'"As to flirtation," continues this sage instructor in morals and manners, ''it is difficult to draw a limit where the predilection of the moment becomes the more tender and serious feeling, and flirtation sobers into a more honorable form of devoted attention. I think flirtation comes under the head of morals more than of manners; still I may be allowed to say that ballroom flirtation, being more open, is less dangerous than any other. But a young lady of taste will be careful not to flaunt and publish her flirtation, as if to say, ' See, I have an admirer !' In the same way a prudent man will never presume on a girl's liveliness or banter. No man of taste ever made an offer after supper, and certainly nine-tenths of those who have done so have regretted it at breakfast the next morning."' ~Harper's Magazine 1860
Dances and balls were at their height in the mid-1800s. Many conservative people at the time thought balls were only good for introducing sin to young people. Despite that many people loved dances: a dance with under 50 participants was considered "a dance," a dance with under 100 people but more than 50 was considered "a ball," and a dance with over 100 people was considered "a large ball."
Tickets to public dances held in public halls could be bought in advance. Dance cards were frequently printed with the tickets. The cards listed the songs which would be played and the dances that would accompany them. The cards had spaces for dancing partners to write their names to reserve dances. It was considered polite to not dance with the same partner more than once or twice if you were engaged or married. This is much different from our view today, where we normally go to a dance with one person and stay with them the entire night.
The point of dances were to have a good time and to converse with people that you didn't see all of the time. The sentiment at the time was that if you stayed with one person all night you were monopolizing yourselves and denying everyone else the company of both of you. There were many group dances that would allow every lady to dance with every man throughout the course of the dance. This seems like a good arrangement because couples, although at the same dance, could have different experiences at the dance that they could share with each other after.
Other Posts of Interest:
my contest, the drawing will be held on October 5th!**