The History of American Foxtrot:
Tracing the origins of the Foxtrot can be difficult because there are versions of the story that vary on the fine points. When it emerged there were several “animal dances” like the Duck Waddle, Horse Trot, Kangaroo Hop, Squirrel, Chicken Scratch, Turkey Trot, and Grizzly Bear. The animal dance styles were fads invented to dance to ragtime music, but the Foxtrot was different. First of all, it was not named for the animal “fox,” but for its inventor, Harry Fox. Everybody agrees that Harry Fox invented the dance, although it derives from at least one other dance. Which dance is its specific ancestor is a point of disagreement among dance historians. Some say that it goes all the way back to the Victorian era “One Step” or “Two Step” dance. In the United States, D’Wilfri says, the dance from which the Foxtrot derived was called the “Castle Walk” after Vernon and Irene Castle, who like Harry Fox, invented, or at least represented, their own dance. Other dance critics, such as Winona Rasheed, talk about how in 1910, everyone was doing a dance called the Cake Walk. This was a fast and vibrant dance done to ragtime music, and from whence the Foxtrot emerged.
Both Rasheed and D’Wilfri agree that in 1913, Harry Fox, a Vaudeville performer added a little trot to the Castle Walk or whatever dance he was doing, and created the Foxtrot. Harold and Meredith Sears say that Harry Fox was “a burlesque comic and a part ofthe Ziegfeld Follies of 1913, who worked on a stage scattered with scantily clad women in static poses. His act involved a fast, comical dance to 4/4 ragtime music from one woman to the next where he would deliver his jokes. The act was popular, the music was widely marketed, and Fox's "Trot" became popular in dance halls and dance studios” (Sears). Susan Todd and Deb Arend give Harry Fox the credit for creating the dance, but say he did it a year later in 1914. Fran Grimble agrees with Todd and Arend. “There is no question but that the fox-trot was originated in the summer of 1914 by the vaudeville actor Harry Fox” (Grimble). Another point of interest is that Harry Fox performed it in on the rooftop of a New York theater converted to a place of entertainment and dance called Jardin de Danse (Rasheed). Although the exact year is debated, the Foxtrot was invented shortly before World War I and it is the first truly American ballroom dance.