The History of Arthur Murray

Woman's Legs with Dance Shoes

As America’s second oldest franchise organization, Arthur Murray International, Inc. is known around the world as a prominent entertainment company with franchises located throughout the United states, Canada and Puerto Rico, Europe, the Middle-East, Japan, South Africa, and Australia. With the beginning of a new millennium, social dancing is again a significant part of popular culture for all generations.Today the Arthur Murray Franchised Dance Studios continue a tradition of Over 100 years in teaching the world to dance with exceptional ballroom dance studios. The history of the Arthur Murray Franchised Dance studios began in 1912 with a man named Arthur Murray, an American symbol of entrepreneurial success and social dancing. Murray was among the first to use advertising techniques considered cutting edge at the time. His concept of selling dance lessons by mail, one step at a time, took the use of direct mail to a new level.

Gaining National Attention

Murray’s creative use of print advertising attracted national attention as did his business acumen. In March of 1920, using students from Georgia Tech, Murray arranged to have music transmitted to a group of his students in a dance studio a few miles away. This was the world’s first radio broadcast of live dance music for dancing. Prior to World War II, Arthur Murray teachers were a regular part of every first-class steamship cruise and during the Thirties, the studios introduced such dances to the public as the “Lambeth Walk” and “The Big Apple.” In fact, it was “The Big Apple” that launched Mr. Murray’s one studio into the largest chain of dance studios in the world today. In 1938, the first official opening of a franchised dance school occurred in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 1942, singer Betty Hutton with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra recorded the big hit song “Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing In A Hurry” for the movie “The Fleet’s In,” and by 1946, there were 72 Arthur Murray Dance Studios across America.

Overseas and Over the Airwaves

Arthur Murray was the first to realize the growing popularity of the Latin dances in America during the 1950s. Many conventions were held in Cuba during that time to give Arthur Murray dance trainers first-hand knowledge of the hot new Latin styles and moves that were in vogue. In July of 1950, Mr. Murray purchased five fifteen-minute television spots on CBS and persuaded his wife, Kathryn to do the teaching. Before the third show, Arthur bought a half-hour summer series on ABC. The show was called the “Arthur Murray Dance Party.” By May 1952, the Murray’s had televised almost 100 programs. Their TV ratings climbed and, in the summer of 1952, they signed with their first sponsor, General Foods. Millions of viewers all over the United States fell in love with the show and flocked to the Arthur Murray Dance Studios throughout the country. This highly popular show ran for twelve years on national television.

Big Talent for the Big Screen

When Arthur and Kathryn Murray retired in 1964, a group of franchisees purchased the company and brought a fresh new spirit and leadership to it. Under its new leadership, the Arthur Murray Franchised Dance Studios has kept pace with the rapidly changing “youth culture” and continues today to flourish as the world’s largest dance instruction organization. With proven methods for teaching dance, Arthur Murray dance teachers can be found in many places outside of their ballroom dance studios. They are also found on the movie sets in Hollywood, backstage on Broadway, and partnering with major entertainers around the world. Whenever a movie involves dance, it’s a good bet that AMI has been involved in some way, shape, or form. Movies like Dirty Dancing, Dirty Dancing II, Dance With Me, Beautician And The Beast, Flash Dance, An American President, True Lies, Saturday Night Fever, and Scent Of A Woman are some of the films which have used Arthur Murray instructors to either teach a dance to the stars or dance in the film.

When a Brand Becomes a Movement

The Arthur Murray Franchised Dance Studio’s name appears regularly in major national magazines that include Vogue, Martha Stewart Wedding, Smithsonian, Sports Illustrated, Woman’s Day and more. Wherever advertisers want to reach consumers with a message of romance, intimacy, or just plain fun, you’ll see dancing: from the Gap’s now famous Khaki Swing commercials to dancing M&M’s, and gas pumps. Arthur Murray International’s commitment to dance goes even further, with senior management heavily involved in the world of professional and amateur competitive dance, known as DanceSport. Many of Arthur Murray’s officials have contributed to bringing competitive ballroom to the forefront as an Olympic Sport.

A Ballroom Dance Studio Legacy

All Arthur Murray franchised ballroom dance studios are independently owned and operated by individuals who started as dance instructors and worked their way up to the executive level. By the time they are qualified to purchase a franchise, they have experienced every phase of ballroom dance studio operations, from teaching multiple styles of dance and supervising to marketing and managing. It is possible for an ambitious person to advance to a top executive job and become eligible to be a franchisee within just a few years. Building from within has kept the studio system strong. Our franchisees are committed to the Spirit of Excellence, which is the hallmark of the entire Arthur Murray system. Currently, there are approximately 180 Arthur Murray Franchised Dance Studios worldwide.

Follow our blog for the latest updates and events as the story of our ballroom dance studio continues.