PODCAST The tale of New York City’s biggest annual party from its inception on New Years Eve 1904 to the magnificent spectacle of the 21st century.
In this episode, we look back on the one day of the year that New Yorkers look forward. New Years Eve is the one night that millions of people around the world focus their attentions on New York City — or more specifically, on the wedge shaped building in Times Square wearing a bright, illuminated ball on its rooftop.
In the 19th century, the ringing-in of the New Year was celebrated with gatherings near Trinity Church and a pleasant New Years Day custom of visiting young women in their parlors. But when the New York Times decided to celebrate the opening of their new offices — in the plaza that would take the name Times Square — a new tradition was born.
Tens of millions have visited Times Square over the years, gazing up to watch the electric ball drop, a time-telling mechanism taken from the maritime tradition. The event has been affected by world events — from Prohibition to World War II — and changed by the introduction of radio and television broadcasts.
ALSO: What happened to the celebration which it reached the gritty 1970s and a Times Square with a surly reputation?
PLUS: A few tips for those of you heading to the New Years Eve celebration this year!
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New Years Day celebrations have evolved since the days of New Amsterdam when visitations symbolized a ‘fresh start’ to the year.
A decorative cigar box from the 1890s, ringing in the new year with a winsome damsel and wholesome scenes of winter beckoning you to smoke a cigar.
The crowds outside Trinity Church on 1906 gathered to usher in the new year. The church was traditionally the place people gathered before the Times Square celebration took off.
Fated to be the centerpiece of New Years Eve, One Times Square once wore some beautiful architecture until much of it was ripped off to accommodate a frenzy of electronic signs.
Times Square in 1905 for the very first New Years Eve celebration albeit one with fireworks, not a ball drop.
The party offerings at the Hotel Astor in Times Square in 1926.
The view of Times Square from the Empire State Building.
New Years Eve 1938
The throngs in 1940 with the Gone With The Wind marquee in the background (not to mention Tallulah Bankhead in the play The Little Foxes!)
Ushering in 1953:
Celebrations were also held for a time in Central Park, like this festive group from 1969:
An electrician from the Artkraft Strauss Sign Corporation tests out the lighting effects that will greet the new year in 1992.
And here’s some videos of New Years Eve countdown past!
Mr New Years Eve himself — Guy Lombardo — here at the Roosevelt Hotel, ringing in 1958
A clip from Dick Clark’s first appearance in Times Square. It cuts away to Three Dog Night in California!
CBS’s New Years Eve program featuring Catherine Bach from The Dukes of Hazzard.
The absolutely bonkers ball drop for the new millennium.
Last year’s commentary by those wacky cards Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin.