Thanks to the Huffington Post, I now know why the ball drops. Click here for their full article.
A giant ball dropping on a pole was an important measure of time not too long ago.
It all started when ship captains needed a good way to track time in order to navigate. Delicate machines called chronometers would do so, but they would often get out of sync.
So Captain Robert Wauchope had the idea of dropping a giant ball from an elevated position near the shore. The first dropped in 1829, at Portsmouth, England, marking noon. The idea caught on.
Wanting to create a new New Year’s tradition, Adolph Ochsm the publisher of The New York Times and the man responsible for getting the city to name Times Square after his paper, decided to have fireworks at his Times Square building in 1904.
Not being able to secure a fireworks permit three years later, he affixed a lighted time ball to the building that lowered for midnight.
The tradition stuck and has continued far past when most people know what a time ball was used for.