Exhibitions:


“From the Waltz to the Jitterbug”: Dances at Syracuse University, 1900-1960 - Senior Balls Slideshow

The Senior Ball was a formal dance usually held in January or February. A Queen of the Ball was elected by those who attended, and she, along with the senior class officers, would walk in a procession called the Grand March.

Up until 1929, the two senior class honorary societies, Tau Theta Upsilon and Phi Kappa Alpha, were responsible for organizing the Senior Ball. They alternated each year and tried to outdo each other in how extravagant they could make the event. University administration changed this practice in the fall of 1929, and the Senior Ball became the responsibility of the senior class.

In the 1930s and 40s, Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra appeared to be a popular band to have at the Senior Ball. Dorsey (1905-1956) was a well-known jazz trombonist, trumpeter, composer and bandleader. His band was very successful from the 1930s to the 1950s, and it even recorded with Frank Sinatra in the early 1940s.


Couples dancing at the 1909 Senior Ball in Archbold Gymnasium. [ARM Image 11-0906] Dance card for the 1911 Senior Ball in Archbold Gymnasium Dance card for the 1911 Senior Ball, opened. Dance card for the 1912 Senior Ball in Archbold Gymnasium, with velvet cover. Dance card for the 1912 Senior Ball, opened. Dance card for the 1913 Senior Ball in Archbold Gymnasium, with plastic cover. Dance card for the 1914 Senior Ball in Archbold Gymnasium. Dance card for the 1915 Senior Ball in Archbold Gymnasium, with metal cover. Couples dancing at the 1913 Senior Ball in Archbold Gymnasium. [ARM Image 11-0881] Archbold Gymnasium decorated for the 1914 Senior Ball. [ARM Image 11-0882] Two students posing in their elegant gowns for the 1930 Senior Ball. Over 500 couples attended the dance, which was held in Archbold Gymnasium and decorated with a Viking Hall theme. Music was performed by Al Katz and His Kittens and Mal Hallet's band.  According to the 1930 Onondagan, 'The Senior Ball has always been an affair of regal splendor ....' [ARM Image 11-0884] 1930 Senior Ball dance card with wood cover. 1930 Senior Ball dance card, opened. Ticket for the 1936 Senior Ball at Hotel Syracuse. 400 couples attended the dance, where Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra played. At 9:30 pm, there was a receiving line which included Chancellor and Mrs. Flint. Also, women students had to complete permission forms to push their curfew to 2:45 am.  Dance card for the 1936 Senior Ball, with leather cover. Ballot for the queen of the 1936 Senior Ball. Candidates were usually the most attractive, accomplished and popular women students in the class. Students who attended the ball voted, and the Dean of Women counted the ballots. A clipping found in the Dean of Women Collection stated: 'Of course, everyone is all agog to see what the queen of the ball will be wearing.' Ball queen candidates were reported to be wearing white satin, a 'smart print formal,' 'blue chiffon,' and 'white crepe in Grecian lines.' One was even 'all in a dither whether to wear the matching jacket or not' with her gown. Advertisement for the 1938 Senior Ball, held at Hotel Syracuse. Jimmy Dorsey and his orchestra (13 musicians and 2 singers) performed for those who attended. Admission was $5.50 a couple, which would be about $85 today. Floor plan of the 10th floor of Hotel Syracuse, for the 1938 Senior Ball. Included in the plan are the locations of the bandstand, refreshments, and ball queen ballot boxes. Page from the 1938 Onondagan depicting students preparing for and attending the Senior Ball. [ARM Image 11-0886]  The queen of the 1942 Senior Ball. [ARM Image 11-0888]  The Grand March of the Senior Ball at Hotel Syracuse, ca. 1930s. [ARM Image 11-0910]  Emily Vidor, queen of the 1945 Senior Ball, leading the Grand March. [ARM Image 11-0890]  Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra performing at the 1945 Senior Ball. [ARM Image 11-0891] Singer and band performing at the 1952 Senior Ball. [ARM Image 11-0858]  Couples dancing at the 1952 Senior Ball. [ARM Image 11-0859]  The Grand March of the 1952 Senior Ball. The theme was 'Internationally Yours.' [ARM Image 11-0863]  The 1952 Senior Ball queen and her court. [ARM Image 11-0864] Ticket sales table for the Senior Ball, ca. early 1950s. [ARM Image 11-0870]