Some time around 1949 according to the LIFE archives, Arthur Murray dance teachers went on strike. I don’t know for how long, exactly where, and if 1949 was the actual date but it happened and LIFE was there to document it. Today’s Vintage Photo Tuesday is going to take you through that day.

But before we begin I would like to start off by saying that it was a slightly odd picket line. Yes there was your standard strike signs, but there was also women in swimsuits, a shirtless barefooted man, people dressed in different time period fashions, face masks, conga lines and of course lots of dancing.

Gosh, sounds like a fun strike to me!

LIFE Dancing Teachers Strike Sept 9th, 1949 Vintage Image
Source: Google/LIFE

“Working at Arthur Murrays isn’t just a song and dance. We want job security!”

LIFE Dancing Teachers Strike Sept 9th, 1949 Vintage Image
Source: Google/LIFE

“My master leads a dog’s life at Arthur Murrays studio”

LIFE Dancing Teachers Strike Sept 9th, 1949 Vintage Image 6
Source: Google/LIFE

“An Arthur Murray Teacher on Arthur Murray wages”. This seems to mean she can only afford a sweater, shorts and dance shoes. MAYBE that is why the women are wandering around in their swimsuits, to show that they can’t even afford a shirt on their back (same with our shirtless/barefooted man)?

LIFE Dancing Teachers Strike Sept 9th, 1949 Vintage Image 8
Source: Google/LIFE
LIFE Dancing Teachers Strike Sept 9th, 1949 Vintage Image10
Source: Google/LIFE
LIFE Dancing Teachers Strike Sept 9th, 1949 Vintage Image
Source: Google/LIFE
LIFE Dancing Teachers Strike Sept 9th, 1949 Vintage Image 11
Source: Google/LIFE
LIFE Dancing Teachers Strike Sept 9th, 1949 Vintage Image 14
Source: Google/LIFE

Early 1900’s Fashion made an appearance at the strike.

LIFE Dancing Teachers Strike Sept 9th, 1949 Vintage Image 5
Source: Google/LIFE

Charleston and 1920’s women’s fashion.

LIFE Dancing Teachers Strike Sept 9th, 1949 Vintage Image 9
Source: Google/LIFE
LIFE Dancing Teachers Strike Sept 9th, 1949 Vintage Image 15
Source: Google/LIFE
LIFE Dancing Teachers Strike Sept 9th, 1949 Vintage Image 13
Source: Google/LIFE

There are no descriptions to any of the images but this does look like the negotiation table. Or at least the place where all the demands were being collected.

LIFE Dancing Teachers Strike Sept 9th, 1949 Vintage Image 7
Source: Google/LIFE
LIFE Dancing Teachers Strike Sept 9th, 1949 Vintage Image 12
Source: Google/LIFE

That is the end of our dancing/striking teachers photos. I do hope their demands were met and dance was once again enjoyed by all that stepped into their studios.

UPDATE (Nov 30th): Thank you to Jeff Kellem (@composerjk) for shedding some light on the strike for us. It seems that there might of been multiple strikes in 1947 (not 1949). The image below is from New York city and the caption states 1947 as the year (Source).

Dancers Picket Arthur Murray Studio
Source: Huffington Post

As for the demands that the dance teachers were looking for, thanks to the civil suit Jeff found entitled ‘Gomez v United Office and Professional Workers’ we now have some insight.

Here is what they wanted:

Defendants and the dance studios of Arthur Murray in New York are engaged in a controversy concerning the terms and conditions of employment of Arthur Murray’s dancing instructors in New York. This controversy concerns minimum wages, union recognition, job security, grievance procedure and an alleged lockout of dancing instructors employed in the New York studio (Source).

Lastly Jeff also believes that the images in my post are from a Chicago because the Cable Building (57 East Jackson Building), on 57 E. Jackson Blvd, Chicago, IL is in the image (GREAT EYE Jeff!)

Now dear readers, if any of you know anything more about the strike please share in the comments below. Thanks!

Liz

6 comments on “Vintage Photo Tuesday-The 1949 Dance Teachers Strike”

  1. Hahaha1 This is hilarious! Perhaps it was al just an elaborate marketing ploy to get more people to feel sorry for the teachers and sign up to more classes. I do love the lady dressed up in 1920s clothing. That hat is gorgeous! xx

    • I thought so too but I just found out from a follower on Twitter who managed to find info, they actually had real grievances and filed a civil suit against Arthur Murray. I updated the end of my blog post to reflect the new findings.

  2. A publicity gimmick or an actual strike, neither would surprise me. I’ve worked for an AM franchise once, and it was like working with a bunch of used car salesmen. Very shady business practices imo, sad to see that its been ingrained in their business model since the 40s. Lots of great photos came out of it though.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.