Baldwin, Charlie, Papers, 1940-1986

Collection number: MC 291
Size: (3 Boxes ) (3 cu.ft.)

About Charles H. Baldwin (1907-1986)

Charlie Baldwin was born in 1907 and from the early 1940s was a prominent leader of square dancing in New England. His earliest calling was in his home area south of Boston, Massachusetts, with his own orchestra, the County Dance Serenaders. He directed and called the first TV square dance in Boston in 1950. He also directed and called at the two largest indoor square dances ever held in New England, with more than 300 squares, at the Boston Garden in the early 1950s.

In the late 1940s he met Lawrence Loy, a gentleman from the West and a professor at the University of Massachusetts, who was spreading the square dance experience in 4-H Clubs and Grange Halls. Working with Professor Loy, Baldwin helped to form the earliest square dance caller association in New England, Old Colony Callers and Teachers Association. Charlie was one of the first to teach callers and he continued that teaching for many years. He started and directed, from 1951 to 1962, the New England Square Dance Camp, a seven-day program held at Camp Becket in Western Massachusetts, and he taught short courses for callers at several universities.

Working with other leaders including Al Brundage, Earl Davis, and the Metcalfs, Clarence and Howard, in 1951 Charlie started and became the first editor of the New England Square Dance Caller magazine. The Caller became the chronicle of square dance clubs and events, and grew from its modest 18-page beginning to an 80+ page magazine, with monthly circulation of more than 9000.

Charlie's organizational leadership was instrumental in making square dancing the cooperative activity that it has become. Charlie worked with others to form caller and dancer organizations in New England and nationally. Organizations that he helped form include the Eastern District Square and Round Dance Association, the New England Council of Callers Associations, Legacy (a national square dance organization), and CALLERLAB, The International Organization of Square Dance Callers.

Charlie died in 1986. His many years of service to square dance were recognized by numerous awards. In 1976 he and his wife Bertha received the Silver Spur Award. In 1980 Charlie was recognized by CALLERLAB with the Milestone Award and in 1981 he was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the American Square Dance Society. In 1982 Charlie and Bertha were recognized by the New England Square Dance Cooperation Committee with the Yankee Clipper Award. In 1992 the Square Dance Foundation of New England inducted them, posthumously, as the first in its Hall of Fame.


  • 1924 : Begins dancing – popular styles include Plain Quadrilles and Lanciers.
  • 1940 : Begins calling in Norwell, MA. By this time western square dancing has begun to separate in style and culture from traditional New England square dancing.
  • 1943 : Ca. 1943-1945 volunteers rehabilitating wounded soldiers through square dancing, Camp Edwards, MA. Later expands to work in VA hospitals for individuals with war-induced trauma and traumatic brain injuries.
  • 1950 : Directs and calls first TV performance of square dancing in Boston.
  • 1950 : Directed and called the two largest indoor square dances ever held in New England: Boston Garden in April (300 squares, 8000 spectators) and May (325 squares, 2500 spectators).
  • 1950 : Establishes annual callers classes which continue until 1972, from Maine to Florida.
  • 1951 : Starts the highly circulated New England Square Dance Caller magazine, serves as editor until his death in 1986. Circulation grows to over 9000 copies per month.
  • 1951 : Assumes directorship of the New England Square and Round Dance Camp at Camp Becket in Becket MA. Remains director until 1962.
  • 1953 : Ca. 1953 founds and directs his own square dance orchestra, the Country Dance Serenades. Continues to direct the group for 14 years.
  • 1956 : Participates in first Short Course for Callers, Florida University.
  • 1956 : Becomes one of the first callers to conduct national square dance calling tours ca. 1956. These continue until 1967, when Baldwin chooses to focus his efforts on New England.
  • 1961 : Begins to call in Maritime Canada.
  • 1969 : Spends 16 days in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, teaching square dance to US military and their families.
  • 1971 : National organization CALLERLAB founded by Bob Osgood; Baldwin is an early member.
  • 1973 : Founds the Square Dance Foundation of New England.
  • 1976 : Presented with the Silver Spur Award by the American Square Dance Society and Sets In Order. Other awards include the Yankee Clipper Award and induction into the Square Dance Hall of Fame.
  • 1980 : Charlie Baldwin receives the American Square Dance Society’s highest honor, the Milestone Award, to celebrate 40 years of calling.
  • 1982 : Charlie and Bertha Baldwin awarded the Yankee Clipper Award.
  • 1986 : Dies at his home in Indianapolis, Indiana.
  • 1992 : Charlie and Bertha Baldwin posthumously inducted into the Square Dance Hall of Fame.

About the Charles Baldwin Papers

The Charles Baldwin Papers consist of extensive correspondence, dance notation, some historical materials, and paperwork from running the New England Square and Round Dance Camp at Camp Becket, MA. The highlight is ca. 1500 letters to and from every well-known (and many lesser known!) callers and dancers across the country. For photos and memorabilia, see MC 270 (Square Dance Foundation of New England), Boxes 13-14.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

This collection is open.

This collection is housed in the Library Storage Building; access requires 48 hours notice. Please contact the Special Collections staff prior to visiting the library.

Copyright Notice

Contents of this collection are governed by U.S. copyright law. For questions about publication or reproduction rights, contact Special Collections staff.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Charles Baldwin Papers, 1940-1986, MC 291, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH, USA.

Acquisitions Information

Gift of the Square Dance Foundation of New England, 2011

Donated to the archives of the Square Dance Foundation of New England (SDFNE) in 1986. Kept as a separate, unprocessed collection until its donation to Milne Special Collections and Archives in 2011.

MC 270 Square Dance Foundation of New England Collection, Milne Special Collections and Archives

Separated Material

Approximately 4 folders of newspaper clippings were separated and discarded for preservation reasons.

Two boxes of Charles Baldwin Materials are kept with MC 270 the Square Dance Foundation of New England Collection (Boxes 13-14). These contain photographs and nametags.

Collection Arrangement

Collection is in order in which it was received.

Collection Contents

Box 1
Correspondence, 1940-1986

This box consists of 45 neatly indexed steno pads of outgoing correspondence. The indexes are the rear of each pad. Included also in the box are several folders of loose correspondence and biographical/memorial information.

Box 2
Calling Logs, Syllabi, and Festival Materials, 1940-1986

Baldwin’s calling logs indicate what dances he called for which groups over a period of decades. The syllabi are divided into camps which Baldwin directed/taught and those where he was an attender; included are the New England Square and Round Dance Camp (Camp Becket, MA), many camps run by Ralph Page, Al Brundage, and Reuben Merchant. A small amount of festival material includes National Folk Festivals, NEFFA, and other festivals where Baldwin emceed.

Box 3
New England Square Dance Caller, Camp Becket, and History, 1940-1986.

Extensive correspondence regarding the editing and submissions to the New England Square Dance Caller begins in 1951, including lively and colorful exchanges with Ralph Page over dance styles and history. Camp Becket materials consist primarily of organizational notes, camper lists, and Bow And Balance (BNB) newsletters from 1953-1961. (For Camp Becket syllabi see Box 2.) Several folders of historical material includes an old NEFFA poster and photocopies of 19th century dance manuals from New England.

Finding Aid Image TEMP
Charlie Baldwin


Letters & Postcards
Newspapers & Publications