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History of the Ball Drop in Times Square

November 22, 2022

It's no secret that one of the most popular destinations in the world for the most highly anticipated night out of the year – New Year's Eve – is New York City. It's all about the sights, sounds, and unique entertainment that this city has to offer—centered, of course, on the Times Square Ball. When you gather in Midtown to watch the Ball Drop, you’re part of a long, rich history of partying!

In 1903, The New York Times newspaper was about to open their new headquarters, the city's second tallest building, in what was then known as Longacre Square. The paper's owner, Adolph Ochs, decided to commemorate their opening with a midnight fireworks show on the roof of the building on December 31, 1903. After four years of New Year's Eve fireworks celebrations, Ochs wanted a bigger spectacle at the building to draw more attention to the newly-renamed Times Square. An electrician was hired to construct a lighted Ball to be lowered from the flagpole on the roof of One Times Square. The iron Ball was only 5 feet in diameter! The very first drop was on New Year's Eve 1907, one second after midnight. Though the Times would later move its headquarters, the New Year's Eve celebration at One Times Square remains a focal celebration for the world.

The Ball has gone through some major transformations in its 100-plus years of partying. The original Ball was replaced in 1920 with a 5-foot, 400-pound iron Ball. This Ball lasted to 1995, when a third Ball debuted, adding rhinestones and a computerized lighting system featuring strobe lights. For the arrival of the new millennium, an entirely new Ball was constructed. Weighing 1,070 pounds and measuring 6 feet in diameter, the fourth ball was covered with 504 Waterford Crystal triangles illuminated with 168 halogen bulbs outside. Internally, 432 bulbs of clear, red, blue, green and yellow colors along with strobe lights and spinning mirrors lit up the night. It was retired on December 31, 2006 newly rigged with light-emitting diodes.

In honor of the Ball Drop's 100th anniversary, a fifth design debuted New Year's Eve 2008. Manufactured again by Waterford Crystal with a diameter of 6 feet, weighing 1,212 pounds, it used LEDs, computerized lighting pattern, and can produce over 16.7 million colors, but only consumes the electricity of 10 toasters! The 2008 Ball was only used once— a sixth new Ball debuted on New Year's Eve 2009 and is still in use.

Today's Ball is 12 feet in diameter, weighing 11,875 pounds. While retaining the 2008 design, this Ball was rebuilt double its previous size. To accommodate this new Ball, the flagpole was also enlarged, now rising 475 feet above the street. It remains atop One Times Square year-round, reminding the people below of the most exciting night of the year, and building the anticipation. Where will you be this New Year's Eve? How will you become a part of the Ball's history?

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