It is well documented that for almost 100 years liquor was not to be manufactured or sold within the Greeley city limits. Gambling was also thought to be an undesirable activity. However, you may not be aware that there was another scrutinized social activity taking place during the early years of Greeley’s founding — dancing.
Early Greeley Tribune editorials written by Greeley founder Nathan C. Meeker outlined the evils of these activities, sometimes to the annoyance of Greeley residents. In a February 1, 1871 editorial, Meeker discusses the issue of dancing in his “soft” manner, in hopes of avoiding upsetting opposing community members. He begins by writing, “there is no question at all but that a great majority of the members in our Colony are opposed to dancing, and that they would be at a loss to decide whether a billiard saloon or a dancing hall would do most harm.”
Greeley residents did not shun all social activities. They were prominent supporters and participants in music and theater endeavors, as well as intellectual pursuits. Yet, dance seems to have held a negative stigma for some of the early residents, particularly Nathan Meeker! Meeker desired to create a community that embodied high moral values. Considering this, it is, therefore, no surprise that he wrote with great enthusiasm on the threat of dancing, in his opinion, to the morality of men and women and the strength of the family.
He argued that if women and girls were brought in contact with men in their homes, which he believed to be the safest and best places in the world, in the same manner as they are in dance halls and ballrooms, they would be viewed as immoral. And, if a man saw his wife reclining in the arms of another man in his parlor, he would consider it an infamous outrage, even though this activity is considered normal during a dance event.
Meeker acknowledged that these opinions could be viewed as fanatical, but he feared that dancing would break down the moral organization of Greeley and would deter people from making Greeley their home. Speaking broadly, he wrote that the success of a community “depends full as much upon the strength and unity of the organization as upon the moral aspect.”
Clearly, however, dancing found a welcome place in Greeley much to the delight of many teenagers and college students. We have multiple dance venues, classes, and nightclubs, in addition to the well-known UNC School of Theater and Dance. We should, however, pay homage to the father of our Greeley community, Nathan Meeker, who was fervently concerned with our well-being. You can decide whether or not his “soft” editorial writing method on dancing would be well-received by the majority of readers today.
Originally printed in the Greeley Tribune, June 17, 2012
Written by Caroline Blackburn, former Archives Specialist