I would like to take a minute to thank all of you for our patronage over the years, and your patience, as I start projects and contimue to get side tracked with life. I hope you have all had a happy holiday season and are looking forward to the new year. It has been a difficult year for the United states, politically speaking, and there is much uncertainty ahead. But this site is not about looking ahead, is it? We spend much of our time looking back at the men and Women who shaped our lives and the world around them.
In the spirit of the New Year, I would like to take a look at two men responsible for one of the most enduring and ,perhaps one of the most taken for granted traditions our country has come to embrace; the Time Square count down ball.
New Years eve was celebated in New York's Time Square, as early as 1904, following the opening of the first subway, and the establishment of the New York Times new headquarters in Times Tower. The area that is now Time Square, had previously been named Longacre Square. The owner of the New York Times and the impressive Times tower, then the second tallest building in the world, was a German Jewish immigrant, Adolph Ochs. Ochs executed an unprecendented New Years Eve celebration in 1904, as a way of inaugurating his new building and celbrating hsi paper's tremendous success. Ochs spared noexpense to make his celebration an historic event. It began with an all day festival, held in the square surrounding the tower, and culminated at midnight with fireworks, noise makers, and cheering from over 200,000.
The New York Times' description of the occasion paints a rapturous picture: "From base to dome the giant structure was alight - a torch to usher in the newborn year..."
The celebration became an instant fixture in New York City,and captured the attention an they were teh preeminanttry and of the world. The word spread like lightning, Time Square was the place to be on New Years Eve. Two years later, the city banned the fireworks display, but Ochs was undaunted. He hired the Strauss Sign company to design a new Years eve sign that would do justice to the world reknown Times Tower.
Strauss signs was founded in 1897 by German Immigrant, Benjamin Strauss. Strauss was a well known artisan in New York. His cmpany was responsible for many of the posters adn show cards that adorned the shops and streets of New York. It was Strauss genious, and good fortune, that he hired Jacob Starr, a Jewish immigrant from Russian held Poland. Jacob came to Manhatten in, or around 1907. He was a metel worker and an electrical engineer. Starr build the first ball, to be fastened to the flagpole on the tower, to be lowered as a count down heralding the change form 1907 to 1908. The original ball was built of iron and wood and lit with 100 incandescent light bulbs. The first ball weighed 700 pounds and measured 5 feet in diameter. The creation of this dynamic display rocketed Strauss signs to the forefront of the "Spectaculars' trade, the creation of large, lit displays and signage. Strauss' company was commissioned to oversee the ball drop, and continue in that capacity to the present day.
Starr went on the become an innovative desiner of marques and entertainment centers in New York adn around the country. In 1920 he left Strauss Signs and started his own business, a franchise of Artkraft Ohio, a company working with neon. Starr's company, Artkraft - New York. His business flourished and in Starr and Strauss merged their companies to form Artkraft-Strauss. By 1950 they were the preeminant sign manufactures in New York adn were established world wide. Jacob Starr was also responsible for the famouse statue of the flag raising over Iwo Jima, erected on 4/27/1945 as a tribute to the brave men and women who fought and died in world war II.
Jacob Starr was born in Russia held Poland in 1889. Jacob immigrated to America in 1907. He married his wife, Anna in 1920. Anna was also a Jewish immigrant form Russian helf Poland. She immigrated to America in 1911. Jacob and Anna had three children, Melvin Starr born 1919, Leta Starr born 1929, and Jean. Jacob and Anna Starr foundedteh Women's League for Isreal, which consisted of the Ann and Jacob Starr evaluation Center in Isreal. Jacob Starr was a trustee of the Synagogue. Jacob died in 1976, 5 months after Anna passed away.