Dropping The Ball On New Year's Eve

Adolph Ochs was a self-made millionaire and buyer of The New York Times, one of the most famous publications in the world. In 1896, Ochs bought the newspaper, which was in financial trouble at the time. After turning its finances around, he moved the business into the midtown area (Longacre Square). The new Times building split the area in half and eventually gave name to what we now know as Times Square. In 1904, Ochs threw a wild New Year’s party to promote the big move complete with a fire works display. Over a thousand people were in attendance at what has become known as the first New Year’s Eve celebration.

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For several years, fireworks continued to be used until the city put an end to it due to safety concerns. To replace the fireworks, Ochs came up with an idea. With the help of the Times building electrician, he developed the Times ball. The idea came from balls that were lit up on ship masses and used as clocks for coastal bound crews. Since actual clocks had been developed by this time, the balls were becoming obsolete so the electrician took a prototype from a shipyard and engineered it into the first Times ball.

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The first ball was 5 feet in diameter and weighed over a whooping 700 pounds. It was rigged with over 100 incandescent lights bulbs and used until the late 1910s when it was replaced with a 400 pound ball that was used until the mid 1950s. In 1955, a new ball was from aluminum, a lighter material than the wood of the previous balls. The lights on the ball have always been traditional white, except for in 1991 when it was accented with red and blue lights as tribute to the troops in Desert Storm. Today, the ball features programmed LED lights, making it a lot more energy efficient and practical. However, the weight of the ball has only grown. The current ball weighs over 10,000 pounds and is 12 feet in diameter!

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