While watching the 70th Anniversary edition of Casablanca this weekend, I made note of a scene in which a huge mirrored ball turned in a French nightclub casting spinning spots of light on the walls as Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman danced in flashback. It reminded me of the ball I show in the last chapter of my book and made me wonder who invented them.
An 1897 article of the "Electrical Worker" discusses the Third Annual Ball held on January 6, 1897, at Roughaus Hall, Charlestown, a neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, and tells of a spectacular lighting display including a carbon arc lamp flashing on a mirrored ball. This may be the first record of a dance hall mirror ball on display.
Though the identity of the inventor of the mirror ball is lost to history, the mirror ball was first recorded on film in the 1927 silent German movie "Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt." Many accounts also describe its use in 1920s dance clubs.
We called it a disco ball in my day, but prior to the 70's it was simply known as a mirrored ball. The original mirrored ball used in Virginia Gardens, Rock Springs Park, still turns during dances and wedding receptions held at the American Legion Post 121 in Chester.