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It wouldn’t seem like New Year’s Eve without the annual ball drop in Times Square, but when it first started there wasn’t a ball. There were fireworks.
The initial celebration took place in 1904. The New York Times newspaper had just opened its new headquarters at the intersection of 7th Avenue, Broadway and 42nd Street and convinced the city to rename the area “Times Square,” according to the Times Square Alliance, a non-profit that works to improve and promote the square.Times editor Alfred Ochs set off fireworks from the base of the Times Tower at midnight.
When the city banned fireworks two years later, event organizers arranged to have a 700-pound iron and wood ball lowered down a pole, according to the New York Public Library.
The Times headquarters has since moved, but it has remained a tradition to watch the ball start dropping at 11:59 p.m. in the square and count down the final seconds before the new year begins.
The televised event is watched by more than a billion people worldwide, according to the Times Square Alliance.