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December 31st 1904: First Times Square NYE

On this day in 1904, New Year’s Eve celebrations were held in New York City’s Times Square for the first time. In 1904, the owners of the New York Times newspaper were celebrating their move to new offices in the area, then known as Longacre Square. The paper’s owner, Adolph Ochs, successfully had Longacre Square renamed Times Square in honour of the newspaper. As part of these celebrations, the paper launched a fireworks display at One Times Square/Times Tower in a new year event attended by almost 200,000 people. The popularity of the initial event encouraged efforts to host a more extravagant celebration to inaugurate the new year. Therefore, in 1907, Ochs commissioned the construction of an iron and wood ball which would be lowered from a flagpole at the newspaper’s headquarters to mark the final minute of the year. The ball was lit by one hundred bulbs, weighed 700 pounds, and measured five feet in diameter. It was built by a young Russian immigrant metalworker called Jacob Starr, whose sign company, Artkraft Strauss, became responsible for lowering the ball for most of the twentieth century. As part of the 1907 celebrations, waiters in deluxe restaurants around Times Square were given top hats featuring the numbers ‘1908’ in tiny bulbs, which, upon the stroke of midnight, they lit up to display the new year. While the Times later moved from the square, the tradition of lowering a ball at Times Square has continued ever since, with the exception of wartime years in the early 1940s. The design of the ball has changed several times since 1907, but the Times Square event remains one of the most famous New Year’s Eve celebrations in the world, and attracts around one million visitors every year.

Happy New Year!