The Times Square ball was once made of iron and wood. Photos show how it's evolved over its 115-year history.

  • While New Year's Eve traditions vary around the world, the US watches the ball drop in Times Square.

  • The tradition started in 1907, when the ball was made of iron and wood.

  • After multiple redesigns, today's ball weighs 11,875 pounds and features 2,688 crystal panels.

While some countries set off fireworks and smash plates to welcome the new year, the US turns to Times Square to celebrate New Year's Eve.

Crowds Celebrating New Year On Times Square
Crowds of people gathered in Times Square to celebrate the New Year.Getty Images

The Times Square ball drop has been a tradition for over a century, symbolizing new beginnings. But the ball itself has changed dramatically over its 115-year history. It once weighed a mere 150 pounds, but now it clocks in at an astonishing 11,875 pounds.

Keep reading to learn how the Times Square ball has changed over time.

Before dropping a ball in Times Square, people would gather downtown at a church to ring bells.

trinity church 1910
New Year's celebrations originally took place at Trinity Church.New York Public Library

Prior to the 1900s, Americans celebrated the new year by gathering outside Trinity Church near Wall Street in Manhattan. When the clock struck midnight, bells would chime and people celebrated the new year on the steps of the church. The church's bells would "ring out the old, ring in the new."

Everything changed when The New York Times Company moved uptown to 46th Street and Broadway. As a way to lure more people uptown, the company started a fireworks display on New Year's Eve.

The first Times Square ball dropped in 1907 and was made of iron and wood.

Times Square building in 1900s
The first ball dropped in Times Square in 1907.Library of Congress

Times Square was becoming a popular place for New Year's Eve celebrations. But when fireworks were banned in 1907, publisher Adolph Ochs had to come up with a new plan. He decided to use a maritime tradition of timekeeping, which involves dropping a ball at a certain time to help mariners know their time and location.

Times Square's first ball, which was made from iron and wood, measured 5 feet in diameter and weighed 700 pounds. An immigrant metalworker named Jacob Starr designed the ball and adorned it with 100 light bulbs. Starr's company Artkraft Strauss was in charge of lowering the ball at the stroke of midnight with an elaborate pulley system. When it dropped for the first time in 1907, it started a tradition that still happens over 100 years later.

In 1920, the ball was redesigned and made of wrought iron.

Times Square 1921
Times Square in 1921.New York Public Library

At the start of the roaring '20s, a less heavy ball replaced the original iron and wood one. The new ball weighed 400 pounds and was made of wrought iron, according to the Times Square Alliance.

In 1942 and 1943, no ball was dropped in Times Square due to the war.

1943 Times Square
New York held a wartime "dim-out" in 1942.Tom Fitzsimmons/ AP

The ball has dropped every year since 1907 except for 1942 and 1943. At the time, the country was fighting in World War II and New York City participated in a "dim-out" to protect the city from air and naval attacks. On New Year's Eve, people still gathered in Times Square but instead rang chimes.

In 1955, the ball was recreated and made entirely of aluminum.

man in hat checks watch before new year's ball drop times square
Russ Brown, superintendent of One Times Square, in front of the aluminum ball.AP

The new ball made of aluminum was only 150 pounds, the lightest it has ever weighed.

The aluminum ball was transformed into an apple during the 1980s.

Times Square ball 1980
The ball was turned into an apple in 1981.AP

The aluminum ball was affixed with red light bulbs and a green stem to resemble an apple in 1981. The new ball was part of an "I Love New York" marketing campaign. For seven years until 1988, people celebrated by watching the apple drop from the Times Tower.

When the campaign ended, the ball returned to its white light bulbs along with a few upgrades.

Time square ball 1995
The ball in 1995.Bebeto Matthews/ AP

The traditional aluminum white ball returned in 1989. By 1995, the ball was adorned with an aluminum skin, rhinestones, and strobes. Perhaps the most important upgrade was the addition of computer controls that lowered the ball come midnight. The aluminum ball dropped for the last time in 1998.

At the turn of the century, the Times Square ball was completely transformed and redesigned using crystals.

TImes Square ball 2000
Times Square ball in 2000 is adorned with crystals.Lynsey Addario/ AP

To celebrate the new millennium in 2000, the ball was redesigned by Waterford Crystal and Philips Lighting.

There are 2,688 crystal panels on the ball — in the years since 1999, any replacement panels have been designed and made by hand in Waterford, Ireland, Reuters reported.


In 2007, the ball was upgraded with LED lights.

Times Square ball 2007
The ball was given LED lights in 2007.Tina Fineberg/ AP

New Year's Eve 2007 marked 100 years since the first ball dropped, so a new ball was created to celebrate the anniversary. Waterford Crystal and Philips Lighting designed the ball again but this time with LED lights. The light bulbs that were used on all the other versions were retired and replaced with LED lighting that could change colors and dazzle audiences from afar. It was called the Centennial Ball.

2020's ball was another showstopper despite the major changes to the tradition.

nye ball
In 2020, the ball got a major facelift.Anadolu Agency / Getty

In 2020, Times Square was closed to the public on New Year's Eve due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the ball was still the star of the show.

The ball weighed 11,875 pounds and was 12 feet in diameter. As well as the usual 2,688 Waterford Crystals, it had 32,256 LED lights and displayed 16 million vibrant colors.

2021's ball drop was also scaled back as Omicron surged in the city. The event, which typically holds 58,000 people, only allowed 15,000 spectators, and in-person viewers were required to wear masks and show proof of vaccination. The ball was updated as a part of Waterford's "Gift of Wisdom" design for 2022.

This year, new crystals were added and COVID-related restrictions were dropped.

New crystals for the Times Square ball.
The crystals feature circles of intertwining love hearts.Selcuk Acar/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Nearly 200 new Waterford crystals were installed on the ball this year for the "Gift of Love" theme, Reuters reported. The crystals feature circles of intertwining love hearts.

Read the original article on Insider