Henry & Clara Ford
After 50 Years of Marriage
Dance Master, 1925
Later in their marriage, Clara reminded him that "we have danced very little since we
Her comment prompted Henry to renewed his acquaintance with old-time dancing. The
couple's fumbling attempts at recalling their favorite dances sent Henry,
never willing to be found less than perfect in any desired accomplishment,
in search of an authoritative dancing master.
The man he was looking for was Benjamin B. Lovett. He and his
wife, Charlotte, both natives of New Hampshire, had been teaching
traditional New England social dancing in Worcester, Massachusetts, for some
Lovett believed that dancing lessons should produce a "growth
in social training as well as in habitual graceful carriage ... We clung to
the old American country dances because they were typically American and
provided much greater opportunity for this social training than the modern
Ford met them on a trip to Massachusetts and was delighted to find
another man with strong convictions about the role that old-fashioned dances
could play in instilling manners in young people.
The Lovett's were invited
to Dearborn to help organize a series of dances for the Fords. They expected
to visit for a month or two. They stayed twenty years.
& Mrs. Ford and Mr. Lovett published the results of his research in a book which provided inspiration and
material for many people who had wanted such a reference. On the cover
of this edition of their book, it says:
was a public service
of inestimable value.
book was an inspiration
to many people who had desperately
wanted this type
They pounce on it.
One of the people who pounced
was a young Colorado
photographs in the volume were posed by Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin B. Lovett, who also assisted in arranging the dance descriptions in
After a Sleep of Twenty-Five Years,
Old Fashioned Dancing is being revived
by Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ford
Ford, who grew up in a Michigan farming community in the
years following the Civil War, met his wife, Clara, at a grange hall dance.
Their courtship was carried on to the sound of fiddle tunes and the caller's
instructions, "do-si-do" or "promenade home."
Amassing a collection of dances came next.
Agents were dispatched around the country to research the old steps and figures
and collect the tunes
that traditionally accompanied them.
As soon as he had secured the Lovett's services, Ford sought
out players familiar with the violin and the sousaphone and such rare
instruments as the cybalum and dulcimer to serve as a house orchestra.
were given rehearsal space in the Dearborn engineering laboratory, where
they were to be ready to play at a moment's notice when their patron felt
like going over a sequence of dance steps. An area of the large laboratory
building was curtained off to serve as a ballroom, and Ford called in
company executives and their wives to share his enthusiasm.
By the end of the first evening of dancing, confusion reigned. Ford's
response was typical: "We'll have lessons every
night until we get it right," he told the assembled group.
Ford was concerned with the dance education of children. His
chosen instrument in that mission was Benjamin Lovett.
Nine months after the first
dancing party in the engineering building, Ford decided that Lovett should
organize a dancing school for young people in Dearborn.
The first class of
eight boys and eight girls (enough for two quadrille sets) quickly grew into
a much larger group, which eventually had to be subdivided into many
classes. At one time there were 22,000 students from public schools in the
Dearborn area participating in these classes.
Ford later took his mission to
Detroit, providing training in country dancing for that city's physical
education teachers. For years, these dances were part of the Detroit public
school curriculum, which used a manual that Ford had written.
Lovett's influence soon extended to colleges and
universities. Where European dances had been the only kind of folk dance
taught in college physical education classes, now American dancing was added
to the curriculum at such institutions as Temple, Michigan, Radcliffe,
Stevens, and North Carolina.
Under Ford's sponsorship, the Lovett's taught
in thirty-four universities, colleges, and normal schools.
7/30/1863 - 4/7/1947