E-mail This Article To A Friend

Print This Article Page

Article Page url: http://www.thehistorybox.com/ny_city/society/printerfriendly/nycity_society_introduction_article0036.htm

Forthcoming Debutante Balls Here Recall Cotillions of Earlier Days

 By Evelyn Gardner of the New York Times

Reminiscences of debutante balls and cotillions at the turn of the century were related recently by Mrs. Theron Roundell Strong of New York and Southampton, L.I., in her apartment at the Carlyle. Her remarks were prompted by the coming week of important debutante events.

"Whenever I look back on those happy times." Mrs. Strong said, "I have always been glad that New York and I were young together."

In those days, young women were presented to society at afternoon receptions in their homes, elaborate balls were given also in private homes and the cotillion was an integral part of every ball held either in homes or hotel ballrooms.

Mrs. Strong, then Miss Maud Robbins, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Asher Robbins, was introduced to society on an afternoon in December at a large reception held in the home of her parents at 410 Fifth Avenue just opposite the present site of Franklin Simon & Co.

Several evenings later, in a beautiful ball gown of white tulle flecked with gold, designed and made-especially for the occasion, the debutante attended her first ball, the Patriarchs Ball, which took place at Delmonico's, than at Fifth Avenue and Twenty-sixth Street. There she danced the cotillion with Elisha Dyer, famous cotillion leader, whom Mrs. Strong recalls as "a fascinating fellow with a keen sense of humor, tall and slight, with hair that curled, and impudent smile."

Other well-known cotillion leaders of that day, the debutante of yesterday recalled were J. Frederick Tams, Thomas Howard, George H. Bend and Harry Lehr.

Cotillion Favors in Vogue

Popular debutantes of that era came home from balls laden with cotillion favors, for these were important accessories at every private dance and were provided by the hostesses. Many young women of that time carried bags or fancy baskets to take home the elaborate articles they received from their partners in the cotillion figures.

Favors for the young women and the men were piled high on tables, and hostesses were famed for the richness and elaborateness, or for the simplicity and commonplaceness of the favors they bestowed. These colorful and glittering arrays presented a gay spectacle. They included in many instances articles of value, costly wide-sash ribbons in pastel hues attached to long-stemmed roses or other glowing blossoms, gold pencils, fashionable neckties, jewelry of all kinds for men and women, intricately carved or enameled boxes of varying sizes and expensive baskets filled with flowers.

Cotillions of the past were in striking contrast to the balls of today. There were no tremendous crushes on the ballroom floors. The cotillion rules were precise. Couples sat in gold chairs with red velvet cushions placed along the walls of the ballroom or the vast drawing rooms of that era. There they sat until they were called out in turn and told to get their favors for the figures. It was considered bad form to leave the ballroom during the cotillion. Only a few couples were called out at a time, thus eliminating the congestion now in vogue. After these had danced, others were called.

Formality and traditional dignity are stressed at the Debutante Cotillion and Christmas Ball. All of the debutantes to be introduced must wear long white ball gowns and long white gloves. Each must make a court curtsey at the head of the red velvet carpeted stairway when she is presented. Their escort must be attired in formal evening clothes, white tie and white gloves.

The Junior Assembly is one of the oldest and best established dances for debutantes in this city. Predecessors of the Junior Assemblies were known as the Junior Cotillions, of which the late Mrs. Arthur Murray Dodge was the organizer and president for many years.

Debutantes are introduced at dinner parties in advance of the Junior Assembly, as there is no formal presentation at this dance.


Article Information:
Article Name: Forthcoming Debutante Balls Here Recall Cotillions of Earlier Days
Website: http:www.thehistorybox.com |Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina
Source: New York Times : November 20, 1955
Article Time & Date Stamp: