8. The New York Times Newspaper Owner Brought the Party to Times Square
Times Building, c. 1906. Photo from Library of Congress.
You might be surprised to know that the famous New York Times newspaper owner Adolph Ochs started the New Year’s Eve tradition of dropping the ball in Times Square. The New York Times moved into One Times Square in 1903 when the surrounding neighborhood was known as Longacre Square. It was renamed Times Square in honor of the company’s big move in 1904.
To promote the new headquarters, the New York Times held a New Year’s Eve event (ushering in 1904) on December 31, 1903. The main attraction was a fireworks show, set off from the building’s roof at midnight. This tradition continued until 1907, when the city banned the fireworks display. Ochs wanted to maintain the attention-seeking celebration in Times Square. At the suggestion of the newspaper’s head electrician, Walter Painer, Ochs arranged for a 700-pound “time ball” with lights to be placed atop the headquarters for the New Year’s Eve celebration. The Western Union building had used a similar tactic to attract crowds. Though the Times moved out of the building about ten years later, the tradition continued and lured away crowds from celebrations at Trinity Church.