A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from December 26, 2007
Big Apple on New Year’s Eve Ball at One Times Square (1981-1988)

For over one hundred years, a ball has been dropped from a pole in New York City to signify the birth of a new year. The tradition has been popularized by the building at One Times Square, but there had been a prior tradition in lower Manhattan (the Western Union building) of a ball drop at noon each day.

On December 25, 2007, the Wikipedia ‘Big Apple” entry was edited to include this: “The Big Apple is a reference to the big Apple that falls at New Years.” The line has subsequently been removed.

The famous ball was made to resemble a “big apple” from 1981-1988 only, as part of the “I Love New York” marketing campaign; there were red light bulbs for the apple and green light bulbs for a stem. The New Year’s Eve ball has nothing whatsoever to do with why New York City is called “the Big Apple.”


Wikipedia: Big Apple
Revision as of 04:52, 25 December 2007
The “Big Apple” is a nickname or moniker for New York City used by New Yorkers. Its popularity since the 1970s is due to a promotional campaign by the New York Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. Its earlier origins are less clear.

The Big Apple is a reference to the big Apple that falls at New Years. 

Times Square Alliance - New Year’s Eve - About The Ball
History of the Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball

Revelers began celebrating New Year’s Eve in Times Square as early as 1904, but it was in 1907 that the New Year’s Eve Ball made its maiden descent from the flagpole atop One Times Square. This original Ball, constructed of iron and wood and adorned with 100 25-watt light bulbs, was 5 feet in diameter and weighed 700 pounds. In 1920, a 400 pound ball made entirely of iron replaced the original.

The Ball has been lowered every year since 1907, with the exceptions of 1942 and 1943, when its use was suspended due to the wartime “dimout” of lights in New York City. The crowds who still gathered in Times Square in those years greeted the New Year with a moment of silence followed by chimes ringing out from One Times Square.

In 1955, the iron ball was replaced with an aluminum ball weighing a mere 150 pounds. This aluminum Ball remained unchanged until the 1980s, when red light bulbs and the addition of a green stem converted the Ball into an apple for the “I Love New York” marketing campaign from 1981 until 1988. After seven years, the traditional Ball with white light bulbs and without the green stem returned to brightly light the sky above Times Square. In 1995, the Ball was upgraded with aluminum skin, rhinestones, strobes, and computer controls, but the aluminum ball was lowered for the last time in 1998. 

Wikipedia: Times Square Ball
Each year on New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square in Manhattan, New York City, a Ball made of crystal and electric lights is raised to the top of a pole on the One Times Square building and then lowered to mark the coming of the New Year. It is an event that is watched by people around the world on television. The Ball descends 77 feet (23 meters) over the course of a minute, coming to a rest at the bottom of its pole at 12:00am. The electronic screen below the Ball counts down to midnight as well.

Every year thousands of people gather in Times Square to watch the Ball drop, and millions watch the event on television.

History
See also: Time ball
The descent of a time ball each New Year’s Eve is a ritual derived from a common visual synchronization procedure once used primarily for navigation and astronomy. This practice evolved long before the age of electronic communications, but after mechanical timekeeping had reached a high degree of accuracy. In 1829 the first time ball was installed in England for visually synchronizing the chronometers used in navigation.

1907 – The New Year’s Eve Ball first descended from a flagpole at One Times Square, constructed with iron and wood materials with 100 25-watt bulbs weighing 700 pounds (318 kg) and measuring 5 feet (1.5 m) in diameter.
1920 – The Ball was replaced with an iron material Ball and weighing less than the original, only 400 pounds (181 kg).
1942 – 1943 – Due to World War II, the descending of the Ball was suspended.
1955 – The Ball gets replaced with a lighter Ball weighing 150 pounds (68 kg).
1981 – 1988 – Due to I Love New York campaign, there are red light bulbs and green stem in a design of an apple.
1989 – The traditional white bulbs again get put on the Ball.
1995 – The Ball gets computerized, aluminium coated, rhinestoned, and has strobe light system.
1999 – The aluminium Ball gets replaced.
2000 – 2007 – The Ball gets an overhaul for the new millennium celebrations with a design from Waterford Crystal and new technology. It weighs 1070 pounds (485 kg), measures six feet (1.8 m) in diameter and installed with 504 crystal triangles, illuminated externally with 168 halogen light bulbs and internally with 432 light bulbs of clear, red, blue, green and yellow colors. Each year there is a theme in the Waterford crystal concept with a particular chunk of designed crystals being called something, and in previous years there have been for example “Hope for Fellowship,” “Hope for Wisdom,” “Hope for Unity,” “Hope for Courage,” “Hope for Healing,” “Hope for Abundance” etc. There are strobe lights and mirrors to create bursts of excitement and special effects for the audience.
2008 – For New Years Eve 2008 (December 31st 2007), the ball is getting an makeover in honor of the 100th Anniversary of the New Years Ball drop in Times Square. The ball is still a Waterford Crystal ball as in 2000-2007 (described above), but brand new state of the art LED lighting provided by Philips is being featured instead of the less efficient halogen bulbs. The new LED fixtures produce over 16.7 million colors and can be programmed to create special effects. Waterford Crystal has redesigned the crystal to feature a new “Let There Be Light” crystal design. The 2008 ball was redesigned by a New York City lighting design firm called Focus Lighting.

18 April 1877, Galveston (TX) Daily News, pg. 4, col. 4:
TIME.
The Western Union’s Plan to Keep
Time for this City and Else-
where.
[New York Herald.]

An arrangement has been concluded between the Superintendent of the United States Naval Observatory at Washington and the Western Union Telegraph Company for the purpose of disseminating the standard time as determined daily by the Naval Observatory, to shipowners and masters, business men in general, railways, chronometer makers and others, and to the public generally. In pursuance of this agreement a time ball of large size is to be dropped daily from the tower of the Western Union Telegraph Company’s main building at New York city, and arrangement will be made for controlling public clocks in New York and other places, and also for distributing the noon signal of the United States Naval Observatory to various cities in the United States having more than 20,000 inhabitants.

NEW YORK TIME BALL.
At 11h. 55m a time ball will be hoisted half way up the iron flagstaff on the tower of the Western Union building. This ball is three feet six inches in diameter, and can be seen by all the shipping lying at the New York and Brooklyn docks and on the New Jersey shore, as well as by all vessels lying in the bay, even beyond quarantine. For long distances an ordinary ship’s glass will be needed. It can also be seen on Broadway from Tenth street nearly to the Battery, and from suitable positions it can be seen by a large majority of the citizens of New York, Brooklyn, Hoboken, Jersey City, etc.

The ball will remain at half mast from 11h. 55m to 11h. 58m. At 11h. 58m. it will be hoisted to its highest point—about half way up the main staff—that is, over 250 feet above the street. it will be dropped by an electric signal at exactly noon by New York Time. The longitude of New York being assumed to be that determined by the United States Coast Survey for the City Hall:

12h. 0m. 0s.00 New York time—12h. 12m. 10s.47 Washington time.

12h. 0m. 0s.00 New York time—4 h. 56m. 1s.65 Greenwich time.

If, on account of high winds, etc., the ball fails to fall at 12h. 0m. 0s., it will be kept at mast head till 12h. 5m. and then dropped at 12h. 5m. 0s. In such cases a small red flag will be hoisted at 12h. 1m. and kept flying till 12h. 10m.

The time of falling of the ball will record itself automatically, by electricity, near the standard clock of the Western Union Company, (which is regulated by signals from the Washington Observatory,) and if by any cause it does for fall precisely at noon, its error will be known. In the evening papers of the day, and in the papers of the next morning a notice will be regularly inserted, stating whether the ball fell at the correct time, and if not, then its error, fast or slow. In this way, even signals which high winds or other causes have prevented from being given precisely, will still be available for the regulation of clocks and chronometers.

This ball will therefore serve to regulate the clocks of New York city to standard New York time, and will also serve to give the correction to the chronometers of the ships lying in the harbor.

New York Times
This New Year’s Eve, Technology Will Drop the Ball
By DAVID KUSHNER
Published: December 30, 1999
(...)
The tradition began in 1907 when Adolph S. Ochs, the publisher of The New York Times, asked the paper’s chief electrician, Walter F. Painer, to create a new high-tech element for the fourth celebration outside the paper’s office in Times Square.

Mr. Painer looked downtown for inspiration, taking a cue from an iron ball that was dropped at noon every day outside the Western Union building.

For the first Times Square ball drop, Mr. Painer fashioned a 700-pound iron and wood ball with 100 25-watt light bulbs. Six men were needed to hoist the ball up its flagpole.

Though the technology was low by today’s standards, it was rather ingenious back then. When the ball hit the ground, it completed an electrical circuit that triggered fireworks and a display of the new year, 1908, in five-foot numbers around the building.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityThe Big Apple1970s-present: False Etymologies • (0) Comments • Wednesday, December 26, 2007 • Permalink