This section of the book is from the "Household Companion: The Home Book Of Etiquette" book.
In most of the large cities several series of dances are arranged by certain leaders in the social world to which people are invited to subscribe. Each subscriber is usually entitled to a number of invitations for distribution, though in some instances the price of the subscription is small, and only permits one person to take advantage of each.
The subscription balls take place in some public ball-room, as a rule. In New York, for instance, at Delmonico's.
Several ladies are selected to form the reception committee, and they stand in one of the outer rooms, bowing to the guests as they enter. On such occasions, no one shakes hands; the ladies courtesy, and the gentlemen bow.
No unmarried lady should go to one of these balls, or to any large party, without a chaperon, and invitations should be sent to an elder member of her family, in order that she need not look outside for proper attendance.
In the West and South it is customary for gentlemen to take unmarried ladies to evening entertainments, but in the East, and in the best city society generally, such a thing would be considered the greatest breach of decorum. At a small dance in a private house a young lady may dispense with the services of a chaperon, if desired, but she should be escorted to and from the house by a servant or relative.
A good floor is essential to the enjoyment of dancing; when the carpet is taken up, care should be used that no roughness of surface is presented. Some ladies have their dancing-floors carefully polished with beeswax and a brush. A crumb-cloth or linen diaper, thoroughly well stretched over a carpet, is the next best thing to a polished floor.
The question of music is important. If it is a large ball, four musicians is the least number that should be engaged piano, cornet or flute, violin, and violoncello. In small assemblies the violin and piano are sufficient, or, on occasion, the piano alone. In such a case a chance pianist should not be depended upon, but a professional one be engaged.
The orchestra should occupy what is considered the top of the room. In cases where it is not convenient to adhere to this rule, the end farthest from the door is usually chosen. The position of the orchestra needs to be considered by the dancers, so that, in quadrilles, their movements may be regulated thereby.