This post from September, 2009 examined the dance marathon craze during the depression.

Nostalgia and Now

Alma Cummings started the dance marathon craze after outlasting six partners in 1923.  Spectators were charged admission and the winners would receive a cash prize.

The marathons would become grueling tests of endurance for the participants trying to outlast the other couples. Attendants at the scene would try to keep the contestants awake by dabbing wet towels on their faces.

The contestants would be allowed a 15 minute break every hour. The contests sometimes would last for days, weeks and even months and the craze was memorialized in the movie They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?.

They were not required to dance continuously but had to be in a dancing position to keep from being disqualified. There has been reports of the marathons being fixed by the promoters but I can’t see how they could prevent a local from winning the contest if they had the power to stay awake longer…

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Author: Andrew Godfrey

Retired from newspaper work after 38 years. Had served in the Army in Hawaii and Vietnam in the 60's. Am now retired and living in Sulphur, Louisiana.

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