Integral Ball invitation, 1957
Printed invitation to November 9, 1957 Integral Ball, bearing seal of the Illinois Institute of Technology on its cover.
- Illinois Institute of Technology (Organization)
Language of Materials
Records are in English.
Conditions Governing Access
Available for Research
1 Item : 2½" x 3½", folded
Invitation to the 1957 Integral Ball, an annual formal student dance held at Illinois Institute of Technology in the 1950s. The 1957 ball took place in S. R. Crown Hall, and Duke Ellington and his orchestra provided the music for the dance that year.
Biographical / Historical
This account of the 1957 I-Ball was given to University Archivist Catherine Bruck ca. 2002 by IIT Architecture Prof. David Sharpe, who was an architecture student at the time. Every year IIT would hold a spring formal, called the "I Ball," at one of the downtown hotels. The dance, organized by a group of students, was highly anticipated each year and included selecting a king and queen from among the attendees. In 1957 the students arranging the Ball suggested holding it on campus in S. R. Crown Hall, the building designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for the architecture program he headed at IIT. Crown Hall, which has since become an icon among Mies buildings, was dedicated in 1956 and is a clear-span, "one-room" building with floor-to-ceiling glass curtain walls. A question was raised as to whether students would be disappointed about the dance being held on campus rather than one of the lavish ballrooms downtown, perhaps prompting a small turnout, so the organizers proposed getting a big name band to come and perform instead of using one of the lesser-known local groups who could be hired at less cost, as was the usual pattern. Since they weren't paying to rent the ballroom space, they could spend more on the entertainment, and Ellington's name was proposed. The organizers wrote to him, extending the invitation, with apparently little confidence that he would accept. He did accept, agreeing to play for $5,000. The students prepared for the event by erecting a stage in Crown Hall. Using construction scaffolding, they built it about 8 feet high in the middle of the floor. Being reminded that the band members would really get to stomping when they were playing, the students were advised to reinforce the platform. The night of the dance, with the building lit in blue and green lights, Ellington and his band had to climb a ladder to get up on the stage. The organizers escorted Mies into the building and seated him, along with his Bauhaus colleagues, Ludwig Hilberseimer and Walter Peterhans, in Barcelona chairs at the foot of the stage from where they could enjoy the festivities. Nine hundred people attended the dance, some apparently just to listen to the music. The band played and the music bounced off the 1/4" glass walls making them vibrate. The trumpeter was encouraged to play higher and higher even though there seemed to be some concern about whether the glass might crack. In the end, the glass held, Mies sat and smiled his approval, and, according to the 1958 school yearbook, "Crown Hall, the 'fishbowl' of [Illinois Institute of Technology], became a ballroom to rival the best in the city. Colored spotlights turned a plain glass building from a functional classroom into an equally functional, but much more pleasant, ballroom." Reportedly, Ellington so liked the acoustics in the building that he later wrote to the organizers saying he wanted to record a concert in Crown Hall and call the album "Ellington Under Glass." The recording was never made, but Ellington did perform once more at IIT although not in Crown Hall; in 1963 he appeared in Hermann Hall, the student union building. The date of the original performance in Crown Hall was November 9, 1957 per a article in the IIT student newspapaer, Technology News, published 11/1/1957.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Mindy Pugh, Assistant University Archivist 4/21/2008