VIDEO: Travel back to 1904 for the first New Year’s Eve in Times Square
A crowd in Times Square; screenshot via TheLazyCowOnUTube
In 1904, the New York Times moved from the City Hall are to the triangular piece of land at the intersection of 7th Avenue, Broadway, and 42nd Street. People thought they were crazy for moving so far uptown, but this was the same year the first subway line opened, passing through what was then called Longacre Square. Not only did their new Times Tower have a printing press in the basement (they loaded the daily papers right onto the train and got the news out faster than other papers), but it was the second-tallest building in the city at the time. To honor this accolade, the company wanted to take over the city’s former New Year’s Eve celebration at Trinity Church, and since the church elders hated people getting drunk on their property, they gladly obliged. So to ring in 1905, the Times hosted an all-day bash of 200,000 people that culminated in a midnight fireworks display, and thus the first New Year’s Eve in Times Square was born. But it wasn’t until a few years later that the famous ball drop became tradition.
Video via TheLazyCowOnUTube
Fireworks at the turn of the century weren’t as sophisticated as those we have today; they rained down burning ash on the people below, causing the city to ban them by 1907. To take their place, the Times’ owner Alfred Ochs looked to the maritime tradition of lowering a time ball at noon and combined it with the new invention of electricity. As 1908 was ushered in, a 700-pound iron and wood ball was lowered from the Times Tower’s flagpole. It had 100 25-watt light bulbs on it and functioned as “a lighthouse in the middle of Manhattan.” For more fun facts about New Year’s Eve in Times Square since 1908, be sure to watch the video above.