America Victorious at Battle of Midway!


“Times Square” has been known by this moniker since 1904, when the NY Times moved into the newly-constructed building at the intersection of 42nd Street and Broadway. At that time, it was the second tallest building in the world, and New Year’s Eve celebrations from its roof became an annual event beginning in 1903. Already a center of commerce and entertainment, the addition of the NY Times to this area, as well as a subway stop, created what quickly became a bustling hub of local, national and international renown.

One of the first of its kind in the world, the famous electronic news ticker first debuted in 1928, when it proclaimed the election of Herbert Hoover in a newsflash (defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as “a short news report… giving the most recent information about an important or unexpected event”).

Thereafter, it became a ubiquitous feature of Times Square, and was relied upon to bring important news to the throngs of people who gathered there, many times for the sole purpose of watching the news of the day unfold. Since there was no television---only radio and newspaper--- this was an important method of communication for real-time news. Major events in politics, sports and entertainment were first broadcast there.

During World War II the New York Times newsflashes provided up-to-date messages that informed the public about events that took place all over the world. In addition to providing valuable information, this method of communication kept the public engaged in the war effort, and instilled a sense of patriotism that has lasted for generations. (There were also "newsreels" that were shown in movie theaters which brought news as well, but the Times Square newsflash would have been more current).

For example, on June 4, 1942, after the American victory at Midway, the message would have read something like this:

"America Victorious in the Battle of Midway!!!"

…to proclaim the defeat of Japan at a time when America was vulnerable to further attack even on the mainland of the United States.

These days, the newsflash still exists as the scrolling news ticker that you see on the major news network buildings and television news broadcasts around the world, but it has much less meaning since there are so many other methods of real-time communication. But for those who were alive during the early 20th century, the newsflashes at Times Square played an important role in American culture by keeping people connected in a way that was unlike any other in its time.

Reference: Brill, Louis M. “One Times Square”. 2002.

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