Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Turkey Trot Leads to the Unemployment Line

An article in an on-going series:
Events in History Never Learned
in School or Anywhere Else

Once upon a Rag-time there was a dance called the Turkey Trot and a group of young women caught up in changing times.

1912 was a banner year as the country shed Victorian 19th century behaviors and marched inexorably into the new 20th century. A lot happened in 1912, and many of the exciting inventions and developments continue to impact us today.

Children’s lives were greatly improved with the introduction of Oreo cookies.

Americans were on the road to dress success with the founding of the L.L. Bean Company in Freeport, Maine.

Standard Oil Company jump-started a relentless path towards a concrete America with the opening of the first gas station in Cincinnati, OH.

Picnics and the American landscape would never be the same with the invention of Dixie cups. 

New Mexico and Arizona were admitted to the Union, forming a more perfect 48 contiguous states.

The unsinkable Titanic sank on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean.

Arizona and Kansas granted women the right to vote. Wisconsin voted against women’s suffrage.

On May 29th, 1912, in Philadelphia, publisher Ed Bok of the Curtis Publishing Company fired fifteen women for dancing the Turkey Trot during their lunch break.

Curtis was the original publisher of The Ladies Home Journal, Saturday Evening Post, and other prestigious 20th century publications. The Turkey Trot was a couples dance considered obscene by many and sometimes banned from dance halls. Most couple dances of the time had animal names, such as the Bunny Hug, Horse Trot, and Grizzly Bear.

The origin of the Turkey Trot is disputed. Some believe it was invented in San Francisco around 1909; others assert it was imported from Central America as early as the 1860s. Listen to the music and watch the dance:

For all NCIS fans, here is a video of Abby dancing the Turkey Trot.
Women everywhere salute the fifteen pioneers unafraid to let their hair down (metaphorically speaking) and dance their lunchtime away.

We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.
- Japanese proverb

A footnote. Fast forward twelve years and Mary Louise Curtis Bok, of the Curtis Publishing Company family, founded the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.  It is a unique music institution with a well-regarded worldwide reputation offering all students accepted, undergraduate and graduates, free tuition, regardless of economic circumstances.


  1. What a pleasant history lesson! Cute to see what dirty dancing meant back then.

  2. Ha! I heard the name but never knew what the Turkey Trot actually is. Thanks for the enlightenment. I think. :-)

  3. Fun post, and I especially love the Japanese proverb. Must share! Thanks!

  4. FABULOUS read. Love, love the proverb. Words to live by! Who knew I would learn something new today?! Thanks for that.