Originating in the 18th century, but growing in popularity throughout the 19th century, dance cards were small, decorative notebooks used by women to record the names of the men who had promised them a dance at a ball.
As can be seen in the fan-shaped example above, the names of each dance that will be played at the event are noted already on the blue “Dances” sections, whilst the “Engagements”, or the names of the men with whom the woman intends to dance, are marked in ink beside them. Apparently the men would just have to remember by heart with whom they had promised the dance.
The dance cards came in particularly handy at the massive 19th century balls of Vienna, especially those during Fasching, just before Lent. Most dance cards incorporated a pencil and a cord to attach to the woman’s wrist, however, more elaborate dance cards of the elite were sometimes decorated with precious metals or jewels.