NEW YORK - Plenty of cities across the United States join in on the New Year's Eve countdown fun – but at midnight, all eyes are on New York City.
In 1904, the first New Year's Eve celebration was held in Times Square, but the party wasn't just to ring in 1905, it was an inaugural bash commemorating the official opening of the new headquarters of The New York Times and the naming of Times Square.
Before it was known as Times Square, the area surrounding the paper's new home was known as Long Acre Square– the carriage district.
On April 8, 1904, Mayor George McClellan declared that Long Acre Square would be known as Times Square, "in honor of a local newspaper that recently moved into the neighborhood."
Adolph Ochs, the publisher of The Times from 1896 to 1935, said that the name change originated with August Belmont, whose Interborough Rapid Transit Company was putting the finishing touches on the original subway.
Previously, New Yorkers had rung in the New Year at Trinity Church on Wall Street, but the paper's new home brought the festivities uptown, where they continue to this day, despite The Times's later changes of address.
The First Drop
The first New Year's Eve ball dropped in Times Square on Dec. 31, 1907, from the top of the Times building.
"The great shout that went up drowned out the whistles for a minute," The Times of a century ago reported. "The vocal power of the welcome rose above even the horns and the cowbells and the rattles. Above all else came the wild human hullabaloo of noise out of which could be dimly formed the words: ‘Hurrah for 1908.'"
Moments of Darkness
During WWII, the glowing Ball was temporarily retired due to the wartime "dim-out" of lights in NYC. In 1980 it was dimmed in honor of the Iranian hostages.
Evolution of the Ball
The New York Times referred to the first ball as an "electric ball," originally made of iron and wood by sign maker Artkraft Strauss. Weighing in at 700-pounds, five feet in diameter and illuminated by 100 25-watt bulbs, the ball marked the passage from 1907 to 1908.
The original ball was replaced by Artkraft Strauss in 1920 with one made of wrought iron, then again in 1955 with an aluminum ball that weighed 200 pounds. That ball remained in use, mostly untouched, until 1981.
In '81 the Big Apple dropped, well, an apple. Radio station WMCA paid more than $90,000 to remake the globe in the form of a six-foot-tall apple.
A more traditional white ball replaced the apple in 1987 and underwent periodic upgrades until it was retired in 1998.
Waterford Crystal designed the Millennium Ball for the 2000 ceremony and has rebuilt or tweaked it each year since.
Historical information and facts included in this story came from archives of The New York Times.
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