History of the Prom

Seniors emerge from limousines and party buses, girls dressed in glamorous gowns and boys in tuxedos. They proceed into a banquet hall and scan the room.  A photographer is snapping photos of happy couples and a is DJ carefully preparing the nights playlist. Tables are neatly set for dinner and a memorable night begins.

This has become a classic Prom scene, however proms did not always look like this.

Proms appeared in the early 1800’s at exclusive colleges of the Northeast and mimicked debutante balls to which the upper class attended.

Fittingly,the word “prom” comes from the word “promenade” meaning “to walk in a public place for pleasure” according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Official high school proms began in the early 1900’s. Dress code at this event would have been “Sunday best,” meaning one’s best and most formal clothes. Therefore, new clothes were not bought for these events. Students would socialize and drink tea. Since it was considered inappropriate for women to dance with men they were not married to, a chaperon would escort the girl and her date as they walked around the block.

Although it was not yet an extravagant affair, prom would continue to become an even more important high school event around the country.

“It’s classification as a special night was definitely in existence and it would only continue to grow in status during the coming century,” according to randomhistory.com.

Prom expanded as the car was introduced and a simple affair transformed into a class banquet where students danced and wore party clothes.

Post World War II and Great Depression, the United States economy began to flourish, and so did the prom as it became a more elaborate affair. Prom settings were moved from gyms to locations such as hotel ballrooms and country clubs. Prom court also became a symbol of social status at this time.

Pete Morcey, a member of Crosby High School’s graduating class of 1958, remembers renting his tuxedo for fifteen dollars and his ticket for ten dollars. Morcey and his date arrived in his fathers’ brand new 1958 Cadillac which cost about $4800 at the time.

Today, the theme is still formal with guys wearing suits and girls wearing formal gowns.

Jenna Broadbent, a member of Woodland Regional High School’s graduating class of 2006 and now a math teacher at Woodland, says her senior prom was held at the Aqua Turf and her junior prom was held in the school gym. She remembers going to both proms with a date. Broadbent also remembers borrowing a dress for her junior prom and wearing a red dress costing approximately $150 for her senior prom.

It has become an even more expensive high school memory as well. The average price US families spend on a prom is 919 dollars according to theguardian.com This price includes dress/tuxedo prices, boutonnieres/corsages a limousine or party bus, and ticket. However, many classes acquire funds to lower the cost through fundraisers over four years.

It is most often not required for girls to attend prom with a date these days either. Many students choose to attend prom with a friend as their date or a group of friends. Senior Sarah Reilly recognizes why some students choose to attend prom without a date.

“You go without a date to prom because you’re just listening to music and hanging out with all your friends,” said Reilly.

And although proms have transformed greatly over the years, they are still an important event in a teenager’s high school experience.