Patrick S. Gilmore, the famous 19th century musician and bandleader, started the annual tradition of the New Year's Eve countdown in New York City on December 31, 1888.
In those days, what is now Times Square was simply known as the Long Acre, and was changed to Times Square in 1904 when the New York Times opened its offices there.
During this era the Gilmore Band - part of New York's 22nd Regiment -- was one of the nation's most popular bands, performing indoor and outdoor concerts throughout the year. Gilmore conducted many of the concerts nearby at Gilmore's Garden, which later became Madison Square Garden.
On this particular New Year's eve, the Gilmore Band performed for the large audience that gathered up and down Broadway, and then Gilmore led the crowd in a countdown, firing two pistols at the stroke of midnight.
According to Gilmore scholar Michael Cummings, Gilmore was born in Ballygar, County Galway in 1829, and emigrated to Boston in 1849, where he lived for over twenty years. During that time he established himself as a great cornet player and bandleader. He was active during the Civil War and wrote the popular tune, When Johnny Comes Marching Home. He also created two massive peace jubilees in Boston's Back Bay in 1869 and 1872, before moving to New York, where he lived until his death in 1892.
For more information on Boston's Irish-American history, visit IrishHeritageTrail.com.