Sometimes, musicians and prompters for Quadrille dancing, when they intend "Double Ladies' Chain," say "Ladies Grand Chain." This is wrong: the figures are entirely dissimilar.
--- William B. De Garmo, The prompter (New York, 1865)
A century later, this problem is still with us, as modern-day dance historians confuse the two figures when reconstructing quadrilles. The problem is made worse by the plethora of terminology. Though the first of the two is called either a Ladies' Chain Double or a Ladies' Double Chain, the second can be known variously as the Chain of Four Ladies, Les Chaine des Dames Continue, Ladies' Grand Chain, Ladies' Right and Left Around, or Ladies' Grand Right and Left.
Let's take a look at the difference between the two figures.
The existence of the two separate figures was established early in the nineteenth century in the works of dancing masters Thomas Wilson, Barclay Dun, and G.M.S. Chivers, who each address one of the two figures.
Wilson explains the Chain of Four Ladies, or Chaine des Quatre Dames, in The quadrille and cotillion panorama (London, 1816; second ed. 1822) as follows:
This Figure is very different from the Chaine des Dames, or Ladies' Chain--see the Diagram. In this Figure the four Ladies give Right and Left Hands, alternately moving round in a Circle to their places; similar to Chaine Anglaise, or Right and Left
Wilson offers separate diagrams, shown at left (click to enlarge) for a normal Ladies' Chain (far left) and a Chain of Four Ladies (near left) which make it clear that there are indeed two entirely different figures. Confusingly, he calls both diagrams Chaine des Dames (Ladies' Chain), with the first also being labeled "Demie", meaning only the first half of the figure; there is a diagram for the full back-and-forth version as well.
Wilson's Chain of Four Ladies is the same figure later described by other dancing masters as the Ladies' Grand Chain; one can see from the diagram that all four ladies (the blue stars) are moving around the inside of the set.
While Wilson does not include a Ladies' Double Chain in his diagram or list of figures, one is mentioned in passing in a footnote to his satirical poem, The Danciad (London, 1824), where he lists the calls for the fourh figure of Paine's second set of quadrilles as:
Ladies chain--double--set and turn partners--advance two--chassez right and left--cross--chassez right and left--cross--turn partners--half promenade--half right and left.
Wilson's contemporary, Barclay Dun, writing in A translation of nine of the most fashionable quadrilles (Edinburgh, 1818), does not address the ladies' grand chain, but he explains the basic ladies' chain and the ladies' double chain as follows (emphasis mine):
The Ladies' chain is performed by two ladies crossing over, giving the right hand to each other, and the left to the gentleman opposite, by whom they are turned; the gentlemen at the same time make two circles to the left, receiving the ladies as they come forward, and turning them fully about; the ladies then return to their respective places, giving their hands as before. When the ladies cross over, giving the hands in this manner, and do not return to their places, the figure is called the ladies' half chain. When all the ladies cross over at once, and return to their places, giving their hands in this way, it is called the ladies' double chain; and if they do not return to the places which they left, it is called the ladies' half double chain.
Chivers, more terse, in The Modern Dancing Master (London, 1822) describes the Chaine des Dames simply as "performed by the first and opposite lady" and the Chaine des Dames Double as "Performed by the four ladies at the same time". He does not list a ladies' grand chain among his figures.
Jumping forward to major mid-century dance manuals, probably the best-known use of the a Ladies' Grand Chain is in the first figure of the Prince Imperial Quadrille. Thomas Hillgrove, in A complete practical guide to the art of dancing (New York, 1863) describes it thus:
Ladies' Grand Chain (without the gentlemen)--First the ladies cross over from head to head of the set, giving the right hands as they pass each other. Then pass from side to side, giving the left hand. Cross back again from head to head with the right hand, and then from side to side with the left hand.
The Ladies' Double Chain turns up in Coulon's Double Quadrille, a modification of the first set of quadrilles in which both head and side couples dance simultaneously. Coulon himself, in Coulon's Hand-Book (London, 3rd edition c1860) is every bit as terse as Chivers in his description:
The four ladies, ladies' chain.
Charles Durang, in The fashionable dancer's casket (Philadelphia, 1856), gives details in his notes on Coulon's Double Quadrille:
The four ladies hands cross half round, seeing their opposite gentlemen, and back again, swinging their own partners into places, called the Ladies' double Chain
"Seeing" here was probably intended to mean "swinging", or perhaps Durang interpreted the figure solely as a ladies' moulinet around and back, but it's clearly not a right hand/left hand kind of chain. Coulon's dance partner, Mrs. Nicholas Henderson, describes the Chaine des Dames Double in her own manual, Etiquette of the ball-room and guide to all the new and fashionable dances (London, 3rd edition c1854), as "double ladies' chain, which is performed by all the ladies commencing at the same time" and describes it use in Coulon's quadrille as "The four ladies form ladies' chain, or hands across, and back to places." "Hands across" is the term for a moulinet figure, which the Ladies' Double Chain resembles, not a right-and-left chain.
The Ladies' Chain Double also appears in two other major quadrilles later in the century: in the third figure of the Saratoga Lancers and in the first figure of the Polo Quadrille. The Polo also sports an unusual Gentlemen's Double Chain, clearly described in sources as the gentlemen crossing left hands and going round, turning their opposites by the right hand, then returning home by the left hand and turning partners by the right -- the exact reverse of the Ladies' Double Chain.
The distinction between the two types of chains lasts throughout the nineteenth century, with the Ladies' Double Chain appearing quadrilles like the Saratoga Lancers while the Ladies' Grand Chain turns up in the Prince Imperial Quadrilles. De Garmo sums it up nicely in The prompter:
Double Ladies' Chain, or Ladies' Double Chain: same as Ladies' Chain, except that the side couples perform the figure at the same time with head couples, thus: four ladies cross right hands, go quarter round, and turn opposite gentleman with left hand; cross right hands again and turn partners with left hand.
"Ladies' Grand Chain, called also, "Ladies' Right and Left around," or "Ladies' Grand Right and Left."
and The dance of sociey (New York, multiple editions from 1864 on):
Ladies' Double Chain.--Same as Ladies' Chain, except that the side couples perform thefigure at the same time with head couples, thus: the four ladies cross right hands, go quarter round and turn opposite gentlemen with left hand; cross right hands again and turn partners with left hand.
Ladies' Grand Chain (La Chaîne Continue des Dames), called also Ladies' Grand Right and Left.
Allen Dodworth, in his Assistant for A. Dodworth's pupils (New York, 1873) also refers to the Ladies' Grand Chain as La Chaine Continue des Dames and succinctly describes the it as "The four ladies without the gentlemen, make a movement like the grand chain of the Lancers".
De Garmo is quite correct, however, in noticing that some people -- dancing masters included -- continued to confuse the two figures. Mathias J. Koncen, in Prof. M. J. Koncen's quadrille call book and ball room guide (St. Louis, 1883) gets it wrong:
Ladies Grand Chain.--The four ladies cross right hands in the center, turn half round, drop right hands and each lady joins left hands with opposite gentleman turning him half round in place, again cross right hands turn half round and swinging partners in places.
Koncen is describing a Ladies' Double Chain but calling it a Ladies' Grand Chain. He continues the error in his calls for specific quadrilles. In the Polo, for example, his calls include a ladies' grand chain followed by a gentlemen's grand chain rather than the ladies' and gentlemen's double chains given in other sources. Same figure, incorrect terminology.
Given that the confusion between the two figures is a historical problem, reconstructing a quadrille from a source that simply gives the call "Ladies' Grand Chain", without describing the details of its performance, presents the problem of determining whether the original author understood the difference between the figures and meant a Grand Chain, or whether it is a mislabelled Double Chain, that being the much more common figure. The Double Chain usage is more straightforward; I've never seen that term used to mean Grand Chain, so it may generally be taken at face value.
The first step is to look through other quadrilles in the same manual, or others by the same author, to see whether the writer acknowledges the existence of two separate figures by using both terms. If so, one may assume that a Grand Chain is actually a Grand Chain.
If there is no use of Ladies' Double Chain, but the author uses both a Ladies' Grand Chain and a Gentlemen's Grand Chain, then it is most likely an error of terminology, and the figures are really Double Chains. Gentlemen don't seem to have a Grand Chain of their own.
Another possible clue is if the writer uses Grand Right and Left in place of the usual Grand Chain for the figure in which all eight dancers give alternate hands all the way around the set, as may be see on page ten of J. A. French's The prompter's handbook (Boston & London, 1893). In that case, Ladies' Grand Chain is probably a Double Chain; if the author meant the ladies-only-taking-right-and-left-hands-around-the-set figure, he would probably use Ladies' Right and Left Around or Ladies' Grand Right and Left.
One could also look at the language the writer uses for well-known quadrilles such as the Prince Imperial (the first figure includes the Ladies' Grand Chain) and the Saratoga Lancers (the third figure includes a Ladies' Double Chain) and use them as a model. The Prince Imperial figure, however it may be termed, is the right and left around the inside of the set, while the Saratoga Lancers figure is the normal ladies' chain performed by all four ladies at once. If Ladies' Grand Chain is used in the Saratoga Lancers, then the writer is confusing the two figures and any usage of Grand Chain is likely meant to be Double Chain instead.
If the writer uses only Ladies' Grand Chain, and there are no other clues to be had, I would use that figure as my first choice in a reconstruction, but would remain open to the possibility of it actually being a Double Chain, particularly in later nineteenth-century dance manuals that are cribbed-together assemblages of calls, often plagairized from other manuals.