Ulysses S. Grant's "dancing shoes"

Joined
Jan 24, 2017
Although not a West Point graduate - he was a Brigadier General:
Edward Ferrero (1831–1899) and according to Wikipedia: was one of the leading dance instructors, choreographers, and ballroom operators in the United States. He also served as a Union Army general in the American Civil War, most remembered for his dishonourable conduct in the Battle of the Crater (July 1864), reported drinking with another general behind the lines, while both their units were virtually destroyed.
His obituary here:
https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=LAH18991214.2.61&e=-------en--20--1--txt-txIN--------1
Thanks for sharing that @DBF , and he sounds like our guy - the Fred Astaire of the CW! Sadly, his dancing is not what he will be remembered for going by his obituary.
 
Joined
Jan 24, 2017
Not sure whether Grant was an accomplished dancer, but this story shared by the artist Mort Kunstler on his FB page a while ago shows that Grant could be gallant toward a lady on the dance floor: http://tinyurl.com/kpxg3y9
Wow @LoyaltyOfDogs ! What a story. I'm not sure how many people would have heard that one, but Grant obviously kept his composure in the circumstances. Imagine. The "clumsy oaf" got off lightly for his transgression it seems. And I'm sure the lady herself was in shock. Grant was very gallant indeed.
 
Joined
Jan 24, 2017
Here are men's dancing shoes, made of leather. The women's dancing shoes are black trimmed with blue. Note the thin soles on both. The main requirements for the shoes are that they be light, the women's dancing shoes were usually flats.


View attachment 391153

View attachment 391155
Thank you so much @mofederal . It's great to see a representation of the shoes themselves. And the soles being thin must have made all the dancers much lighter of foot I imagine.
 
Joined
Jan 24, 2017
I forgot I had done some research into the West Point Hops - -

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/let’s-go-to-the-hop.173571/#post-2264007
That was a wonderful post, @DBF, and as always thoroughly researched. The images makes such a difference as well.

I had no idea they called them "Hops" then, and I can see the value of them in this sentence - "Happily the rigors of military etiquette are mitigated thrice a week by balls or hops" - although three times a week surprises me. Somehow you never imagine the possible enjoyment factor included in attending a military school or college.
 

Lubliner

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Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
The prestige of West Point, and an open invitation to promote the Academy in societal circles would prompt the administrators to be sure to groom their plebes into proper cadets they could be proud of. What better way than the formal dance, other than the spit-shine and polish of military parades.
Lubliner.
 
Joined
Jan 24, 2017
The prestige of West Point, and an open invitation to promote the Academy in societal circles would prompt the administrators to be sure to groom their plebes into proper cadets they could be proud of. What better way than the formal dance, other than the spit-shine and polish of military parades.
Lubliner.
So true, @Lubliner . They needed to be well rounded young men and had a reputation to upkeep.

Interesting that the plebe who couldn't dance, was socially awkward, and considered by some to be 'common', made it to the top of the societal food chain :smile:

I'd say Grant's story is one of the most hopeful out there if I'm being honest!
 

Mrs. V

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
May 5, 2017
I see that some shoe pictures have appeared. There were some with heels as well. Toes were square and the shoes very soft. Very much like a ballet shoe, but with a different toe at least for the women, and not all of them tied on, but you know to each their own. The heel had that hour glass shape to it..forget the name of it at the moment.

It’s super hard to find ballroom slippers for reenactors. I have seen some shoes that are, “close” on some of they dyable shoe websites.
 
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Jan 14, 2018
Location
Adirondacks-New York
Grant certainly shied away from public gatherings when possible. It does seem that the only motivation for Grant to go to dances was to please his wife and when there he typically played the role of benchwarmer.

From The Generals Wife by Ishbel Ross:

"[Julia] danced as expertly as she rode, but she soon discovered that although Ulysses presented himself regularly as her escort, she had to dance with other partners. Neither then nor later did he walk out on a dance floor without embarrassment."


From Ulysses S. Grant: His Life and Character by Hamlin Garland regarding Grant's first posting at Sacketts Harbor, NY:

"'Lieutenant Grant... and Mrs. Grant used to go to little dancing-parties, but I don t think he ever danced.'"

From The General's Wife regarding Grant's time in Detroit:

"[Julia's] dancing delighted the young officers... she never missed the weekly assemblies at the Exchange Hotel, although her husband merely looked on as she danced. Friend Palmer observed that 'he used to stand around or hold down a seat all the evening.'"

Apparently, sometimes Grant played bouncer at dances (from Garland):

"'A fellow came to a dance [in Detroit], one night, in his shirt sleeves, and set about being noisy and vulgar. Grant asked him what he meant by it. He started to make back talk. Grant told him to be quiet, and when he refused, Grant kicked him out of the door and clear out to the gate. He was a little giant physically, and a man of no words all action.'"

While stationed on the West Coast Grant even dreamed about his wife at a dance (casually ignoring him):

"I dreamed of you and our little boys the other night the first time for a long time. I thought you were at a party when I arrived and before paying any attention to my arrival you said you must go, you were engaged for that dance."

During the war Grant wrote to Julia about the children's education taking a subtle jab at dancing:

"I want the children to prosecute their studies, and especially in languages. Speaking languages is a much greater accomplishment than the little paraphernalias of society such as music, dancing &c. I would have no objection to music being added to Nellies studies but with the boys, I would never have it occupy one day of their time, or thought."

On his rest tour with his family soon after the war the Grant party stopped at West Point where he was reported in the paper to have danced in the hop at the ballroom at Roe's Hotel there:

"Last evening (Wednesday) being "hop night" a large crowd assembled in the hop room expecting to see 'General Grant dance.' About nine o'clock the General and family entered the room, and the band immediately struck up 'Hail to the Chief,' thereby giving everybody present a chance to recognize in the modest officer who now entered the room-the gallant and victorious leader of our armies during the late contests in the field. Everybody knows, or should be aware, of his ability to lead armies... but everybody did not know that the General could dance. Well, now, sober sides, don't get shocked at what I am about to disclose-he can dance, and did dance on the evening of the 26th day of July [1865], at West Point. It was amusing to see the General maneuver in the intricate movements of cotillon, but he accomplished it manfully, and it must have been particularly delightful for the young ladies to be handled in the dance by the gallant hero."

As President he tried to participate in dancing while at Long Branch, NJ (from Garland):

"During the first summer [1869] the President spent some weeks at Long Branch, exposed to all the gaieties, forms, and ceremonies of fashionable society, which he bore with most patiently, even to attempting the lancers [square dance]. It was a hard situation for a plain old soldier whose lines of life had lain far from such scenes. It brought out a curious phase of his nature: it defined his limitations. 'Madam, I had rather storm a fort than attempt another dance,' he once said to his partner."

A newspaper report of the same dance:

"General Grant danced with ease and bashfulness, and is not passionately fond of the exercise, I should imagine, he makes a very accommodating President, and does what be dislikes with the same cheerfulness as what he is fond of. His wife is a graceful and charming dancer, and I saw nothing prettier of its sort than Admiral Porter, who is very large and commanding, and with a fine carriage, turning Mrs. Grant. The latter was dressed in good taste, with a diamond necklace and ornaments. General Sherman, in the same set, danced with his usual flow of spirits, keen, mischievous eye, quick leg, and evident annoyance that the music was not more glib and noisy. He had Mrs. Michler for his partner, and seemed to envy nobody, while General Michler danced with a Miss Turnbull, the pleasant inheritor of an old family name, in due time, that Prince of the Quarter Deck, Secretary Borie, came to action, and he moved under the shadow of his set like a canoe under the hulls of a fleet of frigates. Finally, he got his foot entangled in a cable or cord of some sort, and dropped down like the sails of a nautilus. The little man arose immediately, with merriment on both sides of his face, and, ’as Mr. Dickens would say, his shins fairly winked afterward."

An image of Grant dancing at the Stetson House in Long Branch 1869...
mdp.39015014703279-seq_498 (1).jpg


There are other unverified accounts of Grant dancing as President with Philippine E. Von Overstolz of St. Louis, William Stewarts' daughter at her Washington wedding and his daughter-in-law Ida Grant (wife of Fred). Although the Grant's traveled the world witnessing native dances and with formal dances held at receptions in the General's honor, I found no evidence of him taking part.

I think it's safe to say that General Grant is not remembered as a prolific and highly talented dancer. That being said, it seems as though on the rare occasion that he had to "face the music" he got out there, stepped up, and got it done.
 
Joined
Jan 24, 2017
Grant certainly shied away from public gatherings when possible. It does seem that the only motivation for Grant to go to dances was to please his wife and when there he typically played the role of benchwarmer.

From The Generals Wife by Ishbel Ross:

"[Julia] danced as expertly as she rode, but she soon discovered that although Ulysses presented himself regularly as her escort, she had to dance with other partners. Neither then nor later did he walk out on a dance floor without embarrassment."


From Ulysses S. Grant: His Life and Character by Hamlin Garland regarding Grant's first posting at Sacketts Harbor, NY:

"'Lieutenant Grant... and Mrs. Grant used to go to little dancing-parties, but I don t think he ever danced.'"

From The General's Wife regarding Grant's time in Detroit:

"[Julia's] dancing delighted the young officers... she never missed the weekly assemblies at the Exchange Hotel, although her husband merely looked on as she danced. Friend Palmer observed that 'he used to stand around or hold down a seat all the evening.'"

Apparently, sometimes Grant played bouncer at dances (from Garland):

"'A fellow came to a dance [in Detroit], one night, in his shirt sleeves, and set about being noisy and vulgar. Grant asked him what he meant by it. He started to make back talk. Grant told him to be quiet, and when he refused, Grant kicked him out of the door and clear out to the gate. He was a little giant physically, and a man of no words all action.'"

While stationed on the West Coast Grant even dreamed about his wife at a dance (casually ignoring him):

"I dreamed of you and our little boys the other night the first time for a long time. I thought you were at a party when I arrived and before paying any attention to my arrival you said you must go, you were engaged for that dance."

During the war Grant wrote to Julia about the children's education taking a subtle jab at dancing:

"I want the children to prosecute their studies, and especially in languages. Speaking languages is a much greater accomplishment than the little paraphernalias of society such as music, dancing &c. I would have no objection to music being added to Nellies studies but with the boys, I would never have it occupy one day of their time, or thought."

On his rest tour with his family soon after the war the Grant party stopped at West Point where he was reported in the paper to have danced in the hop at the ballroom at Roe's Hotel there:

"Last evening (Wednesday) being "hop night" a large crowd assembled in the hop room expecting to see 'General Grant dance.' About nine o'clock the General and family entered the room, and the band immediately struck up 'Hail to the Chief,' thereby giving everybody present a chance to recognize in the modest officer who now entered the room-the gallant and victorious leader of our armies during the late contests in the field. Everybody knows, or should be aware, of his ability to lead armies... but everybody did not know that the General could dance. Well, now, sober sides, don't get shocked at what I am about to disclose-he can dance, and did dance on the evening of the 26th day of July [1865], at West Point. It was amusing to see the General maneuver in the intricate movements of cotillon, but he accomplished it manfully, and it must have been particularly delightful for the young ladies to be handled in the dance by the gallant hero."

As President he tried to participate in dancing while at Long Branch, NJ (from Garland):

"During the first summer [1869] the President spent some weeks at Long Branch, exposed to all the gaieties, forms, and ceremonies of fashionable society, which he bore with most patiently, even to attempting the lancers [square dance]. It was a hard situation for a plain old soldier whose lines of life had lain far from such scenes. It brought out a curious phase of his nature: it defined his limitations. 'Madam, I had rather storm a fort than attempt another dance,' he once said to his partner."

A newspaper report of the same dance:

"General Grant danced with ease and bashfulness, and is not passionately fond of the exercise, I should imagine, he makes a very accommodating President, and does what be dislikes with the same cheerfulness as what he is fond of. His wife is a graceful and charming dancer, and I saw nothing prettier of its sort than Admiral Porter, who is very large and commanding, and with a fine carriage, turning Mrs. Grant. The latter was dressed in good taste, with a diamond necklace and ornaments. General Sherman, in the same set, danced with his usual flow of spirits, keen, mischievous eye, quick leg, and evident annoyance that the music was not more glib and noisy. He had Mrs. Michler for his partner, and seemed to envy nobody, while General Michler danced with a Miss Turnbull, the pleasant inheritor of an old family name, in due time, that Prince of the Quarter Deck, Secretary Borie, came to action, and he moved under the shadow of his set like a canoe under the hulls of a fleet of frigates. Finally, he got his foot entangled in a cable or cord of some sort, and dropped down like the sails of a nautilus. The little man arose immediately, with merriment on both sides of his face, and, ’as Mr. Dickens would say, his shins fairly winked afterward."

An image of Grant dancing at the Stetson House in Long Branch 1869...
View attachment 391389

There are other unverified accounts of Grant dancing as President with Philippine E. Von Overstolz of St. Louis, William Stewarts' daughter at her Washington wedding and his daughter-in-law Ida Grant (wife of Fred). Although the Grant's traveled the world witnessing native dances and with formal dances held at receptions in the General's honor, I found no evidence of him taking part.

I think it's safe to say that General Grant is not remembered as a prolific and highly talented dancer. That being said, it seems as though on the rare occasion that he had to "face the music" he got out there, stepped up, and got it done.
Absolutely marvellous and entertaining as well!

I love the image and thank you for sharing in so much greater detail.

My favourite part is the newspaper report of the dance at Long Branch NJ. It's hilarious!
that Prince of the Quarter Deck, Secretary Borie, came to action, and he moved under the shadow of his set like a canoe under the hulls of a fleet of frigates. Finally, he got his foot entangled in a cable or cord of some sort, and dropped down like the sails of a nautilus.

I think it's safe to say Julia was the social butterfly and Grant obviously tried to be accommodating. They were an odd couple in that sense. But he didn't seem to begrudge her the enjoyment even if he wasn't always willing to take part. And, as you say, he was willing as necessary to get out there, step up, and get it done.

I have to ask, had you ever heard the story of Grant getting a slap to the face in error on the dance floor? No doubt the lady concerned was doubly mortified in the situation while Grant was his usual gallant self. He certainly sorted out the rowdy dance attendee at another party you describe.
 
Joined
Jan 14, 2018
Location
Adirondacks-New York
Absolutely marvellous and entertaining as well!

I love the image and thank you for sharing in so much greater detail.

My favourite part is the newspaper report of the dance at Long Branch NJ. It's hilarious!


I think it's safe to say Julia was the social butterfly and Grant obviously tried to be accommodating. They were an odd couple in that sense. But he didn't seem to begrudge her the enjoyment even if he wasn't always willing to take part. And, as you say, he was willing as necessary to get out there, step up, and get it done.

I have to ask, had you ever heard the story of Grant getting a slap to the face in error on the dance floor? No doubt the lady concerned was doubly mortified in the situation while Grant was his usual gallant self. He certainly sorted out the rowdy dance attendee at another party you describe.
Yes, I remember stumbling upon the Facebook post (from 2014) about Grant's mishap. I have not encountered it in any other sources that I can recall. It is an entertaining story and while somewhat plausible, has to go into the category with the other ladies that claimed to have danced with the General.

The Facebook post may be in some error as it states "there was a great stir of Secret Service and policemen" but the Secret Service was not in the business of presidential protection prior to 1901.

Father: Andrew Wylie (1814-1905) Served as Judge on DC Supreme Court 1864-1885 and was known for his involvement with the Mary Surratt trial.
Mother: Mary Caroline Bryan Wylie (1825-1896) Married Andrew Wylie ca. 1846
Son: Horace Wylie (1868-1950) A bit of scandal in his life story.

It seems from reviewing newspaper reports that Mrs. Grant and Mrs. Wylie were almost in competition for throwing parties for the elite at their respective Washington residences. I could not locate a specific engagement where the Wylie's were at the White House but I'm sure it occurred at some point during Grant's presidency.

The Corcoran Gallery of Art opened to the public on January 19, 1874. During the opening exhibition between 10AM-3PM there were 250 visitors to the gallery including President Grant and "members of the District courts" (Horace Wylie would have been age 5).

An obituary for Judge Wylie claims that he had a meeting with Pres. Grant and opposed his choice for a new judge on the DC Supreme Court.

I guess this story, like many, will have to remain plausible but unconfirmed.
 
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