New York’s First New Year’s Eve Countdown Was Thanks to 19th-Century U.S. Navy Timekeeping

Lovely article. It would appear that your author is not familiar with Ian Bartky’s Selling the True Time: Nineteenth-Century Timekeeping in America (Stanford University Press 2000). In it, she would find that the concept of counting down to an event had its origin in the telegraphic dissemination of time, which began with the Navy in the 19th century. The concept became a public event when the Navy installed a time ball on Manhattan in the early 20th century for the ships in New York Harbor. It connected that ball to the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. To mark that event, it publicized a public event for New Year’s Eve with the idea that New Yorkers would know exactly when the new year began. I haven’t looked at the book for several years but I believe the year was 1906.

David Alan Grier


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