why do we drop the ball on new years

Since 1907, New York City has been celebrating New Years Eve by dropping a giant ball in Times Square. Aside from being seen in-person by countless wide-eyed New Yorkers,
across the world tune in to their TVs each year to watch the ball being dropped. The New Years Eve ball drop is cemented so firmly in the history of the city and the country as a whole, its accepted simply as tradition, but not many are familiar with its symbolic origins. Why do we drop the ball on New Years Eve? As it turns out, the ball has a rich, practical history, and its original meaning is, in some ways, still exemplified today. Origin of the Time Ball The New Year s Eve ball drop in Times Square is the most iconic time ball used today, and its meant as a celebratory symbol. Originally though, time balls were used out of necessity. in 1818 by British Royal Navy captain Robert Wauchope as a Plan for Ascertaining the Rates of Chronometers by an Instantaneous Signal. In other words, Wauchope planned to slide a ball along a mast on top of an observatory. The ball was meant to be lowered every day at noon to help naval officers synchronize their chronometers without having to leave their ships. Since the chronometer was essential in tracking longitude, it always needed to be properly calibrated. Wauchopes plan was officially put into action in Portsmouth, England, 1829, with the first time ball being erected at the citys Naval Academy. The device was big enough to be visible from the harbor or port. At the time, this proved to be essential technology. Britain was the worlds main maritime power, and was uniquely responsible for tracking time accurately.


Before the time ball, the countrys naval officers required landmarks to gauge longitude and a stable surface to rest a pendulum on. Without these, having a proper measure of time was almost impossible. With the time ball making its descent every day like clockwork, all it took was a quick look toward the Naval Academy at noon for captains to accurately set their chronometers. Thanks to its success, a second ball was installed atop the Greenwich Observatory in 1833, and subsequent devices appeared in Liverpool and Edinburgh in 1836. As word of the time balls utility spread, an increasing number were erected across Europe. was placed in New York at the Western Union Building. New Years Eve in New York With the introduction of radio and other modern methods of tracking and broadcasting time, the time ball became obsolete by the start of the 20th century. However, at this point, the descent of the ball was already established as a visual spectacle. Alfred Ochs, then owner of The New York Times, would be the one to manifest this fascination with the time ball into the tradition we continue to follow today. In 1904, Ochs moved the The New York Times to a skyscraper on 42nd Street at Longacre Square, which would eventually become known as Times Square. That same year, Ochs decided to throw the New Years Eve party of the century for everyone in the city an all-day street festival culminating in a brilliant midnight firework show. This was the first time New York City welcomed in the New Year with such style, though the city itself quickly dampened the festivities, because of the number of new buildings that had gone up in Times Square.


But That Didnt Stop Ochs Being a man of ideas, Ochs wouldnt let the ban put a halt to the fun. Inspired by the Western Union time ball, he had a version of the device installed in Times Square in time for the 1907 New Years Eve celebration, and the ball has been dropped every year since then. This first time ball was a technological marvel at the time; 700 pounds, 6 feet in diameter, built of iron and wood, and containing 100 lightbulbs. We can contrast the original time ball with our current one, introduced in 2008; 11,875 pounds, 12 feet in diameter, containing 2,688 Waterford crystals and 32,256 LED lights the largest crystal ball in the world. So, Why Do We Drop the Ball on New Years? Today, despite iPhones, the internet, and even wristwatches, the Times Square ball continues to serve its original purpose: to track the passage of time and bring us into the New Year. Its practical necessity is long gone, but we still drop the ball on New Years Eve every year, like clockwork because its tradition, its fun, and its really easy on the eyes. Don t drop the ball this New Year s Eve; make sure to earn this nifty holiday badge It was New Year s Eve in 1907 and there was a party in Times Square. Revelers poured into the streets from nearby theaters and hotelssome sporting top hats with the numbers 1908 emblazoned on them in tiny light bulbsand by 11:50 p. m. , tens of thousands had made their way to the crossroads of Broadway and 42nd Street. But aside from the record-breaking crowds, a new tradition would be born that night: a 700-pound ball of steel and wood, adorned with a hundred light bulbs and built by a young immigrant metalworker named Jacob Starr, would be dropped from the flagpole atop One Times Square.


But waitwhy a ball? And why Times Square? The history of celebrating New Year s Eve in Times Square began in 1905. (Before that, New Yorkers would gather around downtown s Trinity Church as the bell tower rang out the old, and rang in the new. ) The party was hosted by the New York Times, which had recently set up headquarters in the location, and for two years, the paper set off fireworks and made its building the epicenter of all things New Year s Eve. Unfortunately, the city banned the fiery (and likely dangerous) display in 1907. Determined to find a new way to ring in the New Year, the papers owner, Adolph Ochs, arranged for the ball drop. Ochs didn t whip the idea out of thin air. He was inspired by the Western Union Telegraphs time ball: a ball that was dropped from the top of the building at exactly noon each day. That ball was inspired by the time balls used by 19th-century mariners to calibrate their chronometers. Until 1907, no ball had been used to ring in the New Year. Fortunately for Ochs, people loved the New Year s Eve ball. The great shout that went up drowned out the whistles for a minute, wrote the paper the next morning. The vocal power of the welcomers rose above even the horns and the cow bells and the rattles. Above all else came the wild human hullabaloo of noise. Since that first ball drop, the idea of dropping objects to count down the New Year has become synonymous with the holiday. Maine drops a maple leaf, Georgia drops a peach, and Idaho drops a giant potato. Before this year s drop, read up on more. More:,

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