Popular entertainment is often powered by schadenfreude. In Roman times, spectators packed stadiums to gleefully observe as people were dismembered by lions. More recently, the explosion of reality television has given popcorn-munchers the chance to watch people make themselves sick from eating too many cockroaches or undergo extreme plastic surgery to look like flash-in-the-pan celebrities. Depression-era dance marathons are the 1930s counterpart to 2000s reality television. These spectacles began innocently enough as dance contests in the 1920s, when long-haul dance events trod the fine, fascinating line between sexily scandalous and over-the-top outrageous. Alma Cummings kick-started the craze in 1923, wearing holes in her shoes from 27 straight hours of dancing in a Manhattan ballroom. Within three weeks, her record had been broken at least nine times by two-steppers across the country. This story is from Kinfolk Issue Thirty-six Buy Now Related Stories Arts & Culture Issue 19 Going Incognito We all secretly wonder what mischief we’d make if invisible: When our identity is hidden, everything seems possible. Arts & Culture Issue 19 The Best Policy Sometimes we talk to each other without feeling heard. Honesty—a most intimate interaction—can be just as thrilling as its more devious inverse. Arts & Culture Issue 19 A Sense of Suspense With unhinged imaginations and mountains of cliff-hangers, the filmmakers behind the sci-fi podcast Limetown have all the makings of a scary story. Arts & Culture Issue 19 Like Clockwork In this new column about time, we learn how slipping off our watches makes us feel like deadline-damning renegades. Arts & Culture Music Issue 19 On a Grander Scale Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna now may live on the opposite side of the globe, but she’s determined to evolve while staying true to her roots. Arts & Culture Issue 19 Neighborhood: Fire Stations The firefighting profession has evolved over time from Ancient Rome’s rudimentary bucket brigades to today’s sleek life-saving departments.