History Nebraska Blog

What is a Time Ball?

Doane College Time Ball

This large ball, mounted on a shaft on top of Merrill Hall at Doane College in 1883, functioned in time with the observatory's Greenwich meantime clock.

At exactly noon the ball would drop, indicating the time. The next morning a student would raise the ball with a rope and pulley system.

Time balls were usually found in coastal regions and provided shipboard navigators with an accurate visual time signal.

The time ball at Doane College was the only one known to have been in Nebraska. Time balls were rendered obsolete when time signals could be transmitted via radio.

time ball atop Merrill Hall at Doane College (RG2491.PH2-28)

Photo of time ball atop Merrill Hall at Doane College. (NSHS RG2491.PH2-28)

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