Sunday, February 19, 2023

Gilded Age Balls

During the Gilded Age, there were two main types of ball – private balls and public balls. Folks like the Asters, Morgans, and Vanderbilt’s held regular private balls. So did the Emery’s on Calumet Island in the Thousand Islands. The Emerys had the only private ballroom in the area, so attending their balls was a great honor.

But how did one plan a private ball? After all, it was an invitation-only event, unlike the public balls as hotels and resorts. The hostess would carefully choose her guests, send out invitations, and most would reply yes. An impeccable menu was planned, an orchestra hired, and everything made ready for the special social event.

Balls typically started around nine and lasted until five the next morning! There would be a half-dozen dances before they’d serve dinner around midnight, followed by another half-dozen or so dances before they’d serve breakfast or at least a snack. Fine china, silver, and crystal was a must, and elegant refreshments stood at the ready. But no one sat—it was more of a fancy buffet with the finest foods and desserts imaginable.

A Waltz Ball was a bit shorter, from about nine in the evening until two or three the next morning. There would always be an orchestra, often with just four instruments—the piano, violin, violincello or harp, and a cornet. The Viennese Waltz was a favorite, and so were group and couple dances such as The Grand March, The March in File, and The Star. This was the kind of ball the Emerys hosted.

Ballroom dancing provided socialization and entertainment, and singles were happy to take part, if only for one dance. But by the 1870s, ballroom dancing became “old fashioned” by the young, and mastering the long list of dances such asthe Polka, Mazurka, Schottische, and Redowa became less and less important. By World War I, a new, freer form of dance was emerging, one the old guard thought scandalous.

But even today, ballroom dancing is not only an international competition but also a fun pastime for many who love its elegance and beauty. In Peyton’s Promise, details of the Emery’s private ball will bring this all to light.

About Peyton’s Promise:

Summer 1902

Peyton Quinn is tasked with preparing the grand Calumet Castle ballroom for a spectacular two-hundred-guest summer gala. As she works in a male-dominated position of upholsterer and fights for women’s equality, she’s persecuted for her unorthodox ways. But when her pyrotechnics-engineer father is seriously hurt, she takes over the plans for the fireworks display despite being socially ostracized.

Patrick Taylor, Calumet’s carpenter and Peyton’s childhood chum, hopes to win her heart, but her unconventional undertakings cause a rift. Peyton has to ignore the prejudices and persevere or she could lose her job, forfeit Patrick’s love and respect, and forever become the talk of local gossips.

About Susan:
Susan G Mathis is an international award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands in upstate NY. Susan has been published more than twenty-five times in full-length novels, novellas, and non-fiction books. She has nine in her fiction line including Peyton’s Promise. Find out more at


  1. I love to dance but can't imagine staying up all night!

  2. Thank you for posting today. Although it all sounds lovely, it sounds more like work than fun! And I know that there was so much etiquette to observe in inviting the "right" people.

  3. I'd love to learn, but staying up all night sounds exhausting. I'm curious how you choose character names. According to most baby name sites, "Peyton" first entered the list of baby names as a boy's name in 1989, and then as a girl's name around 1992. What year was your Peyton born?