The first time ball was set up in the harbor of Portsmouth, England in 1829.
And it was a hit! It worked so well that they set up several other time balls in the area, and the practice began to make its way across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States.
The first time ball in the U.S. was set up at the United States Naval Observatory at Foggy Bottom in Washington, D.C. in 1845.
In 1877, Western Union began dropping a ball in its Manhattan headquarters, and the time ball tradition had finally reached New York.
Though Times Square was home to New Year's Eve celebrations starting in 1904, the time ball didn't become a New Year's tradition until 1907.
Why? Well, simply put, the person throwing the party (Adolph Ochs, publisher of The New York Times) couldn’t get a permit for fireworks. A giant, glowing time ball was the next best thing.
And that's how we got the tradition of the Times Square time ball.
It has dropped every year since 1907, with the exceptions of 1942 and 1943 (World War II was a b****), and it shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.
According to The New York Times, the ball they drop in Times Square isn't exactly a perfect time ball.
True time balls mark time by starting to move, not by stopping like the Times Square ball does. But it’s way more fun to count down to the new year that way, so we’ll forgive it.
So there you have it! Happy New Year! Now go impress all your friends at the New Year’s party with your newfound knowledge.