Vernon and Irene Castle's Ragtime Revolution

Vernon and Irene Castle's Ragtime Revolution

Vernon and Irene Castle's Ragtime Revolution

Vernon and Irene Castle's Ragtime Revolution


The fascinating story of a couple who reinvented dance and its place in twentieth-century culture.


It’s a chilly Wednesday evening in Manhattan, just above freezing, and you’re out on the town for some fun. Maybe you’re a tired businessman, an out-of-town tourist, a pretty little ribbon clerk, a bored housewife on the loose. Here you are in Times Square, bundled up in your fur or overcoat, and you want to have some drinks, a bite of food. You might go to the theater and see Anna Held at the Casino, Billie Burke at the Lyceum, Bert Williams at the Palace. But if you are really in the swing of things in 1913, you’ll want to go out dancing.

The newly opened Biltmore Hotel, near Grand Central Terminal, does not allow dancing, but most other hotels do. The Waldorf, Plaza, Astor, and the McAlpine have all converted restaurants or parlors into upscale dance halls and hired orchestras to play the latest in ragtime. The Vanderbilt offers an added attraction: a cotton-wool “snowball” fight at the stroke of midnight.

One of the big events that December was famed restaurateur George Rector’s opening of his new eponymous establishment at Broadway and Forty-eighth Street; Nora Bayes, Florenz Ziegfeld, and Lillian Lorraine attended the event. “The new Rector’s,” says Variety, is a sure bet to put a dent in the takings of competing “New York restaurants-dancingcabarets.” It features, in addition to a number of singers and comics, a generous helping of ballroom dancers: Golden and Golden (“Whirlwind Dancers”), the Dixon Trio (“Novelty Dances”), and future Scandals producer George White, “who will dance afternoon and evening.” Not to be outdone, the Garden, at Fiftieth and Broadway, advertises itself as “New York’s Leading Cabaret” and “The Real Bohemian Rendezvous of New York.” Churchill’s (“Better Than the Theatre”) can be found at Forty-ninth and Broadway, or by calling BRyan 5175.

A newcomer has to be careful to avoid the rougher joints. Recently, Murray’s on Forty-second Street was raided and two dancers were arrested . . .

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