In the relatively isolated plantation environment music and dancing helped satisfy the hungry need for entertainment and socializing.
Reportedly, the first time the waltz was danced in the United States was in Boston in 1834. The dance had migrated to America from London. The waltz was the first time women danced in men’s arms! By the middle of the nineteenth century, the waltz was firmly established in American society and it became the era’s most popular and enduring couple dance.
Colorful flowing ball gowns! Beautiful music! Strong melodies. There was an overall spirit of excitement; an evening of music and dancing provided the young people an occasion for a pleasant flirtation.
Romanticism of the antebellum era is reflected in the fashionable grand balls. At Glen Mary Plantation the elegant double parlors served as a ballroom. The pocket doors were thrown open, much of the furniture removed and the parlors combined into one large gala space where dancing could extend out from the rooms through the floor to ceiling windows onto the spacious veranda.
Mary Boykin Chestnut writes in her famous chronicle of society during the Civil War, ‘Dairy from Dixie”, of the “beautiful young wives waltzing as if they could never tire, …in the room twirling in the arms of young men”, and no doubt this scene was repeated at Glen Mary Plantation to the exuberant music of Glenmary Waltzes! Chestnut goes on to describe a lovely belle in her elegant gown: “…she is as beautiful as flesh and blood ever gets to be, and she is always exquisitely dressed. Today it was soft mull muslin, all fluffy and fluted and covered with Valenciennes lace”.