It’s been over a century since the New Year’s Eve Ball was first dropped, in 1907, in New York City’s Times Square. According to the Times Square Alliance, the first-ever ball was a metal-and-wood orb that clocked it at 700 lbs. Since then, it’s gone through several iterations, with the current ball — known as the Big Ball — clocking in at nearly 12,000 lbs. of LED lights and Waterford Crystal facets.
The location, TIME declared in 1988, is a meaningful one: “Americans’ emblematic visions of their country incline toward the arcadian — cabins in a peaceable countryside, a small town with no entertainment wilder than a Sousa band in the park. But in this century, as the U.S. became an urban nation, New York City‘s Times Square emerged as a different sort of American apotheosis. Times Square exemplified a certain idea of the city carried to its frenetic extreme: a few blocks dense with too many lights and too much action, a happy chaos of honky-tonk night life (the Florodora girls, Legs Diamond’s Hotsy Totsy Club), theatrical bliss (Barrymore’s Hamlet, the Marx Brothers) and the spontaneous razzmatazz of the rialto,” wrote Kurt Andersen. “There was a civic side as well: Times Square became the natural New York place for jubilation en masse, every New Year‘s Eve and every time America won a war.”
A live webcast of this year’s ball drop will begin at 6:00 Eastern on Wednesday.
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