1907 New York Time Square Ball Drop Begins
New Year's celebrations have taken place in Times Square since 1904, when Alfred Ochs, owner of The New York Times (for whom “the square” was named) threw a New Year’s party to commemorate the newspaper’s new headquarters. At the time fireworks were banned were banned in the city, so Ochs installed a ball made of iron and wood and adorned with one hundred 25-watt light bulbs and was 5 feet in diameter and weighed 700 pounds. It was built by a young immigrant metalworker named Jacob Starr, and for most of the twentieth century the company he founded, sign maker Artkraft Strauss, was responsible for lowering the Ball. The ball was lowered from the tower’s flagpole at midnight and so the New Year’s tradition was begun.
It was in 1907 that the New Year’s Eve Ball made its maiden descent from the flagpole atop One Times Square. Over 200,000 people attended that day-long street festival, which culminated in fireworks. The Ball has been lowered every year since 1907, with the exceptions of 1942 and 1943, when the ceremony was suspended due to the wartime “dimout” of lights in New York City. Nevertheless, the crowds still gathered in Times Square in those years and greeted the New Year with a minute of silence followed by the ringing of chimes from sound trucks parked at the base of the tower—a harkening-back to the earlier celebrations at Trinity Church, where crowds would gather to “ring out the old, ring in the new.”
In 1920, a 400 pound Ball made entirely of wrought iron replaced the original. In 1955, the iron Ball was replaced with an aluminum Ball weighing a mere 150 pounds. This aluminum Ball remained unchanged until the 1980s, when red light bulbs and the addition of a green stem converted the Ball into an apple for the “I Love New York” marketing campaign from 1981 until 1988. After seven years, the traditional glowing white Ball with white light bulbs and without the green stem returned to brightly light the sky above Times Square. In 1995, the Ball was upgraded with aluminum skin, rhinestones, strobes, and computer controls, but the aluminum Ball was lowered for the last time in 1998.
For Times Square 2000, the millennium celebration at the Crossroads of the World, the New Year’s Eve Ball was completely redesigned by Waterford Crystal and Philips Lighting. The crystal Ball combined the latest in lighting technology with the most traditional of materials, reminding us of our past as we gazed into the future and the beginning of a new millennium.