With the passing of another year and beginning of a fresh year, we wanted to look back at the history of one of the most cherished New Year’s Eve traditions: the ball drop in New York City!
The first year of the New York NYE Ball Drop was 1907, and the first ball was made of iron, wood and 100 25-watt light bulbs. It weighed 500 pounds!
The ball has been dropped every year since then except for 1942 and 1943 due to WWII. People still gathered to celebrate, but the ball was not part of the celebration.
In 1920, they replaced the original ball with a 400 pound wrought iron ball. Then, in 1955, they replaced it with a ball that weighed only 150 pounds due to it being made of aluminum.
This ball remained unchanged other than a lighting change to support the “I Love New York” campaign from 1981 to 1987.
For the year 2000, the ball was completely redesigned by Waterford Crystal and Philips Lighting. They implemented the latest lighting technology but used traditional materials to represent both the old and the new.
In 2007, Waterford Crystal and Philips Lighting struck again, and created a spectacular new LED crystal Ball. The energy-efficiency and brightness are the best they have ever been. With this change, the owners of One Times Square decided to build the permanent Big Ball that hangs over Times Square all year around.
Now that you have the low down on the actual ball, how about the mechanism to make it move?
In 1995, the ball was dropped via a control system that ran wire down to the street and uptown 4-5 blocks. They used computers to boost the signal as well since it was an impermanent structure.
Now, since the ball is always in place, there is a winch under the mast which guides cables to go to the top of the mast and then those cables come back down to lift the ball. Sounds a lot like a pulley system huh?
The lighting is controlled by a software called “e:cue”, and the timing of the ball drop is timestamped through a GPS system. There is a “black box” that receives time from the GPS to ensure 100% accuracy!
The New York NYE Ball is not the only thing that is dropped on New Years. Check out what other parts of the country do!
Miami, Florida - The city of Miami is home to the Big Orange Drop and is done at the Hotel Intercontinental Miami each year.
Atlanta, Georgia - The city of Atlanta does the Peach Drop which is broadcast worldwide and is done at the Underground Atlanta.
Dillsburg, Pennsylvania - The city of Dillsburg drops “Lil’ Pickle” at 7 PM which aligns with midnight in Ireland to honor their Irish founders, and they drop “Mr. Pickle” at midnight to celebrate the new year!
Mobile, Alabama - The city of Mobile drops a 600 pound Moon Pie from the RSA Tower. The festivities are sponsored by Chattanooga Bakery.
Boise, Idaho - The city of Boise has dropped a giant potato since 2014 from the US Bank building.