Welcome to 2020, folks! It's a brand new decade, so join us as we celebrate New Year's Day, Trivia Today style! Here are five things you didn't know about the New Year's Eve Ball Drop.
The First Ball Was Made of Iron and Wood The first ball drop in New York City goes all the way back to 1907-1908 when an iron and wood ball decorated with 100 25-watt bulbs was lowered in Times Square. Waiters and others at nearby restaurants and hotels wore top hats with tiny battery-operated light bulbs spelling out “1908.” At midnight, the year on their hats lit up, complementing the display on the Times building’s tower.
The Ball in Times Square Has Had a lot of Makeovers The 2020 Waterford Crystal Times Square New Year's Eve Ball was built around the theme of the "Gift of Goodwill", which displays three pineapples all decked out in Waterford crystal to represent hospitality and goodwill. The 12-foot ball is covered in 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles and is believed to be the largest crystal ball in the world. While the ball drop is now timed electronically using an atomic clock out of Colorado, for the first 87 years, the ball was lowered by hand.
No Ball Drop Occurred in New York City for Two Years During 1942 and 1943, the ceremonial ball drop was suspended because New York City lights were dimmed due to World War II. However, people in the city still celebrated by gathering in Times Square for a moment of silence. Sound trucks, parked at the tower’s base, were used to transmit the sound of ringing chimes. This was similar to earlier celebrations where church bells were rung to announce the arrival of the New Year.
Time Balls Have Been Used Since the 1800s The concept of dropping a ball to mark time dates back to the mid-1800s in England. One of the earliest time-balls was the one atop the Flamsteed House of the Greenwich Observatory along the River Thames. Starting in 1833, it was lowered every day at exactly 1 p.m. to signal the time to sailors and Londoners who could not afford clocks and watches.
The Cleanup Is Massive Thousands of pounds of confetti are dropped at the stroke of midnight. One hundred volunteers, called confetti dispersal engineers, are stationed on the roofs of the Times Square buildings, and they are in charge of its release on the populace below. Once the festivities are over and the crowd is gone, a massive effort is undertaken by the Department of Sanitation to clean up the mess. For example, in 2013-2014, it was estimated that it took eight hours and 190 workers to clean up more than 50 tons of confetti and items dropped by celebrants.