TRIVIAL PURSUITS: When Were Proms Introduced in High Schools?

High school prom season is approaching.

The word prom is short for promenade, “the formal, introductory parading of guests at a party.”


Proms can be traced back to the late 1800s, when universities held simple, co-ed banquets for graduating classes. But, when were proms introduced in high schools?


Parents and educators thought that a (heavily chaperoned!) formal dinner and dance would instill social skills and etiquette in young adults. By the early 1900s, the prom had spread to high schools. The very early ones were like those held at colleges: the senior class, dressed in their “Sunday best,” gathered in the gym for tea and light refreshments, socializing and dancing under crepe paper streamers and the watchful eyes of chaperones. By the 1930s, proms were being held nationwide.