Homecoming Ball 1948

Mamie and Dwight D. Eisenhower arriving for the October 16, 1948 Homecoming Ball

In addition to the great teams, coaches and players in the history of Columbia football featured in our exhibition “Roar, Lion, Roar“, on view at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, we wanted to show football from the fans’ point-of-view – the history of the experience of going to a game. In the exhibit we feature the different venues that have served as home fields for the Lions and also highlight the other traditions: the mascot, the school song, the cheerleaders and Homecoming.

Homecoming is not an especially “old” tradition at Columbia. It started in October 1948 as a joint effort between Columbia College students and the Alumni Federation. In reading about the first Homecoming week, we were completely taken in by the description of the formal Homecoming Ball held at John Jay Hall. The ball was in honor of Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had just been installed as University President that same week (on Tuesday, October 12, 1948). According to the Spectator, the theme of the dance was “summer in Central Park.” This meant that the John Jay dining hall (ballroom for the evening) was “completely camouflaged under trees, grass and shrubs;” the game-room was supposed to stand in for Tavern on the Green; and the lounge was decorated with animals “borrowed from the New York Museum of Natural History” to stand in for the Central Park Zoo. A Good Humor man, a peanut-and-popcorn man and balloon man completed the scene. In the Monday morning paper, the Spec was duly impressed by the event: “With John Jay decorated in an outdoor setting, complete with found and formal garden in the lobby, and animals in the lounge,” John Jay Dining Hall was unrecognizable.

Columbia University Archives Staff