About the Ballroom

What kind of fun activities took place in the ballroom of an inn?

Large taverns served as the social center of some communities because they were able to provide enough room for dancing or other large gatherings.  Dances could be held to celebrate the harvest season, weddings, the 4th of July, and other important events.

Traveling dancing teachers went from town to town, offering dance lessons to young people.  It was common for these teachers to rent space in the tavern for their lessons, and the lessons usually encouraged the students to hold a ball afterwards to try out their new skills.

Dances could be very casual, with just one person playing the fiddle and people dancing wherever they could find room. Some taverns had formal ballrooms that were decorated in a fancier style and might provide an alcove or a balcony for the musicians so that they would not get in the way of the dancers.

Dances often began in the early evening and lasted all night, ending with people eating breakfast at the tavern before heading for home.

A Closer Look at the Painting

Which one of these dancing styles looks like the most fun to you?  Why?

What other kinds of entertainment might happen at an inn?

Traveling entertainers often stopped at taverns, where they would hope to attract a crowd to watch their show.  Tavern owners usually agreed to allow the entertainments because they would be able to sell food and drinks to the audience.  Entertainers at taverns might include magicians, jugglers, and acrobats.   Magic lantern shows were very popular, and could be sure of attracting a crowd.

Itinerant artists might rent a room in a tavern, offering to paint portraits of local people.  They might offer to paint a portrait of the tavern owner or a family member in exchange for a bed and meals, with the hope that tavern visitors would be impressed and might be tempted to have their own portrait painted.

A Closer Look at the Painting

When people had a portrait painted, they carefully selected some objects to include in the picture, such as a favorite book, a pet, or a special piece of jewelry.  This would help to tell people who were looking at the painting later something about the personality, occupation, or lifestyle of the subject. If you were having a portrait painted, what would you want to include in it?  What clothes would you wear? What do you think these choices would tell viewers about you?

What kinds of outdoor activities might happen near an inn?

The sleighing party was a very popular form of entertainment in the winter.  Groups of young people would gather in a variety of sleighs and set off across the country.  Laughing and singing would accompany the sound of sleigh bells as they traveled on snow-covered roads.  Their destination would usually be a tavern, where horses could rest, and everyone could get something to eat and warm themselves by the fire before heading home.  Dancing in the ballroom might be included as part of the fun.


A Closer Look at the Painting

There appears to be a sleighing party arriving at the tavern.  What do you think it sounds like as they arrive?  What time of day do you think it is?  What will all these people do when they get inside the tavern?  What will happen to the horses while the people are inside?