9. New York Times Owner Was Responsible For the First New Year’s Eve Ball Drop in Times Square
Times Building, c. 1906. Photo from Library of Congress.
You might be surprised to know that it was the famous New York Times owner Adolph Ochs who started the New Year’s Eve tradition of dropping a ball in Times Square. The New York Times moved into One Times Square in 1903; Ochs then persuaded the city to rename the area around the building “Times Square” (formerly “Longacre Square”)
To promote the new headquarters, the NY Times held a New Year’s Eve event (ushering in the year 1904), on December 31, 1903. They set fireworks off the building’s roof at midnight. They continued to do this until 1907, when the city banned the fireworks display. Ochs wanted to create an even attention-seeking celebration in Times Square. At the suggestion of the newspaper’s head electrician, Walter Painer, he used a 700-pound “time ball” with lights to attract crowds after seeing a ball in use at the top of the nearby Western Union building.
Though the Times moved out of the building about ten years later, the tradition continued and lured away crowds from the celebrations at Trinity Church.