Who invented the disco ball?
September 4, 2005 6:05 AM   Subscribe

Who invented the disco ball?
posted by ootsocsid to Technology (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Disco Ball
by the end of the 20th century, the name "disco ball" had largely eclipsed the earlier names that had been applied to, for example, the one that can be seen in the 1942 movie Casablanca.
"90% of the United States' disco balls are made in Louisville at National Products, Inc.:"
"National Products Inc. has manufactured disco balls and lighting effect products for professional sports arenas, theatrical shows, trade shows and nightclubs for over 50 years."
posted by ericb at 7:15 AM on September 4, 2005


From HISTORY OF DISCO LIGHTING:
The first effects lighting appeared long before disco's started. Before the war it was discovered that if you shine a light on a ball covered with mirrors that you get one beam off every mirror. My earliest recollection of a mirror ball was in the 1942 film Casablanca, with Humpfrey Bogart.
And if it's in Casablanca, it probably was dance halls before that.
posted by pracowity at 7:19 AM on September 4, 2005


ericb beats me to the click.
posted by pracowity at 7:19 AM on September 4, 2005


This link mentions a mirrored ball in a ballroom in the mid-1930s:
Its popularity reached its peak in the mid-1930's big band era. Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, and others, headlined the ballroom. Though liquor was prohibited and the dress code strict, thousands jammed onto the dance floor and danced beneath the large, mirrored ball.
posted by pracowity at 7:31 AM on September 4, 2005


They used to use mirror balls to repel witches in Europe.
posted by lunkfish at 7:39 AM on September 4, 2005


Pretty cool they are, and they show up in the most unlikely of places.
posted by caddis at 7:58 AM on September 4, 2005


The disco ball was in use as early as 1897:

"The 1897, article of the "Electrical Worker" discusses the Third Annual Ball held on on January 6, 1897, at Roughaus Hall, Charlestown, and of the spectacular lighting display, which could be seen for miles around Boston. The letters N.B.E.W. were done with incandescent lamps of various colors on wire mesh over the ballroom, highlighted by a carbon arc lamp flashing on a mirrored ball. The affair was hosted by Brothers Flynn, Melville, Colvin, Smith, Ellsworth and Dacey. About 800 people enjoyed the spiked punch and melodies of Dunbars famous orchestra."

The mirrored ball - used without lights and music - is probably much older, with no known inventor.
posted by iviken at 10:15 AM on September 4, 2005


The first place I saw one was on TV in 1960 -- it was spinning behind the opening credits of a show called The Roaring 20s.
posted by Rash at 11:52 AM on September 4, 2005


Beware that if you give a group of physics students a large block of foam, a glass cutter, a sheet of mirror glass and some glue, you may end up with a disco potato.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:30 PM on September 4, 2005


Awesome call, Rash! My memory, too, thanks for validating. When they appeared in the disco craze, it seemed, therefore, retro, to me.

Disco sucks
/obligatory midwestern sentiment offered purely out of sentimentality
posted by Goofyy at 7:05 AM on September 7, 2005


I was trying to find out the answer to this vary question today, and searching google, I cam across this picture from the wisconsin state historical society from 1912. Here is the link, that is definitely a mirror ball.

So now I am super curious when they were actually invented.
posted by Zee at 6:18 PM on June 17, 2006


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