This Day in History: “Who will drop next?”

Schenectady County

April 8, 1933, Schenectady's longest dance marathon

schenectady historical wedding at dance marathon

Dancers Thelma Smith and Tom Russ’s 1993 wedding photo. (Larry Hart Collection / Grems-Doolittle Library / Schenectady County Historical Society)

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — April 8, 1933 was the final day of the longest dance marathon ever in Schenectady history. Located on 214 Clinton Street, the Marathon Endurance Dance lasted for 58 days and 12 hours before city police shut it down on orders from the City Common Council.

Dance marathons were popular forms of entertainment in the 1920s and 1930s, but they were sometimes a source of contention. Started in February by a promoter from Syracuse, this particular marathon drew criticism from leaders of the faith community as an example of vice, and from other Schenectadians as failing to benefit the local economy.

“For obvious hygienic, economic, and moral reasons the Schenectady Ministerial Association wishes to protest vigorously against the so-called ‘marathon dance’ now being conducted in this city.”

Part of a motion approved at a meeting of the Schenectady Ministerial Association
Marathon dancers Thelma Smith and Tom Ross held their wedding ceremony on March 29, 1933, as an added attraction to the contest. The couple had danced for 1176 hours by that date. An advertisement promoting the spectacle read: “Public Wedding – Every one invited to see Tom and Thelma take the fatal leap – Don’t miss it.”
(Larry Hart Collection / Grems-Doolittle Library / Schenectady County Historical Society)

This information comes from Marietta Carr, librarian with the Schenectady Historical Society. Find out more about Schenectady’s history of controversial dance marathons online at the Grems-Doolittle Library.

Correction: This post contained a crucial typo in the date, listing the year as 1993 instead of 1933. News10 regrets the error.

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