Dance Crazes

The spreading popularity of ragtime music during the early 1900s led to a series of so-called animal dance fads, including the fox trot, horse trot, turkey trot, crab step, lame duck, snake, grizzly bear, bunny hug, and others. Religious leaders and the general press attacked the new dances as immoral or at the least, unseemly. The Omaha Daily News on February 3, 1913, criticized the excesses of a recent Omaha “‘rag’ exhibition” featuring the bear or bearcat dance:

“Girls in short dresses, some with hair down their backs in braids or curls and several looking to be not over 16, did the ‘bear cat’ dance and all its accessories last night at the Armory hall, Twentieth and Harney streets. Sometimes they were dancing with young boys from 16 to 19, and sometimes with older boys and men. It depended on the size of the boy or man.

“Old and young were on the floor together, of both boys and girls. Some of the girls were painted and wore dresses shorter than their age justified. The odor of liquor and tobacco smoke was on the breath of many of the boys and men. A few of the men there appeared to have had too much liquor.

“A policeman was on the floor most of the time, and there were two men with badges on to indicate they were floor managers. If a man fell down, the floor managers and the policeman laughed with the rest of the crowd. When a couple staged the ‘bear cat’ unusually strong, a floor manager and a policeman were heard to laugh and say, ‘They’ve got it bad.’

“In doing the ‘bear’ at the armory, some of the couples, particularly the younger ones, put both arms around each other and walked for several minutes at a time, twisting their bodies to keep time with the music.

“Boys using profane language while with the girls was a common occurrence last night. Those whose breaths were the strongest with liquor were the most liberal with their profanity. In the men’s toilet room there were many empty whisky bottles. One girl used such profane language that it shocked a policeman. He suggested to her that she not talk so loud. Some of the little girls were at the dance without escorts and some were accompanied by boys. Some went away without escorts, but more with them. No introduction was necessary to get partners.

“The dances in the Armory hall are given ‘every Sunday,’ according to a sign in one end of the hall by ‘The Star Dancing club.’ Girls go free; men and boys pay 25 cents.”

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

Other Publications

The Bachelors’ Protective Union of Kearney

When the Bachelors' Protective Union gave a gala reception for two of its newly married, former members and their brides in March of 1890, the social club for young, ...

U.S. Weather Bureau in 1890s Nebraska

The U.S. Weather Bureau was established by an act of Congress on October 1, 1890. It took over the weather service that had been established in the office of the Chief ...

Canning the Way to Victory

During American participation in World War I the U.S. Food Administration, under the direction of Herbert Hoover, launched a massive campaign to persuade Americans to ...

The Shoemaker’s Ashes

"Edward Kuehl, one of the most peculiar characters that ever lived in Omaha, or anywhere else, was found dead in his bed last night in the back room of his place of ...

Crazy Horse Surrender Ledger Foreward

Red Dog, an Oglala Lakota who lived at the Red Cloud Agency, Nebraska, 1876-77 (Nebraska State Historical Society   In the summer of 1876, following the ...

Darryl F. Zanuck

Darryl F. Zanuck Darryl F. Zanuck (1902-1979), a native Nebraskan, produced some of Hollywood's most important and controversial films. He helped found 20th Century Fox ...

The Burlington’s Profitable Pork Special

Nebraska railroads were much concerned with developing an adequate economy in the areas they served. The Burlington, for example, had a long history of caring for the ...

Bungalow Filling Stations

After the giant Standard Oil Company was broken into thirty-four separate companies in 1911, the newly independent Standard Oil of Nebraska dominated the state's market ...

The Bull Fight

This is the perfect time of year for a visit to the old fishin' hole. But a group of fisherfolk from Plainview discovered that this bucolic pastime sometimes has ...

Buffalo Soldiers West

African-American soldiers on the western frontier are the focus of an exhibit at the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln. Buffalo Soldiers West, on loan from the Colorado ...

Protection for Buffalo

The extermination of the buffalo on the Plains occurred largely between 1870 and 1885. The Nebraska State Journal of Lincoln on February 1, 1874, editorialized in vain ...

Buffalo Hunting

In late October 1877 young Rolf Johnson and three friends left their homes in Phelps County, Nebraska, for a buffalo hunt in northeastern Colorado. The hunt was not very ...
About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

History Nebraska Education

Learn more about the educational programs provided at our museums, sites, and online.

History Nebraska Programs

Learn more about the programs associated with History Nebraska.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast!

Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.