Synchronize Your Watches

Now I Know is a great daily email, especially if you like little bit-sized nuggets of history. Today’s email was about Times Square and how valuable the space there is for ads. My favorite part was this little tidbit from the end:

Every New Year’s Eve, a million or so people gather in Times Square and count down to the new year together as a ball, now made of crystal triangles, descends down the flagpole of One Times Square. This tradition began with the Times’ party in 1903 (which attracted 200,000 people) but didn’t involve the ball yet — that was added in 1908 — and (except for 1942 and 1943, to conserve energy to support the wartime efforts) has occurred since. But where did the idea come from? According to TIME, ball drops were commonplace in the U.S. — not for New Year’s, but hourly, as a way to keep everyone on schedule: “For decades, residents of U.S. cities would synchronize their pocketwatches using a giant globe that would descend from a pole in a public space to mark the exact hour.”

I’m picturing groups of people standing around the town square saying, “Synchronize your watches.”