In the 1880’s, there was only one place to go for dancing instruction in Norristown, Professor J. E. Reilley’s class held weekly at Meeh’s Hall. Professor Reilley held his classes from September to May. At the end of May, the class would perform publicly for their final exam.
Below is an invitation to the 1888 event.
According to an accompanying newspaper article, 32 young ladies and 6 gentleman performed. The ladies are listed each with what they were wearing. Kathie and Emily Preston would blue Canton crepe trimmed with surah and lace while Miss Katie Haines wore pink chaille and garnet velvet. The Preston sisters were later very active members of the Historical Society. Emily would have been about 13 in 1888 and Katherine about 15.
The program was long with several solos and group dances. Miss Alice Edmunds “one of the prettiest girls in the class” performed a scarf dance. Miss Eva McGinnis, dance “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye” while holding a bunch rye. The entire class danced around a maypole.
According to the newspaper, “The affair was a complete success, and Prof. Reilley is to be hearily congratulated for his good fortune with the pupils, and thanked for his painstaking care in their instructions.”
Reilley was born in the US to Irish parents, but I was unable to discover when he first came to Norristown. He continued teaching dancing until he died in Norristown in 1911.