TIME animals

Princeton Hoofers: LIFE Goes to a Charleston Dance Contest, 1949

Photos from 'a furious foot-shaking, hair-mussing Charleston contest' at Princeton University in 1949 -- a contest in which even the famous Princeton tiger took part.

A November 1949 issue of LIFE featured a wonderfully animated addition to the magazine’s long-running “LIFE Goes to a [fill in the blank here]” franchise, in which the magazine’s photographers chronicled everything from a black magic “hex party” — convened in order to cast spells on Adolf Hitler — to a snail-watching society in England.

The 1949 article in question, meanwhile, featured . . . well, let’s let LIFE set the scene:

The Charleston craze that splintered dance floors in the ’20s is staging a stubborn comeback, so much so that this year the usual elegance of Princeton’s annual Prince-Tiger dance was abandoned for a furious foot-shaking, hair-mussing Charleston contest. In spirt with the Charleston theme, enthusiastic revivalists came in ankle-length raccoon coats, their dates in waistless, sacklike flapper dresses. The enthusiasm even spread to the Princeton tiger in the person of a freshman cheerleader named Ed Craig, who took a few Charleston lessons from somebody else’s date, a girl named Barbara Pettit.

Pettit, it turns out, went on to win the contest (with another partner, not with Tiger Ed). Ivy Leaguers, it seems, weren’t like other collegians back in the day. The more things change . . .

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com


Dear TIME Reader,

As a regular visitor to TIME.com, we are sure you enjoy all the great journalism created by our editors and reporters. Great journalism has great value, and it costs money to make it. One of the main ways we cover our costs is through advertising.

The use of software that blocks ads limits our ability to provide you with the journalism you enjoy. Consider turning your Ad Blocker off so that we can continue to provide the world class journalism you have become accustomed to.

The TIME Team