might also
sell tickets, serve at the refreshment stand, or act as cloakroom
Discovering and sending home persons under the age specified in
the dance regulations and supervising the dancing and general be­
havior of the patrons were duties of the hostesses wherever they were
employed. Case work was considered one of the most important
duties of the hostesses in several cities. Much o f their time and
interest was given to “ follow-up ” work with the girls and boys.
Many problems were brought to them for solution. The San Fran­
cisco report of 1924 stated that among the great variety o f cases
handled by the hostesses were many that “ do not lie within the prov­
ince o f the established social agencies.” Examples o f the service
rendered were as follow s: “ Employment is obtained, pensions se­
cured for disabled soldiers, feeble-minded girls protected, probation
insured for first offenders, runaway girls returned to their parents,
mothers’ pensions obtained, care for venereal-disease cases arranged,
help given to unmarried mothers, and hundreds o f other kindnesses
Such a diversity o f service was reported in other cities. In Los
Angeles a manager maintained a $1,000 fund with which the hostess
helped many needy patrons. The stubs o f her check book showed
expenditures for groceries, rent, help to a pregnant girl, a funeral,
and fare home for a stranded girl. Many of the hostesses spoke
o f the opportunities for service, particularly to young girls, which
their position offered and thought this aspect o f their work was
little appreciated by those who did not understand girls and their
In two other cities, however, those in charge of the dance-hall
supervision felt that such individual work should be referred to case­
work agencies, and that the hostesses and inspectors should give
their whole interest to supervision of the dance hall.
Several dance-hall managers were quoted as favorable to the em­
ployment of hostesses. The Chicago and Portland managers par­
ticularly expressed their appreciation of trained women in this posi­
tion. In one of the closed halls o f Seattle the hostess said that all
the girls who applied for positions as instructresses were referred to
her for approval, as the manager realized that she could do more
with them than he could.
Constables, floormen, and other officers.

Special officers or floormen were employed voluntarily by the
managers of all the larger halls in'the 15 cities, although 11 of the
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



cities did not require them. In Los Angeles the ordinance allowed
the managers to apply to the bpard of police commissioners for the
appointment o f special officers, and the managers agreed in the rules
they drew up for their own use to require each manager to appoint
such an officer as well as floor attendants. In Wichita every licensee
worked out with the help and suggestion of the dance-hallinspector
a “ management committee.” “ No individual alone can successfully
run a public dance,” the policewoman said, so a committee was
formed of some responsible person to serve at the door, another in
charge o f tickets, and a third, who possessed tact, firmness, and an
understanding of how to handle people, to act as floor manager.
Beside these there were check-room attendants and others.
In an effort to insure the independence of the officers special regu­
lations had been made by some cities specifying how they were to be
paid. In Ottumwa a man and a woman must be employed for each
public dance, and the $6 for their services was paid to the city
treasurer in addition to the permit fee. This had proved difficult
to collect from managers who ran a series of dances and did not come
into the city hall before each one. In Paterson the constables received
$5, which was added to the rent o f the hall and paid to them by
the owner of the building. The New Bedford regulations stated that
$3 must be paid to the reserve officers by the manager before inter­
mission. In this city the officers were policemen in training who
were assigned to the halls by the police department.
It was the duty of the police officers to enforce the dance-hall ordinance. In most places this meant the prevention o f drinking and
the exclusion o f intoxicated persons, the maintenance o f order, the
quelling of rowdyism, fights, and unseemly conduct, and the patrol
of the dance hall. They seldom passed upon the dancing or conduct
of the dancers, their chief interest being in those who did not dance.
In several cities officers in plain clothes served as doormen. Their
chief duty was to exclude undesirable patrons.
The floormen and managers corrected poor dance positions in
several of the halls, although in the places where a charge was made
for each dance they were occupied chiefly in collecting the tickets be­
fore dances and in clearing the floor between numbers. The manager
of one academy who took great .pride in his hall and its management
telephoned the parents of any boys or girls who seemed too young to
attend the dance.

Many difficulties were encountered in enforcing the dance-hall
regulations in the 15 cities. In several cities the dance-hall managers,
although keeping within the letter o f the regulation, were able to
defeat its purpose. Some of the problems in enforcement resulted
from the difficulty of enforcing certain provisions of the regulations,
particularly the provision restricting the attendance o f young persons,
> and some from the difficulty of supervising the widely different types
J^/of dance hall. The out-of-town dance halls, frequently situated just
outside the corporation limits and, in most cases, having no adequate
regulation nor supervision, constituted the biggest problem in the
protection of young people from the dangers of the unregulated
commercial dance hall.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



dance halls


In spite of ordinances requiring the inspection and licensing of
dances, it was possible in several cities for clubs or individuals to
give what amounted to a public dance without complying with the
law and yet without breaking it technically. In one city, for in­
stance, a dance for which invitations were distributed was considered
a private dance if no money was collected at the door. The police­
woman said the guest’s name had to be written on the card. Two such
private dances were given at the time of the bureau agent’s visit.
One was a dancing class to which the members invited their friends
at 50 cents each. Every respectable-looking applicant attracted by
the music and possessing 50 cents was admitted whether or not he
was acquainted with someone in the class. The other was a dance
to which the tickets had been sold before- the evening of the dance.
Both these dances, not being within the category of “ public dances,”
were unsupervised and unlicensed.
Another method of evading the dance regulations was found at a
large dance pavilion in an amusement park within the limits of one
of the cities. The management obtained a State charter for a club
and ran the dance hall as a “ boating club ” although there was no
water anywhere near it. Membership dues were the admission price
to the dancing. Chartered as a club, the hall was not regulated by the
city ordinance, and the State law that required all public amusement
places to be closed on Sunday did not apply to it.
Tickets were sold to almost anyone for dances given by groups
affiliated with various schools and similar organizations in some cities.
Although they had far more grounds than the “ boating club ” for
being considered bona fide club dances, they often had a very wide
and promiscuous attendance. It was reported that the feeling was
strong among the dance-hall managers that under these conditions
regulations were enforced upon them which others, running a similar
business, successfully evaded.
Cabarets (places where food is served and provision is made for
dancing) do not come under the regular dance-hall regulations in
some cities because they are considered to be eating places primarily.
Without these regulations the protection of young people attending
them presents very serious difficulties.

In 9 of the 15 selected cities the ordinances set an age limit under
which young people might not attend public dances unless accom­
panied by a parent or legal guardian. This age limit was 18 years in
all the cities, and in all but one, where girls only were excluded, it
applied to both boys and girls. In Los Angeles no one under 18 was
permitted even when properly chaperoned. In Wichita, instead of
the requirement that each minor be accompanied by a parent or
guardian, a group o f young people could be accompanied by the
parent of one member of the group. This arrangement had been
found very satisfactory, it was reported.
The ordinances of 6 cities contained no age regulations. In one of
them the inspector took home any girl under 15. In another the
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policewoman tried without the backing of a law to keep out girls
under this age. The department of recreation in Detroit and the
police department o f New Bedford made special rules supplementing
their ordinances. In both these cities 17 was set as the lowest age
limit for entrance to dance halls. O f the two remaining cities
Houston had made no ruling on the subject and in Chicago the
association of ballroom managers had agreed to exclude anyone under
16 years o f age.
The enforcement of these regulations depended in the majority of
the cities upon the individual managers and their employees, although
the inspectors in several cities sent home those under the age limit
and in some cases did follow-up work with them.
In Wichita each doorman was required to keep a register o f the
name, address, and age claimed, by any person who seemed under
age. I f the person insisted he was over 18 he was admitted and
the supervisor checked up on it. I f the supervisor found upon visit­
ing the home that the boy or girl was under 18 the management had
to see to it that he did not gain admission again.
Through an arrangement with the Portland juvenile court, the
dance-hall inspector turned over young girls found in the dance halls
to the night matron o f the detention home, who took them home if
they were first offenders or to the detention home if they were re­
peaters. The dance-hall inspector in Biltte said that when she found
very young girls in the dance halls she “ just let them stay and dance
for awhile—until 10.30. I think it’s better for them to be there
where we know what they’re doing than to send them out on the
streets.” She felt that often the girls did not go home when they
were sent and sometimes visited out-of-town places with “ pick-ups.”
Her theory apparently was that having danced until 10.30 they would
be ready to go home.
The hostesses in the Los Angeles halls, according to a regulation
of the Dance Hall Managers’ Association, were supposed to register
anyone who seemed to be a minor. Registration blanks were used
which required the patron’s name, last school attended, teacher’s
name, and similar facts. When the hostess suspected that a patron
was under 18 years o f age he had to fill out one o f these blanks.
I f the hostess was still in doubt after the blank was filled out as to
whether the patron was 18, she sent a form letter o f inquiry with
a return stamped envelope to the school. I f the reply showed that
the person under investigation was 18 an admission card was issued
to him, but if it showed that he was under 18 his description and
name were given all the other halls. In the opinion of one o f the
police officials this method o f enforcement was successful. One hall
was reported to have filled out blanks for 7,000 young people during
a year.
Some of the hostesses questioned closely a girl who seemed very
young, and, if they believed she was under 16, sent her home at
10 o’clock, calling her parents to let them know she was on her way.
Others telephoned the parents at once to ask if they wished their
daughter sent home. One hostess permitted the girls to do the call­
ing, listening to be certain that they told a straight tale. In one city
the hostesses urged mothers to take their daughters to the better
halls after they had been found at the dances. Although many
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of the mothers had been persuaded to take their daughters to the
Saturday afternoon dances at one of the best halls, it was difficult
to make them understand the basis of the child’s demand for this
kind of recreation.
The inspectors quite generally agreed that it was difficult to interest
parents in their children’s attendance at dance halls. Some parents
were unable to control their children, others could see no harm in
permitting them to attend the dances, although they were under the
legal age. An inspector who had difficulty in gaining the coopera­
tion of the mothers of girls said: “About 50 per cent of, the mothers
knew they were going to public dance halls and wanted to ‘ trust’
them, etc.; the other 50 per cent were ignorant of their daughters’
whereabouts.” The chief inspector in one city said that the parents
o f the children with whom she worked were the greatest handicap
that she had encountered.
Nearly all the officials responsible for dance-hall inspection felt
that the exclusion of young persons was an extremely difficult regu­
lation to enforce; a number of the authorities considered it the most
difficult. “ The short dresses and hair make it almost impossible to
guess a girl’s age,” they said. Moreover, it is the boys and girls
between 16 and 18 years old who are most eager for dancing, feel
very confident o f their ability to take care of themselves, and resent
any parental or public control. Many officials had themselves little
sympathy with the age provisions of the ordinance they were sup­
posed to enforce. Some made the excuse that if these youngsters were
sent out o f the dance hall they might go to worse places, and many
made it a practice not to enforce too drastically the age regulations,
but endeavored to supervise the dancing carefully and to safeguard
the trip between the hall and the home. Several officials in one city
stressed the value of the requirement of a chaperone in safeguarding
the boys and girls. As one of them explained the value o f the chaper­
one, “ It’s not the dancing; it’s the. going and coming and the meeting
up with bad characters in the halls, who will take advantage of the
unaccompanied girl when they won’t the girl who has a father, or
mother, or brother with her.”
When the ordinance o f one city* was amended to raise the age
limit to 18, the problem was presented of excluding from the halls
they had previously frequented a large number o f girls, many of
whom had been going to public dances since they were 14. Like many
others, this city had made inadequate provision for boys and girls
between 14 and 18 who wanted social activities, especially dancing.
The city officials admitted that they did not know what the young
folks excluded from the dance halls found as a substitute activity
but added, “ We can’t make that an excuse for not ending what we
know is a bad condition.”
The real solution o f the problem of minors in the dance halls lies
in the education of parents and in the training o f the children, ac­
cording to several city officials. What they were doing was in the
nature o f a palliative rather than a cure. As young people can not
be protected from contact with all sorts o f people they should be
taught by their parents how to meet them. Even so, the training
given by parents would need to be reinforced by supervision of
the halls, in the opinion of these officials.
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The various types of dance hall visited in the course of this study
presented somewhat different problems of control and supervision.
Academies, ballrooms, etc.

The academies or dance palaces were usually large, handsome
places attended by huge crowds. They were located for the most
part in the central, down-town sections where neighborhood acquaint­
ance, with the restraining influence which it exerts, was almost wholly
lacking. Although the large dance halls are without the social con­
trol found in the neighborhood centers, the managements o f these
halls appreciate the importance from a business standpoint o f pre­
venting trouble. Many o f them have also found that offending the
community standards o f respectability does not pay and hence regard
the refutation o f the hall as a valuable business asset. In most of
the cities the managers o f the big ballrooms were cooperative, for
business reasons, in attempts to better the public dancing standards.
For the most part the patrons o f the academies were young and
unacquainted. The majority found their partners after they ar­
rived, and this seemed to be one of the chief attractions o f the halls.
An unenforced rule in one city prohibited “ stagging ”•
— the attend­
ance o f unaccompanied men. One manager tried out its practica­
l i t y , arranging special music and advertising and issuing invita­
tions to couples only. He had become convinced that such a ruling
would not work because, he said, some persons could not find a
partner with whom to come,and others preferred to make new friends
at the hall. The chief problems in the academies were the control
o f the type o f dancing and the exclusion o f young persons.
Rented halls.

Several types o f dances were held in rented halls. “ One-night ”
dances were occasionally given by one or more persons, usually young
men, as commercial ventures. Social club dances were given at reg­
ular intervals, and family parties were frequently held in small
rented halls. The latter were extremely popular in the foreign sec­
tions. The persons attending these small dances were usually
acquainted, and family groups formed the majority in some halls.
They had, therefore, a wholesome social atmosphere. On the other
hand, adequate supervision for these small dances was almost impos­
sible in many cities with the small number o f supervisors available;
several reported that groups giving occasional dances were difficult
to follow up. Many did not get permits unless searched out and
compelled to. In most of the cities where no permits for one-night
dances were required officials said it would be easier for them if
this were remedied and permits required. In Detroit the commis­
sioner of recreation who had charge o f dance-hall inspection said
that the rented halls gave the most trouble, especially in the foreign
sections, where drinking and fighting were often uncontrolled.
Closed halls.

The so-called “ closed hall ’’ catered for the most part to men who
for one reason or another could not secure partners at the ordinary
public dance. In these closed halls girls were hired on a commission
basis to dance with men patrons, and couples usually were not ad-
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mitted. In one city giris were not allowed to work in closed halls ^
unless they were 18; but in another city no age limit seemed to be
enforced and the girls were extremely young, several who were seen
by bureau investigators appearing to be 15 or 16. Boys were usually
not found in two cities where these halls were visited; but in a third
city the majority o f the 200 dancers were under 21, and many o f the
boys looked to be about 17. A great number of them did not dance
but seemed to be there merely to pick up acquaintance with a girl.
In all three cities the closed hall was considered objectionable, rep­
resenting the extreme in the commercialization o f the dance, al­
though some officials thought that in ports and other cities with a
large floating population the closed hall had its place if closely su­
pervised—such supervision to include rigid exclusion of young girls
as paid dancing partners.

The out-of-town dance halls were considered to present the most
serious problem in all the cities visited. It was customary to hear
such statements as: “ They are our greatest menace” ; “ liquor and
narcotics keep the road houses running ” ; “ the beach places or shacks
or halls ‘ out in the county ’ allow all the things that are forbidden
in the city halls ” ; “ they are rough, cheap, and badly run.”
These resorts were not controlled by city ordinance, and their
supervision under State laws proved difficult in most of the places
where it had been tried. In some places a State law had been a help.
A Dayton report stated that in July, 1925, a State law went into
effect which embodied many of the requirements of the city ordi­
nance, including the 18-year limit. Several workers said there had been
a great improvement in the county situation since the State law went
into effect. Many of the worst resorts were refused licenses or went
out of business voluntarily, and since the passage of this law the
enforcement of the city ordinance had been less opposed by local
dance managers. In one city the State law, while beneficial in the
city, was not especially beneficial in-the country places because per­
mits were granted by township officials in such a fashion that it was
difficult to keep track of them and the sheriff who was responsible
for supervising the dances had too little help to cover his large ter­
ritory. The city police and the county deputy sheriffs agreed that
the permits should be granted after more careful investigation and
that there should be an efficient supervising force, especially in the
territory easy of access from the city.
The out-of-town dance halls, although not so strictly supervised
as those in the city, were very easy o f access because of the wide use
o f automobiles. In one city an officer spoke of a city dance hall as
being merely a recruiting place for the road houses. Young girls
went to them, she said, with the idea of meeting men who took them
to the country places.
The seriousness of this phase of adolescent recreation was realized
by both city officials and dance-hall managers, who took various stepsOji
to meet it. Notices were posted in the dressing rooms of some of the
Chicago dance halls, warning girls not to accept rides after the
dances. Several halls had officers, stationed at their doors to see that
girls were not picked up as they left the hall. Methods of evading
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this type o f protection were reported, such as parking the car a short
distance from the hall and taking the girls from the hall to the
parking place.
The fact that the county places were bad was used as an argument
for lenient rather than strict enforcement o f the city ordinance in
one or two cities where the officials said that making a “ clean city ”
drove people into the country for their amusement. Several others
disagreed with this statement although none had proof for their
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The progress that has been made in community provision of recre­
ation resources and play leaders and in increased utilization of the
opportunities made available is perhaps more important than the
regulation of commercialized recreation, although both are necessary.
Training in the best use of leisure time must begin with the play
habits o f young children. For those who have not learned the pleas­
ures of reading, of outdoor recreation, of music and art, amusements
of as high a type as they are capable o f enjoying must be provided.
For these there must be a continual adjustment of the ideal to the
practical with an appreciation o f how in the future training of young
people the necessity for this adjustment will be decreased.
In the 15 cities included in the dance-hall study and in 2 other
cities (Oakland, Calif., and Gary, Ind.) having extensive recreational
programs inquiry was made as to the noncommercial provision of
some type of recreation. Chief interest centered on the extent to
which community recreation successfully competes with the public
dance hall for the use o f the adolescent^ leisure. Special attention
was given, therefore, to the activities offered to this age group as
well as to any measures undertaken before and during early adoles­
cence that might affect either the child’s choice of leisure-time activ­
ities or his interest or behavior in dancing.
Not all the cities were visited at a time when the playgrounds,
community centers, or schools were in operation, and three cities
(Wichita, Butte, and Ottumwa) had no programs of supervised play
at the time o f the visits. In every city, however, the school or com­
munity recreation supervisors were interviewed, and whenever pos­
sible the programs were observed.
In the plan o f organization adopted by the recreation departments
and the boards o f education and in the varieties of recreational activ­
ity undertaken, the age groups reached, and the effort made to make
a success of the programs undertaken, these cities presented interest­
ing contrasts.

In all the cities except Wichita, Ottumwa, and Gary two or more
separate tax-supported organizations administered school and com­
munity recreation. The board of education hired and paid the direc­
tors o f physical education and the supervisors of social events, dra­
matics, and similar activities in the schools, whereas a superintendent
of recreation who was directly responsible to the mayor, city commis­
sioners, park board, or board of recreation was in charge o f play­
grounds and community centers. In the majority of the cities these
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departments cooperated with each other, in some places by sup­
plying officials for school games, in others by lending fields and other
equipment. In Seattle playground sites were purchased with the
idea o f having them available for use during school recesses. In New
Bedford^ and Chicago school buildings were planned for use as com­
munity centers.
In New Bedford the men who were employed by the park depart­
ment in the summer to supervise the playgrounds were employed by
the school board during the winter as directors of physical education
and o f community centers. In Chicago the supervisor of recreation
for the board o f education had jurisdiction over the year-round
recreational use of the school buildings and school grounds, and the
various park boards employed directors of recreation for the park
buildings, playgrounds, and beaches.
Wichita and Ottumwa had no city playground system. Butte em­
ployed no director for its parks and playgrounds, although both the
schools and the city had supplied supervision at various times. In
Gary the whole program was handled under the superintendent of
In Duluth the board of education employed a superintendent of
recreation whose funds came from both city and school taxes. The
school-recreation program was under the direct supervision o f the
superintendent o f schools, and all after-school use of facilities and
grounds, as well as the recreational programs in the city parks,
playgrounds, and community buildings, was under the director of

The recreation programs were developed in two general ways. In
five cities specialists were employed who introduced and promoted
such activities as dancing, handicraft, athletics, dramatics, music,
and the like. In one city the work these specialists started was done
under their supervision only; for instance, the handicraft material
was locked up between classes, and the regular playground director
attempted to do nothing of the sort. In other cities the specialist
set up new work, helped with difficulties, and acted as counselor and
aide to the regular staff. In Houston as a part of the program of
community service the specialists were loaned to groups m churches,
industries, clubs, and other organizations who wanted help in
dramatics, game leadership, music, and similar activities. Detroit
furnished a similar service for picnics and parties.
Certain educational requirements had to be met by the playground
directors and play leaders in the majority of the cities. For- in­
stance, one city required that the women assistant directors have
physical-education training and university students were used as
assistants to a large extent in another. Several o f the cities con­
ducted intensive training courses for new workers, and weekly staff
meetings were held for the regular directors where problems might
be thrashed out and new work planned. Civil-service examinations
J pvere given for playground directors in several cities. This arrange­
ment was “ thoroughly unsatisfactory,” one superintendent said.
Politics played a big part in the civil-service appointments in a sec­
ond place. A former superintendent in one city referred to the fact
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



that civil service gave her a better opportunity to select good leaders
than the method of political recommendations that took its place.'
The superintendent in another place said politics played some part in
the appointment of his force, but he felt that it did little damage.
A school worker of this same city said that the superintendent himself
was a political employee and had no choice in the appointment of his
The type of workers selected was good in most of the cities where
the program was observed by bureau investigators. Because o f the
strenuous nature o f playground and recreation work it does not
attract and hold people who are not suited for it.
Both well-trained play leaders and specialists were found in some
of the cities, but the expense o f the specialists in the majority o f cities
was held to make necessary the employment of a force o f play leaders
with inferior training. When the program was chiefly one of play­
grounds and community centers, in a system small enough to be
adequately supervised by the superintendent and an assistant or two,
well-trained play leaders promoting their own programs seemed to
produce better results. For a wide community service, including
assistance to churches, lodges, and other outside agencies in the devel­
opment of their recreational programs, specialists were necessary,
but it would appear that they should not be maintained as a substitute
for trained leadership at public playground and recreation centers.

In this report recreational activities have been classified as ath­
letic, esthetic, and social. Although all three of these elements may
be found in many of the events, and two of them in most, one usually
predominates. Thus participation in an interpretive dancing club
has the element of physical development and a strong social value in
club membership but should be primarily an esthetic expression.
Various interests and aims dominated the recreation programs.
Several o f the recreation departments were found to have specialized
in recreation for certain age groups. For instance, one superin­
tendent said they tried to interest boys under 14, feeling that if
they were given a good start they could be depended on later. The
annual report of another superintendent stated that “ the playground
department [is] established primarily to take care o f the needs of
the children.” In both these cities adolescents and adults used
the playground facilities, but the chief interest was in younger
children. Other cities had programs that were planned to meet the
needs of all ages. “ The purpose of this municipal department is
to organize and conduct the general recreation of the citizens. This
includes not only supervised playgrounds for all children but pro­
vision for the proper use of leisure time by young and old of both

Athletics are a popular and accepted part of most school program^,
and were included in the recreational programs of playgrounds and
schools in all the cities visited. They were promoted in two very
different ways, however— by team and general participation.
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The majority o f the playground and school officials encouraged the
promotion o f championship teams in the major sports, and in many
schools much effort was spent upon the development of a selected
group o f boys and girls. In one city, out o f a high-school group of
600 boys, only 25 played often enough on teams in the three major
sports (basketball, football, and track) to be eligible to attend the
athletic banquet. The physical director in another city said that
he could not promote an adequate program o f physical education in
the schools because he had to produce winning high-school teams or
he would lose his job.
A few notable exceptions to this condition were found. In several
cities competition was upon a classroom basis, and every child who
was physically able competed for the honor of his group. Interschool playdays were frequently planned when all the teams in one
school met those of another, and when in some cases no scores were
published and no final winners declared. Those who were promoting
programs of this sort claimed that with the other benefits secured
by universal participation school spirit was as keen and much more
wholesome than under the championship-team arrangement.
The physical-education program in Los Angeles and Oakland,
especially, and in several other cities to a limited extent, was based
upon the theory that the Avhole school should be reached by the events
that wore promoted, that sports are not for a select group of athletes
who, perhaps, would find recreation opportunities elsewhere if they
were not offered by the school.
JtfC A brief study was made o f school and community recreation in
Oakland, Calif., because its extensive playground and school physi­
cal-education programs are based on this principle of general partici­
pation. The superintendent o f recreation was also the director of
physical education in the schools of this city. Every child was
given an opportunity to participate in the activities, and it was esti­
mated that 95 per cent of all the children attending school took part
in the posture parades and that 90 per cent competed in the district
track meets and playdays that were held frequently. Final scores
were not determined in these activities. In Los Angeles the elemen­
tary and high schools had playdays with interscholastic competition
in all sports. The junior high schools, on the other hand, had in­
tramural competition only. In 1925 there were 4,000 elementaryschool baseball teams whose games were umpired by a high-school
organization called the “ Knights o f Sport.” The physical-educa­
tion program was built around a decathlon for boys and for girls in
which the children competed against their own records for the honor
o f their group.
In Duluth the elementary and junior high school athletics were
under the playground department, which was administered by the
board o f education. Baseball for boys and girls and football for
boys were played in three classes based on school grades. A .school
might enter as many teams in any sport as it could organize. Thus
v participation became more general than under the championshipW . team plan.
Interclass games were fostered in one of the Rochester junior high
schools, and 1,400 of the 2,000 students in one school played on teams
in 1925.
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As a part of the athletic program five cities worked with the indus­
tries, churches, stores, and similar agencies in organizing athletic
commissions or associations. Through these organizations teams
and leagues o f teams were brought together, facilities were pooled and
assigned equitably, officials secured, and schedules arranged. In
Duluth a commission of five members was appointed by the mayor
“ to promote, coordinate, and act as a clearing house and board of
arbitration ” for all municipal athletics. As practically all the base­
ball and ice-hockey fields were controlled by the city recreation de­
partment and membership in the athletic association gave prefer­
ence in the use of these facilities, nearly all the organizations in the
city had joined. The baseball commission of Detroit acted in con­
junction with the department of recreation. More than 550 teams
played in the various leagues on the city playgrounds. Boys and
men ranging from 11 to 30 years of age participated in the games.
These organizations were entirely of men and boys, but the industrial
athletic associations of Paterson and Oakland had girl and women
members also who came from the factories, banks, laundries, and
v •
: ■
; ,
The question whether athletics can compete with commercial
amusements met with various answers. Some workers thought that
active interest ended with school attendance and that although the
boys and girls would enjoy watching games after leaving school few
would continue to play. Several recreation directors felt that sports
would have a stronger appeal than dancing to many older boys and
girls if adequate facilities and attractive companionship were
Dancing in the community centers and ice skating on the flooded
playgrounds were especially popular with the adolescents of Duluth.
This city’s plan for increasing the number o f swimming pools and
athletic fields with baseball diamonds and tennis courts had as its
prime motive the supplying of adequate facilities for adolescent
and adult recreation. The superintendent o f recreation said that
such athletic fields did more to carry over adolescent interest in sport
to adult life than any other provision made by the city. Interest in
tennis, golf, swimming, bowling, and horseshoe pitching was more
frequently carried through life and was introduced to playground
boys and girls of Duluth with this end in mind.
The Portland playground officials agreed that tennis was the most
popular sport with adolescents, and that this is true quite generally
was borne out by observation in the other cities. In one city the
playgrounds that were equipped with tennis courts were the only
ones with adolescents in attendance. Courts had been built on all
the larger playgrounds in Kochester and were used extensively by
young people between 14 and 25.
School athletics as promoted in the majority of cities were con­
sidered an end in themselves, and the creation of a permanent taste
for outdoor recreation was not a part of the program.
Doctor Cutten in “ The Threat of Leisure ” has pointed out the
importance of considering school athletics as an opportunity for
training children in what will be a wholesome use of their leisure in
later life.
Such games as football, baseball, basketball, lacrosse, hockey, and other
games classed as “ major sports” are of practically no use after graduation
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



so far as helping to solve this problem is concerned, since they are not played
by many college alumni, nor can they with safety be a part of the program of
later life, except when a person devotes his whole time to some one of these
sports in a professional way. There are, however, certain “ minor sports ”
that are very valuable to this end, chief among which are golf and tennis.
There are, in addition to these, such activities as handball, squash, volley ball,
bowling, swimming, and similar sports, down to and including quoits and

Esthetic activities as features of extracurricular and leisure-time
programs are receiving an increasing amount of attention. Art,
dramatics, music, handicraft, and similar courses are given as a part
of the training o f teachers and recreation leaders, and sketch classes,
choral societies, glee clubs, orchestras, bands, dramatics, poetry clubs,
and similar groups are organized in both the schools and the com­
munity centers o f many cities. When such a program was offered
in the schools that were visited it was frequently done through clubs.
Membership in such organizations was quite general, especially in
the junior high schools of some o f the cities.

In Houston a music specialist was employed by the Eecreation and
Community Service Association to conduct city-wide rehearsals and
classes, community sings, concerts, and chorals. In the Chicago
public-school playgrounds harmonica orchestras, whistling, vocal
quartets, ukulele playing, and other popular musical activities were
encouraged. In New Bedford a group of young people between 16
and 20 years of age were found singing around the piano o f every
center visited.
Dramatics, pageantry, and dancing.

Combining music with action in pageantry, folk and classic danc­
ing, and minstrel and vaudeville performances was popular.
Pageantry, with its drama and dancing, frequently found a place
in the outdoor program, forming, in many places, the climax of a
season’s work. One May festival that was seen included boys and
girls, their older brothers and sisters, and a large group of mothers
and grown-up friends. This outdoor affair marked the close of the
indoor season and exhibited the winter’s work of the dancing and
gymnasium classes. Minstrels were in preparation at the time of
the visit to another city, and groups o f older adolescents were work­
ing on songs and dances in most o f the centers.
Dramatic clubs were a part of the junior, intermediate, and senior
boys’ and girls’ programs in Detroit. . Some of the productions in
this city were directed by specialists, but every center had locally di­
rected plays also.
An outdoor theater had been built on one of the Oakland play­
grounds. “ One director is kept busy arranging the dramatic activi­
ties o f story telling, impromptu and original plays, and special
matinees presented by organized groups. These matinees, given
weekly during the summer vacation, attract large audiences.” 2 This
1 Cutten, Geo. Barton: The Threat of Leisure, pp. 142-143. Yale University Press,
New Haven, 1926.
2 Recreation and l'lay in Oakland, p. 8. Bulletin of Information, Recreation Depart'
ment, Oakland, Calif.
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city maintained a costume room with several thousand costumes and
properties available for the use of amateur groups.

Handicraft is a means of esthetic expression for some. The Joy of
making something that seems beautiful is a part o f the attraction in
classes in basketry, sewing, sealing-wax craft, woodwork, modeling,
and the infinite variety of other things to make that both the schools
and the playgrounds offered. One superintendent o f recreation en­
couraged the manufacture of attractive articles from discarded ma­
terials close at hand. For instance, rag rugs were made from old
clothes, bags from discarded inner tubes, and wooden toys from cigar
boxes. Puppet theaters combined handicraft and dramatics in Hous­
ton, where the children dressed the puppets and acted the plays. The
supervisor of the Chicago Bureau o f Recreation worked out such
unique handicraft projects as snow modeling and stained-glass effects
in ice as well as including sand modeling, making lantern slides,
and whittling.
Story-telling and reading.

Story-telling was considered a part of the playground program in
the majority of cities. In some places the children were encouraged
to tell as well as listen, and the dramatization of the stories was fre­
quently a part of the story hour. In Rochester the story-teller was
also the librarian and offered access to the 2,500 books which the
recreation bureau owned as well as furnishing the usual program o f
stories. This was a year-round service.
The public libraries cooperated with the playgrounds in some o f
the cities, making books available at the grounds on certain days.
The Los Angeles playgrounds not only had this service but also
owned a large number of volumes. School libraries were more gen­
eral than playground or community-center ones, but in the play­
grounds and recreational centers reading was promoted as a recrea­
tion, as is done more frequently in the English classes in schools
than was formerly the case.
It was generally agreed that all these recreational activities
have what the directors call a high carry-over value. The joy of
reading, of self-expression in music, rhythm, dramatics, story-telling,
and handicraft increases as the children grow older. The fact that
adults respond so readily to the opportunity to take part in these
activities is proof of their continued enjoyment o f them.

School parties and club affairs.

School parties occurred with frequency and regularity in most of
the junior high schools as well as in the upper grades o f many ele­
mentary schools. They were also a part of the club programs in the
high schools. These dances, particularly in the lower schools, were
frequently held in the afternoon after dismissal, although in several
cities the school gymnasiums were available for this purpose on
Friday evenings.
Clubs of all sorts were found to have been organized in the schools
either by the faculty or with faculty approval. This was particu-
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larly true o f the junior high schools visited. In two o f these every
W ' child belonged to some organization, being privileged to select the
group that interested him most. He was also a voting member of
the body that elected the student-government officers. A specialist
in club activities was employed in the Rochester schools, but in Los
Angeles the faculty members worked out the leadership of the
various groups among themselves. The Rochester club specialist
felt that 70 per cent of the club interests become hobbies in later
life. The aim of the club work was not to find a permanent hobby,
for interest is bound to change when a subject is exhausted, but to
establish the habit o f an active, wholesome use of leisure.
School dances.

School and recreation officials held various attitudes toward
dancing. Before describing the dancing in her building an assistant
principal said to the Children’s Bureau investigator, “ First o f all,
I am strongly in favor o f dancing. I enjoy it myself and love to
have it done in my own home. * * * You can’t fight a recreation
that eight-tenths of the population enjoy. It must be accepted and
all efforts made to improve it.”
A director of physical education in another city favored the teach­
ing of dancing in the schools because, he explained, “ You can’t com­
bat the evils o f the public dance halls through police control. You
must do it through education; through teaching the right kind of
fun in the schools and on the playgrounds.” Another reported that
“ it is impossible to suppress public dancing. The department of
recreation is endeavoring to substitute clean, wholesome neighbor­
hood and community dances in the school buildings which we use
at night; and also in community centers and social settlements under
our jurisdiction. I believe the policy should be one o f substitution
instead o f suppression.”
Although a number o f city and school officials held such views,
others were diametrically opposed to them. In a number o f the cities
visited the giving o f dances in the school buildings was forbidden.
This was due in one city to the objection o f the ministers and in
another to the feeling stirred up by a revivalist. The fact that they
had been poorly supervised was given as the reason for stopping the
high-school dances in a third. They were to be tried again in this
city during the term following the visit of the Children’s Bureau
agent but were to be closely supervised.
What standards should be insisted upon in school dances is an
important factor in supervision. After experiencing much difficulty
with dances held by high-school groups in community club buildings,
the municipal dance-hall inspector and school officials of Portland
conferred, and the following outline o f regulations was drawn up
by the high-school principals and deans:

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4. No afternoon dances shall be permitted, and jitney* dances shall be pro­
hibited entirely.
5. The principal and dean of girls in each high school shall be a committee
in charge of the dances and shall be empowered to appoint the following assistarts : ( a ) At least 5 members of the facu lty; (&) at least 10 patron chaperones;
( c ) a floor committee of 5 from the student body.
6. That an invitation list shall be submitted to the dean at least 48 hours in
advance of the dance; admittance to be in accordance therewith.
7. Parents shall be requested to notify the dean of any tardy arrivals at
home after attending high-school dances.
8. The character of the music and the program of dances shall meet the
approval of the dean in charge.
9. Unchaperoned pupils shall not be permitted to leave the dance until the
close of same.
10. All dances shall be conducted in accordance with regulations adopted by
the American Association of Masters of Dancing.

The committee further recommended that the managers o f hotels
and clubs be notified that all high-school dances were to be held in
high-school buildings and that they be requested to cooperate with the
board to the extent of denying the use of their halls for any so-called
“ high-school ” dances.
In the cities where dances were held in the schools the rule usually
followed was that the number should be limited to one a semester
for each class, club, or other organization. Faculty sponsors and
parent chaperones were frequently required.
Afternoon dances were promoted in one o f the Los Angeles high
schools where the annual Beserve Officers’ Training Corps’ ball was
the only night dance held under faculty auspices. Afternoon and
noon dances were very popular in this city. One of the principals
is quoted in The City Boy and His Problems as saying:
W e always have our dances and parties here in the afternoon. This reduces
the problems connected with such affaifs. Held in the afternoon, they are very
closely chaperoned, and then when the affair is over everyone goes home in much
the same way as he does from school. Thus are avoided a thousand and one
problems of behavior after they leave here, such as the parents calling up the
next day, “ Mary was at the dance last night and never got home until 3
o’clock. ’ Where was she, anyway? ” W e have none of that .4

The failure of an attempt at supervision of dances given by highschool students under the patronage of an association of parents in
the schools of one of the cities was reported as due primarily to a
lack of appreciation of the problems involved and the consequent
necessity for intelligent and understanding supervision. The asso­
ciation assigned in turn some 20 o f their women members who were
to act as patronesses at each dance. They did not take the responsi­
bility seriously, and it frequently happened that there were neither
patronesses nor a matron in attendance. Stories of improper con­
duct on the part of the boys and girls were soon current. Following
the criticism which resulted from this condition the association
adopted a policy of very stringent supervision, with the result that
for a time there were frequently more patronesses than dancers pres­
ent. A student complained that the only parents who came were the

3 At a “ jitney dance ” there is no charge for admittance to the hall, a fee being
collected from each couple at the beginning of each dance number.
* Bogardus, Emory S .: The City Boy and His Problems; a summary of hoy life m r
Los Angeles, pp. 44-45. Los Angeles, 1926.
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ones who wanted to find something to object to. The probation officer
of this city said that as a result of this lack of understanding of the
problem the school dances had been a detrimental influence, worse in
some ways than the public dance halls.
One o f the school dances in this city was visited by the Children’s
Bureau investigators. It was well attended and closely supervised.
Although the dance-hall inspector criticized the positions of some of
the couples as rather worse than those permitted in the public halls,
she considered the value of these dances was in keeping the young
people in their home neighborhood. The general atmosphere at this
dance was wholesome.
School officials in several cities where the use of school buildings
for dances was not permitted regretted the fact that the boys and
girls were forced to go to hotels or hired halls for their dances;
in one or two cases they had recommended that the schools be opened
to them.
Although prohibiting dancing in the school buildings some highschool officials sanctioned school dances held in other halls. Such
approval was also given for the large affairs in some cities where the
school buildings were used. For instance, the “ parents’ assembly,”
a big dance for the San Francisco high-school students, was held
annually in a hotel. The junior-senior “ prom ” in Butte was given
at a large amusement park with the approval o f the school officials.
Dances were permitted in the school buildings o f both these cities,
although they were limited to a fewT afternoon affairs in San
The students of the high schools in one city were not allowed to
give dances in the schools, but three in a semester could be held in
hired halls without objection from the school officials. A junior
order o f one of the lodges ran well-supervised dances in one city.
They were almost the same as high-school dances, were attended by
a number of parents, supervised by the policewomen, and satisfac­
tory in conduct and dancing. In another city the high-school dances
were always attended by two faculty sponsors and some parents.
Many permits for dances were granted in one city to fraternities
and clubs whose members might be high-school students though the
officers were generally no longer in school. Difficulty in controlling
such dances as these and others given by students without the back­
ing o f a school organization had been experienced in several cities.
A hotel manager in one city said the dances held by high-school
fraternities and clubs were the worst he had to contend with as they
were unsupervised and unchaperoned except for a “ hand-picked
couple, maybe.” The dance-hall inspector o f another city found
much worse dancing at the affairs held by high-school students at a
community clubhouse than was allowed in public halls. In this
city the problem was solved through requiring not only a permit
for dances to be held by high-school groups but also a note to the
cjub managers from the dance-hall inspector saying that the appli­
cant was eligible as to age and responsibility. A school principal in
a third city suggested that the approval of the school principal
should be secured in that city before a permit was issued to anyone
applying for a hall in the name o f the school.
In one case a group o f high-school boys sponsored a dance that was
to have been given in a road house outside the city limits. It came
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to the attention o f the girls’ adviser o f a junior high school, several
of whose students had been invited to attend. Feeling it imperative
to stop the affair so that a precedent .would not be established, she
approached the police and school officials, who found themselves
powerless since the school had not sanctioned the dance and the road
house was out of the city. This woman then went to the State police.
They had no authority to prohibit the dance, but they sent the chil­
dren home for driving without permits, which were not granted to
persons under 18, and for having liquor in their possession.
Dances to which tickets were sold by the pupils to other than school
students were another cause of difficulty, as such selling made possible
the attendance of older dancers and the problems of supervision were
increased. Special difficulties were always created when one age
group attended the dances of another; for example, college students
were reported to cause much trouble at high-school dances and highschool pupils at junior high-school dances. The older group are
apparently eager to show they are no longer subject to the restric­
tions and conventions imposed upon the younger.
Some o f the school officials in another city considered that dances
held after the high-school basketball games were really public dances,
as anyone could buy a ticket. The dances had been discontinued
without affecting the attendance at the games, which some had
thought might be less popular without the dances.
Community clubs and parties.

Almost without exception the parties and social affairs held at the
playgrounds and community centers were sponsored by clubs or small
groups. Camp Fire Girls, Girl and Boy Scouts, and similar clubs
were organized by the play leaders or encouraged in holding their
meetings in the community centers in several of the cities.
A boys’ club with a program of degree work modeled on the men’s
secret organizations was fostered by the recreation department in
Seattle. Two girls’ clubs met at one of the Rochester centers. The
director had held one of these groups five years with a program of
gymnasium classes, parties, banquets, and service. Both groups were
small, the older having 30 members, the younger 15. Two clubs of
young men also met at this center, one with 100 members ranging
in age from 16 to 30 and the other a group of about 20 boys around
the age o f IT. Their programs included athletics, social events, espe­
cially dances, and some kind o f charitable enterprise.
Most of the recreation activities in Detroit were conducted on a
club basis. Between 2,TOO and 2,800 clubs were meeting during the
season o f 1925. Some recreation workers think that this method of
promoting recreational activities excludes young people who, because
they do not want to join clubs, feel they can not attend community
affairs, but the commissioner o f recreation reported he had not found
this to be the case in Detroit.
In New Bedford, Houston, and Rochester clubs of adolescent boys
and girls, many of whom worked, met with the play leaders for
parties, classes of various sorts, dramatics, and dancing.
Community clubs, replacing the old improvement clubs that used
to battle for street repairs, sewers, and other neighborhood needs, had
been promoted in another city. The programs included meetings,
dances, and “ socials ” as well as the civic projects that were once
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



their chief interest. Junior community clubs had been formed in
several sections. They were sponsored by the adult clubs, which
supplied advisers to assist the young members in planning their
dances and parties. These organizations were popular, and it was
felt that they served to interest the young people in the social life of
their own neighborhoods rather than in down-town amusements.
The superintendent of recreation in another city was not con­
vinced o f the value of club organization as a playground or com­
munity-center activity. Clubs were encouraged to use the facilities
o f the department, but the superintendent felt that play leaders
should not devote their time to small groups and that volunteer
leaders were not dependable.
Although clubs were quite generally organized they did not seem
to reach many individuals in the majority o f the cities. This was
true also of the parties and other social affairs. They were given
by small groups for their own friends and under the existing condi­
tions were o f negligible importance as a community activity.
Community dances.

No dances were permitted in the centers of New Bedford, Detroit,
or Los Angeles unless an organized group was back of them. These
clubs assigned their members to various positions in the dance man­
agement and assumed full responsibility for the conduct of the
affair, although the director o f the community center was also
required to be in attendance.
The commissioner of recreation in Detroit considered club dances
easy to manage and a valuable community activity. The value of a
club is that it constitutes a social unit for the members and makes it
possible to develop through group action and club loyalty responsi­
bility on the part of the membership for their own conduct. To meet
the needs of the different age groups in some of the centers one night
was devoted to older groups and another to younger. The attendance
varied from 20 couples to 200.
The dances were usually arranged by clubs whose members vouched
for any nonmembers who attended. The floor committee in charge
of the dance knew the dancers by name and could easily control
their behavior and attendance at future dances. The behavior o f
nonmembers reflected credit or discredit not only on the individuals
but also on the friends who sponsored them. Such checks made the
management of the dances very simple, the commissioner said.
In New Bedford the club was directly responsible to the community
council for the conduct of the dance, and two members of the council
always attended. The superintendent had been complimented on
running the best dances in the city. The dance-hall inspector said
they had given no trouble. They were not under her supervision.
Visitors were welcomed to the dances in this city, but limitations
were placed upon their attendance in other places. Nonmembers had
to be vouched for by members of the clubs in Detroit. In Los Angeles
when a playground club gave a dance each member could invite an
escort, but the membership was limited to 150 and no more than this
number of couples could attend.
The athletic clubs of one city gave occasional dances in hired or
borrowed halls because, the superintendent o f recreation explained,
the playground auditoriums were too unattractive to be conducive to
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well-managed affairs. Community Service of San Francisco also
sponsored athletic club dances. To these, club members only were
eligible. No admission was charged, for the club dues entitled mem­
bers to attend.
A club dance in a playground field house was visited in Rochester.
It was given by a group of about 20 boys around the age of 17, the
majority of whom were employed. Many of the girls were students
of the junior high school. About 250 young persons were present,
all of whom were under 21. A checking fee of 50 cents was charged
to defray the expense of the orchestra, any surplus going to charity.
Two of the playground directors were present as chaperones, but a
floor committee of club members supervised the dancing.
Supervision.—The attendance of parents, teachers, play leaders, or
other responsible chaperones to supervise the dancing was generally
held to be important for successful community dances. “ The success
of such dances depends on supervision. I f it is bad the dances are
bad. Ours is good,” said the superintendent of recreation in one
city. The Los Angeles superintendent considered supervision to be
the ultimate solution of the problems.
Supervision of the community dances in one large city by social
workers unfamiliar with dance-hall problems was unsuccessful. The
failure of unintelligent supervision was said to have caused the unsat­
isfactory results o f several other public-dance experiments.
In Los Angeles the playground director was responsible for the
arrangement of dances, the approval o f programs, and the definition
of proper dance positions, and the enforcement o f rules regulating
the dances. A floor committee composed of three members o f the
group giving the dance was made directly responsible for the actions
of the dancers. The assistant superintendent o f playgrounds said
that by attending commercial dances at least every six months she
became acquainted with the standards upheld in them and obtained
a basis for the decisions she had to make at the community dances.
In Seattle the director attended all community-center dances, but
three responsible and representative citizens had to be present and
assume responsibility for the conduct of the dancers. The group
supplied its own chaperone and other attendants. All groups of boys
and girls under 16 who attended a dance had to be chaperoned.
Community-center dances in one city were run by a neighborhood
committee which supervised the dancing and had charge of collecting
an admission fee (15 cents). The chief of the women’s protective
division reported that an investigation o f these dances showed they
were among the best in town. The fact that their entire management
“ is in the hands of interested committees or boards of directors—
mothers and fathers of the community—has proved most helpful in
managing the details of each dance and in determining general
Value.—In one city in which it had been necessary to give up
community dances officials felt they were depriving the people of an
activity they needed. Dances for high-school groups, for young
employees, and for married people assisted in solving the dance ques­
tion in certain communities, it was said; but “ I hardly believe this
reaches far enough in providing the opportunity for many who do
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not have access to recreation centers,” one superintendent of recrea­
tion explained.
The superintendent of one of the large playground systems was
much opposed to permitting public dances to which anjr one was
admitted in the park field houses. Although by encouraging organ­
ized groups only some were excluded, it was his opinion that the
protection o f the many at the expense of the few is a better policy
and that only through the club system could the majority be sur­
rounded with the necessary safeguards.
The dance-hall inspector of another city thought that the com­
munity dances were good, but he said they did not reach the general
mass of young people who “ want to go where they can do as they
please.” This criticism was made of the whole community program,
however, in the majority of the cities. It was felt that the activities
were valuable as far as they went, but that they reached too few
Although opinions differed as to the value o f school and community
dances there seemed to be agreement that their success or failure
depended to a great extent upon the sort of people in charge of the
dances and the amount of preparation made for this part of the
recreational program. When an adult committee of understanding,
sympathetic individuals sponsored the dances and arranged for the
necessary committees and when the surroundings were attractive and
the music good, the attendance was large and dances easily super­
vised. When any of these factors were lacking difficulties increased.
Classes in dancing and etiquette.

Some of the disorder and rowdyism that develop in connection
with dances is due to the fact that the young people do not know
how to dance well and so do not enjoy dancing as such. Others
seek to conceal their embarrassment and lack of ease because of their
unfamiliarity with social conventions by a rude defiance of the
standards insisted upon by supervisors. To better these conditions,
dancing and so-called etiquette classes had been conducted in Los
Angeles, Seattle, and Rochester. A lack of agreement existed as
to their value. The superintendent of playgrounds in one of the
cities discontinued a social dancing class at one of the community
centers. He thought the younger children who attended would
acquire an interest in dancing soon enough without this encourage­
ment. The same argument was presented by a policewoman "in
another city. She thought the classes in one o f the schools attracted
the attention of the students to dancing prematurely in some cases.
One o f her coworkers considered these classes a constructive force
that would be bound to affect public dancing as a whole i f given more
generally through the schools. The teacher in charge of the work in
the school said that as few of her children went to high school, she
felt that this instruction in proper dancing was a safeguard. A club
dance which many of the students of this school attended was visited.
An atmosphere of courtesy and pleasant formality was strikingly
apparent. A decided improvement was reported in the dancing
after a dancing master had been employed in another city to conduct
classes in social dancing in the high schools and among the faculty
members who were responsible for chaperoning the school dances.
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The majority of recreation officials, social workers, and others who
were interviewed felt that community recreation had not yet found its
real place in the lives of older boys and girls and young adults. The
need for the development of the program was undisputed. Many
thought that it offered the only method by which the conditions that
create the dance-hall problem can be changed. The former chief
supervisor of the San Francisco dance halls said in concluding her
report u no matter how excellent supervision may be, it is other
agencies, public and private, which must meet the challenge o f the
dance hall. The committee earnestly recommends the rapid increase
in the work of these recreational agencies.” Particularly in the case
o f young boys and girls whose exclusion from the public dance hall is
thought necessary, an adequate community recreation program would
provide not only enjoyable counter attractions but also training in
character development and in the proper use of leisure time.
In many cities, however, a fine plan for future development had
been worked out, and the foundation already laid was good.
Especially good features were provision of adequate facilities and
trained leadership, general participation of students in school athletic
and esthetic activities, and emphasis on activities that were of value
in promoting constructive use o f leisure time in later life.
A growing use of recreational facilities and increase in the public
recreational resources were found in most o f the cities visited. To an
increasing extent the school plant was being used to meet the social
and physical needs o f the community, and community baseball
diamonds, tennis courts, and other facilities were being multiplied.
To provide leadership in the use of these facilities and to expand the
recreation programs specialists in recreation and trained play leaders
were being employed. The assistance of the parents is being more
successfully used through carefully organized committee work, and
the sense of responsibility of the young people themselves for their
own conduct is being developed in the club organizations.
In the schools the more general participation of students in athletics
and other activities was notable. Interclass and intergroup teams
were displacing the old championship-team system from which only
a few derive benefit. The schools were also laying more stress on
activities with a high “ carry-over ” value, resulting in the formation
of good habits in the use o f leisure time. Emphasis was being put
upon the development o f the so-called sports (such as tennis and
swimming) and of hobbies. Because such activities do not cease with
the end of school they are of permanent value.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

The chief problems o f present-day dance-hall supervision are:
(1) Supervision o f music, dancing, and general conduct in the halls;
(2) provision for and protection of minors; and (3) control of the
after-the-dance rendezvous. To meet these problems there has been
a steady increase in dance-hall legislation during the last 15 years,
75 per cent o f the more complete ordinances having been enacted
since 1918.
The tendency o f this legislation has been to define the terms
“ public dance ” and “ public dance hall ” in order to make the regu­
lations applicable to all dances that are, in fact, public and not to
allow certain types o f such dances to be free from regulation because
o f a technicality; to require licenses for halls and permits for dances
in order to find whether the hall in which the dance is to be given
is sanitary, well lighted, and otherwise suitable, and to insure that
the person in charge of the dance can be trusted with this responsi­
bility; and to fix restrictions on the age o f admission and hours of
attendance o f minors and on the type o f dancing and conduct in the
In the administration of the dance-hall laws and ordinances the
most effective supervision was found in those cities in which a city
inspector was in charge and in which a hostess was employed in every
hall. The method o f appointment and the duties o f these officers
varied. Merit appointment protected by civil service, especially when
backed by an enlightened public opinion, insured the best service.
Although experience pointed to no one method for the appointment
and payment o f the hostesses, it was clear that they gave little pro­
tection to young people if they were dependent upon the dance-hall
managers unless the latter themselves were interested in the elimina­
tion of the dance-hall evils. As to duties, some officials believed that
the work o f the inspectors should be educational as well as super­
visory; others felt that the work should be limited strictly to enforc­
ing the letter o f the regulations. There was also a wide difference
of opinion as to whether or not the hostesses should do follow-up
work in connection with supervision o f dance conditions. It seems
quite clear, however, that where such educational and follow-up work
results in greater cooperation from the dance-hall managers and in
a more active interest upon the part o f the public, particularly o f
the parents o f minors found in the halls, dance-hall supervision is
more effective.
To meet the situation presented by the after-the-dance rendezvous,
the out-of-town hall, which next to the exclusion o f minors is the
most troublesome problem encountered in public dance supervision,
legislation must be passed by the State or county and provision made
for local enforcement.
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Although dance-hall supervision is necessary, the dance-hall situ­
ation can not be remedied unless those in charge of the enforcement
o f the laws can secure the interest and support o f the public. The
most effective regulation has been in those cities in which the man­
agers of dance halls have cooperated most actively. Not only can
they aid in seeing that good conditions are maintained in the halls
and that the regulations are carried out but they can assist the dance
supervisors and other social workers in creating social values in the
dance hall.
In many of the cities it was reported that the lack o f cooperation
from the parents of minors found in the halls was the greatest handi­
cap confronting the supervisors. This lack of cooperation was due
sometimes to ignorance o f what their children were doing, some­
times to indifference, and sometimes to the old belief that young
people must sow their wild oats. The cooperation of parents is,
however, so important that public education as to recreation and
recreational needs must be increased.
The provision of community recreation and training in recreational
activities will not eliminate the commercial dance halls, but they
should assist in greatly modifying the character of the commercial
amusements as well as developing the play interests o f the whole
population, providing types of amusement not commercially profit­
able, and developing latent leadership in the provision o f a whole­
some neighborhood social life.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

The Minnesota act applies to all public dances and public dance halls. A
public dance place is defined as “ any room, place, or space open to public
patronage in which dancing, wherein the public may participate, is carried on
and to which admission may be had by the public by payment either directly
or indirectly of an admission fee or price for dancing.” A public dance is
defined as “ any dance wherein the public may participate by payment either
directly or indirectly, of an admission fee or price for dancing or a fee for
a membership in a club, and shall include any manner of holding a dance which
may be participated in by the public through the payment of money, directly
or indirectly.”
In order to hold a public dance the owner or proprietor of the hall in which
the dance is to be held or the person intending to give the dance must procure
a permit from the governing body of an incorporated municipality or from
the town board of the county if the dance is to be held outside the corporation
limits. Such permits may be issued for one or more public dances or for a
period of time not exceeding one year. The application for the permit must be
accompanied by the affidavits of two freeholders testifying that the applicant
is of good moral character and has not within five years been convicted of a
felony, gross misdemeanor, or violation of the public-dance regulations. The
dancing place must not be connected by stairs, passageway, or otherwise with
“ private apartments ” or “ private rooms ” used for other than legitimate
purposes, and lighting and sanitary conditions, including toilet and washroom
facilities, must be satisfactory in the judgment of the licensing authority.
The permit must be posted in a public place in the dance hall during the time
the dance is being held.
Public dances are not permitted between 1 a. m. and 6 a. m. on any day nor
before 12 noon on Sunday. Other regulations as to hours not inconsistent with
these State provisions may be imposed by the licensing authorities in the various
municipalities. Unmarried persons under 16 attending public dances must be
accompanied ^by parent or guardian, and those 16 to 18 who are unmarried must
be accompanied by parent or guardian or present the written consent of one of
The act prohibits indecent or immodest dances or dances characterized by
immodest motions of the body; rude, boisterous, obscene, or otherwise offensive
acts or speech; and the admission of intoxicated persons and prostitutes or other
m dm duais of known immorality. The use or sale of intoxicating liquors in
the dance hall or on connecting premises or within 1,000 feet of the entrance is
also prohibited. No dancing is permitted with lights extinguished or dimmed
An officer of the law is required to be in attendance during the time the dance
is in progress, fees for this service to be paid in advance by the one securing the
permit. Violations of the act are punishable as misdemeanors and in addition
may result in forfeiture of the permit.
1 Mina., act of June 1, 1923, Gen. Stat. 1923, secs. 10161-10174, pp.
1399-1401, as
amended by act of Apr. 22, 1925 , Laws of 1925, ch. 302, p. 383.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Bartholomew, Robb O .: Dance H all Report. Cleveland, Ohio, August, 1912.
16 pp.
Binford, Jessie F . : “ May we present the roadhouse?”
W elfare Magazine
(Springfield, 111.), vol. 18, no. 7 (July, 1927), pp. 872-880.
-----------: “ On with the dance; correct dance month.” Survey, vol. 54, no. 2
(Apr. 15, 1925), pp. 98-99.
Bowman, Le Roy E., and Maria W ard Lam bin: “ Evidences of social relations
as seen in types of New York City dance halls.” Journal of Social Forces,
vol. 3, no. 2 (January, 1925), pp. 286-293.
Conduct of Community Dances. Playground and Recreation Association of
America. Bulletin No. 1280. Nov. 27, 1925. 7 pp. Mimeographed.
Dunlap, Nellie H . : “ Report on dance-hall inspection.” Police Journal [New
York], vol. 15, no. 4 (October, 1927), pp. 5, 9.
Good Dancing or No Dancing. Dancing Masters of America (Inc.) (President,
Raymond Bott, Youngstown, Ohio), 1928. 15 pp.
H all, Sophia: Dance H all Regulation. Information Report No. 26. Municipal
Information Bureau, University Extension Division, University of Wiscon­
sin. Madison, 1922. 17 pp.
Hiller, Francis H . : “ The working of county dance-hall ordinances in W is­
consin.” Journal of Social Hygiene, vol. 13, no. 1 (January, 1927), pp. 1-11.
Ingram, Frances: “ The public dance hall.” Proceedings of the National Con­
ference of Social Work, 1919, pp. 507-512.
Israels, Mrs. Charles H en ry : “ The dance problem.” Playground, vol. 4, no. 7
(October, 1910), pp. 241-250.
Johnston, Helen B erry : “ The policewoman and public recreation.” Interna­
tional Association of Policewomen, 220 Evening Star Building, Washington,
D. C., Bulletin No. 27, January, 1927, pp. 5-7.
Kansas City Board of Public W e lfa re: Annual Report, 1910-11, pp. 182-193.
-----------: Annual Report, 1911-12, pp. 248-250.
Lambin, Maria W a r d : Report of the Advisory Dance H all Committee of the
Women’s City Club and the City Recreation Committee, 22 Park Avenue,
New York, 1924. 39 pp.
■---------- : Report of the Public Dance H all Committee of the San Francisco
Center of the California Civic League of Women Voters. Published by the
San Franeisco Center, 1924. 24 pp. See comment by C. E. Brewer, in The
Problem Column, Playground, vol. 18, no. 11 (February, 1925), pp. 660-661.
-----------: “ This business of dancing.” Survey, vol. 52, no. 8 (July 15. 1924), pp.
Moley, Raymond: “ Dance halls.” Commercial Recreation (Cleveland Recre­
ation Survey, Cleveland Foundation, 1920), pp. 80-95.
New York (S tate). Bureau of Municipal Inform ation: Model Ordinance to
Regulate Public Dances and to License and Regulate Public Dance Halls.
Report No. 915. Albany, July 23, 1923. Mimeographed. 7 pp.
Owings, Chloe: “ Some current practices in dance-hall regulation.” American
City, vol. 36, no. 6 (June, 1927), pp. 783-786.
Phelan, John J . : “ Our dancing cities.” Survey, vol. 45, no. 18 (Jan. 29, 1921),
pp. 63-64.
Pigeon, Helen D . : “ Policewomen and public regulation.” American City, vol.
37, no. 4 (October, 1927), pp. 448-450.
The Regulation of Public Dance Halls. Prepared by Andrew Bostwick. St.
Louis Public Library Monthly Bulletin, n. s. vol. 12, no. 8 (July 1914). 26 pp.
(Apply to Municipal Reference Branch Library, City Hall, St. Louis, Mo.)
Rex, Frederick: Municipal Dance Halls. Municipal Reference Bulletin No. 2.
Municipal Reference Library, Chicago Public Library, March, 1914. 10 pp.
Report on Dance-Hall Inspection, Dayton, Ohio. International Association of
Policewomen, 220 Evening Star Building, Washington, D. C. Bulletin No. 31,
June, July, 1927, pp. 7-10.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



Schoenfeld, Julia: “ Commercial recreation legislation.” Playground, vol. 7, no.
12 (March, 1914), pp. 46 1 ^ 8 1 .
Smergalski, T. J . : “ Social dancing in the W est Park recreation centers of
Chicago, 111 .” Playground, vol. 17, no. 10 (January, 1924), pp. 544-547.
Spencer, Jess [W ichita, K a n s .]: “ The supervisor of dance halls.” International
Association of Policewomen, 220 Evening Star Building, Washington, D. C.
Bulletin No. 21, July, 1926, pp. 4-5.
Stocking, Collis A . : A Study of Dance H alls in Pittsburgh; made under the
auspices of the Pittsburgh Girls’ Conference. Pittsburgh, 1925. 47 pp.
Williams, Aubrey: “ Wisconsin ‘ b a m s ’.” Survey, vol. 52, no. 12 (S ep t 15,
1924), pp. 619-620.
Woofter, T. J., j r . : “ Dance halls.” Negro Problems in Cities (Doubleday,
Doran & Co., New York, 1928), pp. 269-278.
Youngquist, G. A . : “ Minnesota laws on the licensing and regulation of public
dance halls.” Proceedings of the Minnesota State Conference of Social Work,
1922, pp. 215-219.
For general references on recreation consult: Sources of Information on Play
and Recreation, by Marguerita P. W illiam s (Russell Sage Foundation New
York, 1927, 94 pp.)*
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

AND 1928
During the years from 1926 to 1928 laws relating to public dancing were
enacted in seven States. In four of these (Colorado, Massachusetts, Montana,
and Pennsylvania) certain phases of the subject were already regulated by laws
analyzed in the body of this report. Before 1926 Virginia, Kansas, and Louisi­
ana had no laws regulating public dancing. The Kansas and Pennsylvania
laws are the only new ones which cover more than one or two aspects of the
public dance or dance hall.

Kansas passed a law effective in counties with a population of more than
110,000 and less than 130,000, and Pennsylvania enacted one applicable to all
townships in the State. As the first, second, and third class cities in Pennsyl­
vania were already regulated under a law having very similar provisions this
leaves only the boroughs and one town in Pennsylvania still unregulated by
State laws.
The Virginia act defines public dance halls. It applies only to a county ad­
joining a city of 50,000 or more inhabitants (except counties adjoining a city
of 50,000 to 60,000 or in excess of 100,000 but not more than 165,000 according
to the census of 1920) and to counties having a population of more than 300
per square mile according to the last United States census. The Louisiana law
is applicable only to municipalities. The Colorado law does not apply to incor- j
porated cities and towns. The Massachusetts and Montana provisions ar§*|^

Kansas prohibits persons under 18 from entering or being present in a public
dance hall after 8 p. m. unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian,
except a married woman accompanied by her husband over 18, unless the person
is a member of a group and the parent or guardian of another member is pres­
ent. Pennsylvania prohibits the attendance of persons under 16 after 9 p. m.
unless accompanied by parent or guardian. The old law effective in the cities
forbids attendance of all those under 16 after 9 p. m.
Montana enacted a state-wide provision, making it a misdemeanor for owner,
proprietor, manager, or employee of a public dance hall, or a place where public
dances are held, to encourage or permit a minor under 16 to be, remain in, or
frequent such hall or place while a public dance is in progress unless accom­
panied by his or her parent or legal guardian.
Virginia prohibits a person under 18 from entering or remaining in the dance
hall while dancing is being conducted unless accompanied by parent or legal
guardian, or a brother or sister over 2 1 , or except with the written consent of
parent or legal guardian.

Kansas and Pennsylvania require licenses and provide that such licenses
must be conspicuously posted in the public dance hall. A license is issued in
Kansas only after a bond has been given by the applicant. The Virginia law
requires a license from the circuit court for the operation of public dance halls.
The county commissioners issue licenses in Colorado for all public dance halls,
booths, pavilions or other places where public dances are held. In Massachusetts
where licenses formerly were required for certain dance places, they are n o v ^
required also for “ innholders, common victuallers and keepers of restaurants
who maintain and carry on a dance. The law specifies that in towns with less
than 2,500 registered voters the license must be approved by the commissioner
of public welfare as in the interest of the public good and morals.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis





KansaS' halls must close at midnight, but those in Pennsylvania may remain
open until 1 a. m. and upon special permission of the county commissioner
until 2 a. m., except on Saturday nights. Both States prohibit Sunday dancing.

Kansas and Pennsylvania do not require constant supervision by either
privately employed or public officials, but both provide for free access at all
times for police officers. The Kansas law includes also all executive and lawenforcing officials and police officers of the State and the United States.
The Louisiana law permits municipalities to employ matrons or police
women and place them in dance halls to see that no lewd, vulgar, or suggestive
dances are given and that the costumes of the patrons are proper. The ordi­
nance fixes the salary of such persons, the amount specified to be paid by the

Kansas and Pennsylvania laws provide for clean, well-lighted halls and stair­
ways, but Kansas ’«also includes adjoining grounds and has special provisions
prohibiting smoking, gambling, drinking, carrying or serving intoxicants, vulgar
and improper language, conduct, and manner of dancing. No women are ad­
mitted to these halls in Kansas without a male escort, and all persons must pay
the same entrance fee. Operators, regular employees, law-enforcing officers, and
members of the fire department only are permitted entrance without such fee.

Revocation of the license for cause is provided as a penalty under some of
the laws, as well as fines, and in Kansas an alternative jail sentence.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis