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September 18, 1910
Apologies right off the bat for the poor quality of many of the illustrations in this article. Most are taken from online newspaper clippings. The one plate below is overexposed at source, so that's pretty much how it looks. -- A.B.
Morris dancing first found me at the University of Chicago as a freshman (properly, in U. of C. parlance, "first year student") in 1980. During orientation week, I went with a group of my fellow new students to Activities Night at Ida Noyes hall. Most, if not all, schools have similar programs during their orientation periods, where student groups vie for incoming students' attention and membership. One such group was the U. of C. folk dancers, who were holding a contra dance that night to attract members. I stumbled through the dances, never having even heard of contra dancing, let alone having any prior dance knowledge or experience. After the dance, we had refreshments in the third floor Theater; Paul Ford asked the question of the group, "would anybody like to form a Morris team?" To which I asked out loud, "what's a Morris team?" The rest, as they say, is history: twenty-five years later I am still dancing.
I am hardly the first person to fall under the sway of Morris on the south side of the city of Chicago. As I have learned in my subsequent years of Morris research, the south side-- and in particular, the Hyde Park neighborhood where the University of Chicago is located-- has been the locale for Morris dancing in Chicago since 1900. Chicago Morris dancers and others interested in English folk dancing were lucky enough to experience several visits by Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles, the direct influence of William Kimber on teaching styles, and the rise of an extraordinary personality directing the dancing in the person of Mary Wood Hinman.
The south side of the city of Chicago has a unique history. All the attributes of Chicago described in the eponymous poem by Carl Sandburg about the city being the player with the nation's railroads and hog butcher to the world took place there. Until the end of the 1950s, the south side functioned as the economic powerhouse of the whole Chicago region, with the stockyards, Pullman and rail car manufacturing, and the steel mills driving the development of Chicago. With the arrival of the University of Chicago in the late 19th century, the south side also became the intellectual engine as well.
Why did Morris Succeed So Well In Chicago?
There seems to be a part of gilded age Chicago society that embraced Morris dancing wholeheartedly. Two factors may have helped in its acceptance. First, the factories and stockyards had brought waves of unskilled immigrants to the area. The inevitable downside of a free-market capitalist economy resulted in poverty and alienation for many of these immigrants. On the other hand, the booming economy ensured that a new class of entrepreneurs made huge fortunes. Their children needed exposure to culture, for, despite their wealth, the upper class of Chicago always had a nagging an inferiority complex compared to their East Coast brethren. Chicagoans of all incomes yearned for acceptance in the U.S. as more than simply an upstart prairie industrial-age society; indeed, the derisive nickname of "Windy City" was given to Chicago because its politicians campaigned so vocally for the right to hold the World's Columbian Exposition.
A cultural outlet for both halves could be found in dance, in particular, folk dance, which, when tied in with the growing physical education movement, the romanticism of the Golden Bough, and the rediscovery of folk traditions, dance, and music, seemed the perfect antidote for many problems. Folk dancing allowed the immigrant population to keep in touch with their roots, their children to learn of their identity, the society crowd to participate in an esoteric and eclectic cultural activity, and young Chicagoans of all socio-economic classes to sate their dancing urges and stay away from the sinful depravity of the dance halls and saloons.
|There will be a festival this afternoon on Marshall Field
by the students of the University of Chicago. It will begin at 2:30
o'clock. Mary Wood Hinman is coaching the dancing, among which will be an
old English dance called "Lady Cullen." This and the music were
used in 1650.
Headline: UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO STUDENT FESTIVAL TODAY.
There seems to have been an everyday cultural literacy about folk traditions that readers of the newspapers of the time were expected to have. For instance, here is an article about an imminent meeting of Bryn Mawr alumnae:
|It is the great hope of those interested
in the May Day fete this year that enough money will come in through
tickets sold for the entertainment to round out the desired sum. Tickets
are selling for $2 apiece. The coming fete is to be Elizabethan in all
details. The wonderful grounds of the Bryn Mawr campus will be given up
entirely to the entertainment, which will start with a pageant followed by
the Maypole dance and the crowning of the lady of the May...
In various parts of the campus the following plays will be given:
HEADLINE: CHICAGO'S BRYN MAWR GIRLS TO ATTEND EASTERN FESTIVAL.
No reader needed to be told what a maypole dance was or a lady of the May.
Like me, for many, it was a short step from social folk dance to performance and ritual celebrations. Enter the Morris dance. One person in particular is responsible in Chicago at this time for introducing Morris dancing to the working class and the upper class alike.
Mary Wood Hinman.
"To Miss Mary Wood Hinman belongs full credit-- society folk will tell you-- for the revival and elevation of dancing in Chicago, and her work and enthusiasm has placed the ancient art upon a new plane." (Chicago Daily Tribune, September 18, 1910, p. G1)
The strongest influence on early 20th century Chicago Morris came from an Ohio-born dance instructor named Mary Wood Hinman, born on February 14, 1878. At the age of 16 in 1894, she moved to the rather posh North Shore suburb of Kenilworth. Apparently, during a time of family financial distress, Hinman began teaching neighborhood children at home to help her family make ends meet. She seems to have enjoyed her teenage teaching experiences greatly, and studied gymnastics and folk dancing in Europe.
Upon her return to Chicago, despite lack of any formal training, she began teaching dance in various schools, clubs, and hotels. She managed to parlay her classes into a successful business. Around 1898, she started working with Jane Addams and her colleagues at Hull House, whose philosophy was to include the arts as part of an innovative program for the settlement and assimilation of immigrants into Chicago society. As the Hull House site states: "Hull House settlement workers saw the value of 'recreative pleasure' for young people doing the monotonous work of modern industry." Mary Wood Hinman taught folk dancing classes at Hull House as a way to hold the interest of immigrants and introduce their children to the music and dance of their native lands. Hull House settlement workers saw folk dance as a wholesome alternative to the restless dancing energy of the young, and provide social dances and classes as an alternative to the evils of the new city-- dance halls, gambling dens, and saloons. Folk dance was also taught in the women's gymnastic program as a socially acceptable outlet for women's physical energies. Hinman fully absorbed the ethos of Hull House. As she was later quoted by Luther Gulick *2 "[it is] astonishing to find how many young men and women were given better positions by their employers after attending class for a month or two." Her motto became "let us not teach as much as share."
Another major influence on her life was the philosopher John Dewey, whom she may have met through his wife's (educator Harriet Chipman Dewey) involvement at Hull House or at the University of Chicago, where Dewey taught Philosophy and Education. Working with Dewey, Hinman developed a program of gymnastic, folk, and social dancing as part of the curriculum of the "Dewey School," the University of Chicago Elementary School. The courses were geared from kindergarten through high school. The school eventually merged with Frances W. Parker School, where Hinman worked from 1906 to 1919.
In 1904, Hinman established the Hinman School of Gymnastic and Folk Dance in Hyde Park, in order to prepare young women for teaching dance in public and settlement schools. Her name began appearing in the society columns:
|To Miss Mary Wood Hinman belongs full
credit-- society folk will tell you-- for the revival and elevation of
dancing in Chicago, and her work and enthusiasm has placed the ancient art
upon a new plane.
It was Miss Hinman, in fact, who first introduced the classic dance into Chicago society, with the result that she now has in her classes the sons and daughters of nearly every family of prominence in the city. Miss Hinman, however, has gone farther than this and last winter was besought by the mothers to form a class especially for them-- a class which, when finally formed, proved the most popular innovation of the social season.
Headline: SOCIETY CAPERS NIMBLY IN THE GYMNASTIC DANCE
|A group of well known south side women
are much interested in the entertainment to be given at Bartlett Gymnasium
at the University of Chicago tomorrow evening as a benefit for the
University settlement. A group of dances will be given under the
supervision of Miss Mary Wood Hinman. Miss Hinman, who has made a close
study of folk dances, goes abroad yearly to ferret out the quaint steps of
other years and bring them to Chicago, and many of those dances will be
given tomorrow evening. One number will consist of an old English morris
dance called "Laudnum Bunches," and this will be given by
six young girls who will wear morris bells on their ankles, wreaths of
mayflowers in their hair, and carry handkerchiefs in either hand. The
dancers stand in the formation of a reel and step to music which was very
old and was popular in the days of Elizabeth. The name "laudnum
bunches" is supposed to be a corruption of the English "laurel
branches." Those taking part will be Misses Nadine Hall, Florence
French, Calista Lenehan, Helen Veedor, Margaret Foss, and Cecilia Geldman.
Another dance will be given by six young men from the University High School, who are to appear in the old morris dance "Bean Setting." This dance dates from pre-Christian times and was found by Miss Hinman in Oxfordshire, England last summer, where it had been retained by a bricklayer whose family had preserved it through five direct generations. The dancers will be Henry Macfarland, Franklyn Chandler, John Altbright, Dunlap Clark, Frank Foss, and Richard Morenus.
Headline: SOCIETY, CLUBS, ENTERTAINMENTS. Events in Society.
The "bricklayer" refers to, of course, William Kimber, who was in fact not a bricklayer but a quarry worker. Hinman insisted on referring to Kimber as a bricklayer in subsequent interviews.
Two of Hinman's pupils, September 18, 1910.
In addition to her work at her school, she still continued to support the nascent social concerns of settlement (assimilation into U.S. culture) and poverty relief. Morris and folk dancing exhibitions became, as they always have in English society, a method of raising money for various charities.
|Perhaps they also knew more of the city itself as it is
today, for nearly every one of the foreign communities gathered together
under the composite title of Chicago contributed to the dancing groups.
True to tradition and history for America, the evening opened with a group
of old English Morris dances under the direction of Miss Mary Wood Hinman.
Boys and girls of the sixteenth century-- and even older-- for one dance
came from pre-Christian times-- danced with bells on their ankles and
flower strewn hair through a series of graceful movements which Miss
Hinman has been able to dig out of the rural districts of England and
bring to America.
Headline: HISTORY REVIEWED IN DANCES. Steps and Music of All Peoples
Given at U. of C. Function. To Aid Settlement Work.
and this event, which raised money for the "refurnishment of the Girls' Friendly Room, located in St. Luke's hospital." *3
|Interesting features are planned in
connection with the dance to-be given tonight in the Red Room of the Hotel
La Salle by the Diocescan Senior Members' Club of the Girls' Friendly Aid
Society. The graduating class of the Chicago Training School for
Playground Workers will give the Stanes Morris dance and minuet ex
audet. Among those who will take part are: Mrs. Harold Smith, Miss Mary
Crosson, Miss Alice Apple, Miss Irma Baus, Miss Lenora Bauman, Miss Erma
Boyd, Miss Mildred Dyer, and Miss Margeretta Bauer.
Headline: SOCIETY AND ENTERTAINMENTS. Happenings in the Chicago Society
Hinman's influence and her philosophy became nationwide; here she is in New York City, where she taught a series of courses at the New School for Social Research beginning in 1932. She also busied herself in the folk dance scene in the city:
|The Folk Festival Council
announced yesterday a Folk Festival ball-- with every one present joining
in the dancing-- to be given on the evening of Oct. 29 in the Seventh
Regimental Armory, Park Avenue and Sixty-sixth street...
It is expected that 700 persons in folk costumes, representing two dozen countries, will form a nucleus for the dancing...
Earlier in the evening the schottische, polka and waltz will be interspersed among the tarantelles [sic] and ring dances of other lands, and according to Mary Wood Hinman, chairman of the program, the dances will be the easiest of all folk dances.
Headline: FOLK FESTIVAL BALL TO TEACH OLD DANCES.
and with the Hollywood set in Los Angeles:
|Forty children, who work in
motion-pictures, were guests of honor at the Hollywood Studio Club Friday
for dinner at 6 p.m., and later Miss Louise Dresser played Santa Claus and
distributed presents from the trees. Such parties have been given each
year at the club and are becoming a tradition. The committee in charge
was: [a long list of people], ...Mary Wood Hinman, Mona Sempf, Ruth Wood
and Ellen Woodston.
Headline: CHILDREN GUESTS OF CLUB.
Amusingly, one of the hostesses of the club listed in the above article was the author of the virtue of selfishness herself, Ayn Rand.
One of Hinman's more famous students was Doris Batchelor Humphrey, the dancer, dance scholar, and choreographer. The Doris Batchelor Humphrey Society's web site can be found here, should the reader wish to learn more about her. Encouraged by Humphrey to film her modern dance works and get involved in choreographing dance in movies, California beckoned to Hinman, where she retired from her teaching career in 1938. She lived there until her death in Los Angeles on July 4, 1952.
The Mary Wood Hinman collection is now at the University of Southern California, which consists of a printed collection of English folksongs and plays, all from around 1910. These materials were used by Hinman to teach and direct her dance numbers. More information about this archival collection can be found at the USC site. *4
Hinman and William Kimber.
I am always impressed with generosity of William Kimber; he must have been a very good man, always willing to teach and share what he knew to interested parties. Hinman learned some Morris dances from Kimber himself:
|The "Highland Fling" is, of
course, an old Scotch [sic] dance but it is still very popular with the
pupils under Miss Hinman. Each clan in Scotland has its different step in
the same manner as they differ in their plaids, and there are many of the
so-called "Morris dances." These were first danced in Spain by
the Moors, where John of Ghent [sic] saw them. Becoming much enthused over
their beauty and rhythm, he brought back with him a hand of minstrel Moors
to entertain the court. Previous to this the gentlemen of the English
court were wont to blacken their faces, arrange a turban around their
heads, and-- after the banquet was over-- walk up and down the Moorish,
or, as it was afterwards called, the "Morris" steps. The Moors
themselves at once took a tremendous hold on the English peasantry, who
took these old dances and made them their own.
Last summer in England the "Morris" dances were still danced by the peasants. At Blenheim-- just outside of Oxford-- a group of peasant men, led by Kimber, a bricklayer, were found going through the steps of the old Morris dances-- arrayed, as of old, in the costume associated with the dance since the time of John of Ghent. *5 Around their necks were wreaths of wild flowers, while bells jingled from their ankles. This bricklayer himself gave to Miss Hinman the steps.
[Section title: "Old Green Sleeves"]
One of the group of dances first made famous by the Moors is known as
the "Old Green Sleeves," the words of which are, in part, as
Headline: SOCIETY CAPERS NIMBLY IN THE GYMNASTIC DANCE
Hinman and Cecil Sharp; Sharp Comes To Chicago.
In 1913, Hinman and a large group of Americans, including George Baker and Helen Storrow, attended Summer School in Stratford, England, to learn more about Morris. Hinman invited Sharp to visit Chicago to teach and observe her folk dancing instruction. Sharp disagreed with Hinman's teaching methods, claiming that:
"I have accepted an engagement offered me by Miss Ward [sic] Hinman to spend the week April 7-14 in Chicago and take three classes a day... I have good reason to believe that she has been altering the dances very considerably that we taught her at Stratford -- making them easier for children is I believe her excuse..." *6
Cecil Sharp spent the First World War in the U.S. He traveled extensively, teaching and lecturing wherever he went. Read more about CJS in America-- much more-- in Mike Yates' superb article in Musical Traditions entitled Cecil Sharp in America: Collecting in the Appalachians and Jim Brickwede's equally excellent article in the November 1986, v. 10, n. 3 issue of this very newsletter.
Sharp and Maud Karpeles attended meetings of the U.S.A. branch of the English Folk Dance and Song society, Chicago chapter:
|The regular monthly meeting of the Chicago center, U.S.A.
branch of the English Folk Dance society will be held this evening at 7:45
o'clock at Bartlett Gymnasium, University of Chicago. Cecil Sharp and Maud
Karpeles of the parent society will be present.
Headline: SOCIETY AND ENTERTAINMENTS.
and witnessed performances and perhaps performed:
|Good standing room out in Cornell park will be about all
reasonable person could ask this evening if the weather is fine, for the
closing party of the Chicago branch of the English Folk Dance Society will
be held there, and several old country dances of Queen Elizabeth's time
will be revived. One of the especially attractive numbers on the program
will be the execution of the old Morris dance called "Princess
Royal," of which the story is told that it was brought to light in
England by Max Beerbohm at Blenheim Castle ten years ago this May day. At
sunrise, it is told, Mr. Beerbohm chanced to see the last of the real old
Morris men do their ritual dance at the castle gates; through his efforts
and those of Cecil Sharp, who has done much in England to restore the old
folk dances and songs, the dances have been saved for us. Miss Mary Wood
Hinman is secretary of the society.
Headline: COUNTRY DANCES OF OLD ENGLAND TONIGHT IN PARK
|Mr. Cecil Sharp, the president of the
English Folk Dance and Folk Song Society, spent a few days in Chicago
recently, engrafting in the minds of this city's dancers the true and
unadulterated principles of the British folk dance. He also spoke-- at the
Little Theater-- some words about the English folk song of which he has
made particular study.
Mr. Sharp told of rescuing English folk music; how he and his associates, seeking out persons untouched by the on-rush of education, had entered the workhouses and jotted down the songs of old peasants now living on the parish. No one under 70, he said, had yielded a song worth the taking. Another 20 years and English music would surely have dissolved in sophistication.
English children, Mr. Sharp assured his audience, have been contaminated with French and German songs. "Savea Vous Plantez les Choux" had placed "The Blackberry Blossom." England had sold her well-springs of music, fresh from the soil, for Burgundian or plebian Bock.
Headline: MR. CECIL SHARP TALKS OF FOLK SONG
Josephine V. Brower.
I do not have much information about Josephine Brower and her time in Chicago. She was the author of a book of Morris dances, supposedly the first one published in North America *7 as well as a children's book. *8
References to Ms. Brower's Chicago visit are tantalizing brief, only printed in connection with the biennial meeting of the General Federation of Womens' Clubs, held in Chicago. The meeting organizers thought enough of folklore to devote at least one session to it in what seemed to be an already crowded agenda. As an interesting historical note, this meeting, whose representatives included the elite of U.S. social society, endorsed universal suffrage.
| June 13 has been set apart on the
program for the biennial convention for the department of literature of
the General Federation of Women's Clubs. Miss Josephine V. Brower,
head of the literature and library extension department, will be in
charge. Miss Brower is the daughter of Jacob V. Brower, archaeologist, who
was considered an authority on Mississippi exploration. Some of his works
have been translated into French. It is to him that the people of the
country owe Itasca Park, at the headwaters of the Mississippi river. Miss
Brower is the author of a book for children and also of the first book on
the English Morris dances published in America. She belongs to the London
Lyceum club, the Society of American Women in London, the English Folk
Dance Society, and is a member of the advisory council of the Merrie
England Society, of which Mrs. Cornwallis West was president.
Headline: WOMEN'S CLUBS
and the report of the meeting itself:
|CHICAGO-- Universal Suffrage was given
the stamp of approval on Saturday by the General Federation of Women's
Clubs. It was an eventful day at the biennial convention. What was
intended simply to be consideration of the traditional subjects in clubdom
turned out to be a momentous epoch of far-reaching influence throughout
the world of womankind.
That which had not been dared at San Francisco at the 1912 biennial was done in Chicago quietly and simply. A half-hour's business session was first on the program...
[Under section heading "Art Department Reports: Some Ideas for Work"]
Miss Josephine V. Brower, daughter of Jacob Vrandenberg Brower, archaeologist, and the first woman to introduce morris dancing to America, is vice-chairman of the literature and library extension department of the federation, and made a particularly interesting talk on the subject of Folklore.
In the afternoon her paper was illustrated by Mrs. Florence M. Brown of London who has collected over 300 dances has taught all over England.
Headline: EQUAL SUFFRAGE IS INDORSED BY WOMEN'S CLUBS
The resolutions of the meeting were: A.) support of the merit system vs. the spoils system in the civil service [pointedly resolved in the patronage-laden city of Chicago] B.) all women were encouraged to study the causes of war and the achievements of peace, and C.) a solid endorsement of Universal Suffrage.
The world of folk dance, particularly centered around the University of Chicago, did not just evaporate with the retirement of Mary Wood Hinman. Folk dancing-- and in particular, Morris dancing-- continued rolling along. In many instances, students of Hinman taught Morris dancing in high schools throughout the area. In 1934, at the Century of Progress world's fair, the English village, along with several other recreated ethnic villages, was entitled "Merrie England." It featured, among other things, Morris dancers besporting themselves on the "village green." A photograph of the village, along with the other "foreign villages," can be found at http://hometown.aol.com/chicfair/village.html.
|"Merrie England," said to have
the largest number of buildings of any village at A Century of Progress,
will officially open today... Prominent among the attractions is a
reproduction of the old Globe theater in London...
[A list of plays that will be presented at the Globe]
All of these will be included in the repertoire of the village company. In the village green, performances by Morris dancers, sword dancers, a bagpipe band, and the Welsh choir will be given.
Headline: MERRIE ENGLAND AT WORLD'S FAIR WILL OPEN TODAY
I could find no other mention of Morris in the newspaper archives until we get to 1956. Oak Park, a Chicago suburb, held an English Medieval Art Fair. It featured Morris dancers, although the photograph of the high school girls in their Morris kit looks... different, shall we say, than any other Morris costume I have ever seen:
|Multicolored battle flags will wave over
a section of Oak Park next Sunday, but instead of summoning the local
knights to action, their mission will be a call to all artists and art
Morris dancers-- girls who learned the folk steps as part of a high school course-- will entertain visitors to the fair.
Headline: OAK PARK GOES ENGLISH FOR MEDIEVAL ART FAIR
As to the Chicago team during the late 60s, please see Ed Stern's article on the 1969-1971 University of Chicago team in this issue.
We have a few glimpses of other occurrences of Morris dancing in Chicago in the 1970s. Here is an article from 1971:
|Jolllification of the public thru merrie court, country,
and Morris dancing, juggling, and unicycle riding will take place between
2 and 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon in Grant Park near the Abraham Lincoln
statue... One of the most colorful assemblages of musicians and other
entertainers will be seen and heard in what may the city of Chicago's
first Old English Fayre... By whose plans, you ask? By the Chicago
Masquers', a group of 24 musicians, dancers, and other people who have
decided to reproduce the most entertaining Renaissance music they can
Headline: NOBLE GATHERING IN GRANT PARK
and a photograph from the University of Chicago's own newspaper, the Maroon, from 1976 (date and issue unknown, alas.)
A parade from the Botany Pond preceded the
And, as I said, Morris at the University of Chicago revived yet again in 1980. The baldrics worn are the same ones that Ed Stern's team wore in 1970 (see article above). Here is a photograph from May Day, 1981, on the campus quadrangle.
and a jig (Headington: Old Mother Oxford) performance in May, 1982, in Oak Park, at which point the team was known as Wild Onion Morris.
This team, the University of Chicago team, was a joint team. The mens' side was led by Paul Ross and Paul Ford. The womens' side was led by Erna Lynn Bogue. The women eventually split off and became first Ladies of Pleasure and then Windy City Women. The mens' side eventually fractured due to personality clashes; one part went on to form what would eventually become Ravenswood Morris and the other part went onto form Fox Valley Morris. All of which, dear reader, is enough to give one many headaches trying to remember the permutations and genealogies of the various teams.
Ravenswood Morris has been extant since 1986, and is still, I am happy to say, going strong. There are, as of 2005, actually three teams in the city: Ravenswood; Green Man's Morris, which is a team of parents connected with the Chicago Waldorf School on the far north side; and my own team, Pullman Morris and Sword, located on the far south side. Together, we all share the proud legacy of Morris in Chicago.
Notes and References.
1. Hinman, Mary Wood. Gymnastic and Folk Dancing. New York: A. S. Barnes and Co., 1916.
2. Gulick, Luther H. The Healthful Art of Dancing. New York: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1910.
3. The Girls' Friendly Society was founded in England in 1875. It was-- and is-- affiliated with the Episcopal Church in the U.S. Its purpose was to provide a place of safety, friendship, and recreation for unmarried women who came to the city to work in the factories and domestic service.
4. Much of the biographical information about Hinman was found in: Schultz, Rima Lunin and Adele Hast. Women Building Chicago 1790-1990: A Biographical Dictionary. The article about Mary Wood Hinman was contributed by Dr. Selma Odom of York University. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001.
5. Patently absurd. Kimber and Headington Quarry Morris wore the traditional Cotswold costume of whites, baldrics, and caps. This is a photograph of the team and Kimber in 1895, which would have been the same costume Hinman would have seen:
6. MS, Letter, Cecil Sharp to Maud Karpeles, dated 15 March 1915, p. 7, Karpeles bequest.
7. Brower, Josephine V. The Morris Dance. New York: The H. W. Gray Co.; London: Novello & Co., 1910.
8. Brower, Josephine V. Tales from the Alhambra. New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1910.