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Longacre Square, not long before it became "Times Square." Circa 1900. Bettmann/Getty Images
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Looking northwest down 42nd Street from Broadway, where the iconic One Times Square now stands. 1898. Wikimedia Commons
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The view from the north in Longacre Square over an excavation for subway construction. The camera is located in what would eventually become the New York Times building. December 4, 1901.Wikimedia Commons
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The construction of the Times Tower. 1903.Wikimedia Commons
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Both spectators and cars line up to watch a car race in Times Square. 1908.Wikimedia Commons
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People hold up papers in Times Square announcing Germany's surrender in World War I. November 7, 1918. U.S. National Archives /Wikimedia Commons
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Thousands gather in the streets of Times Square to get results on the World Series from a remote scoreboard. October 1919. Brown Brothers/Wikimedia Commons
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A crowd has swelled in Times Square, awaiting the results of a boxing match between Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier in July 1921. Times Photo Archive/Wikimedia Commons
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Streetcars, automobiles, and pedestrians all make up the busy traffic of 1920s Times Square. October 15, 1923. NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images
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A bread line of men stretches through Times Square during the Great Depression. 1932. Bettman/Getty Images
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The still wrapped Father Duffy statue in Times Square. The statue of the soldier, priest, and military chaplain was soon to be dedicated on May 2, 1937. Library of Congress
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A newspaper man with a stack of papers in is hand stands on the corner of West 42nd Street and Broadway.
The paper's headline reads "War Declared On Germany." September 3, 1939. Bettman/Getty Images
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People crowd into the streets of Times Square to read a bulletin announcing Italy's entry into World War II. June 10, 1940. Bettman/Getty Images
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Soliders and sailors sit by Father Duffy's statue in Times Square as some boys shine their shoes. June 1943.CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
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Crowds gather in Times Square awaiting news of the D-Day invasion. June 6, 1944. Library of Congress
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A woman dressed in only heels and a barrel that reads "I Did My Bit, Did You?" stands in Times Square.
The promotion, organized by the United National Clothing Collection was part of drive to collect clothing and bedding for overseas war relief. April 1945.Weegee(Arthur Fellig)/International Center of Photography/Getty Images
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Sailors and soldiers celebrate Japan's surrender, marking the end of WWII. August 14, 1945. Bettman/Getty Images
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A sailor kisses a nurse in Times Square amid celebrations marking the end of World War II. August 14, 1945.Wikimedia Commons
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Crowds gathered to celebrate the surrender of Japan. August 15, 1945. Wikimedia Commons
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Crowds of people wave in Times Square upon the announcement of Japan's surrender in 1945.Library of Congress
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A horse-pulled carriage advertising jazz on the river makes its way through Times Square. July 1947.William P. Gottlieb Collection/Wikimedia Commons
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A large billboard advertising Camel cigarettes. 1948.Wikimedia Commons
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Crowds pack into Times Square to ring in the new year in 1954. Wikimedia Commons
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Actress Marilyn Monroe steps out of a limo in Times Square for the premiere of her film Some Like It Hot. March 1, 1959. Lee Lockwood/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
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Times Square's glitzy side wasn't without its seediness. By the 1960s, the area had begun to see a rise in crime and provocative entertainment that would dominate its reputation into the 1970s.
Here, a man walks past a drunkard lying on the sidewalk. February 1, 1954. Leonard Mccombe/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
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A young boy shines a man's shoes as passerby stroll past several Times Square theaters. 1968. Klaus Lehnartz/Flickr
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Cars and people pass by in Times Square. Circa 1960s. Flicr/Klaus Lehnartz
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1966 marked a small yet, big change for the area with the introduction of 25 cent peep shows.
Strip clubs and porn theaters would soon follow. National Archives and Records Administration
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A group of prostitutes walk by a man in Times Square during the summer of 1971. Bettmann/Getty Images
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As the area took on a seedier personality, many of the old businesses fled, with the area's movie palaces falling into decay. Circa 1970s.National Archives and Records Administration
30 Vintage Photos From The Glory Days Of Times Square
Whether we call it "the center of the universe," "the crossroads of the world," or "the heart of New York," perhaps no section of the Big Apple is more recognizable or more visited than Times Square.
Yet, as iconic as the stretch of Broadway from West 42nd to West 47th streets is today, the area has both changed radically from its humble beginnings and seen areas of both great prosperity and great depravity.
Times Square first became "Times Square" in 1904, when Adolph Ochs, owner of The New York Times, moved the paper into a newly built skyscraper there. Prior to that, the junction was known as Longacre Square.
The honorary name was a point of pride for Ochs, who boasted to the Syracuse Herald, "I am pleased to say that Times Square was named without any effort or suggestion on the part of The Times.” Indeed, even when The Times moved out of the building just nine years later, the Times Square name stuck.
The building that was once home to the paper is still a focal point of the square today and is known both for the New Year's Eve ball drop and the red steps behind the historic Father Duffy Statue.
The decades that followed the newspaper's departure saw the area's commercial, entertainment, and tourism appeal develop with high-end hotels like the Knickerbocker and Astor moving in. Both tourists and locals flocked to the square to visit trendy restaurants and take in shows at theaters like the Olympia, Hudson, and Empire.
With each new decade, Times Square evolved as did the country at large, falling prey to the hard times of the Depression only to rebound after World War II.
Then, in the decades that followed, Times Square sank into a long decline. While the area had certainly seen its share of lurid and illicit behavior — soldiers on leave during wartime would often hit the area up in search of prostitutes — Times Square's slip into notorious disrepair truly began in the 1960s. And throughout the 1970s and 1980s, it would become known worldwide for its crime and erotic entertainment, before eventually being cleaned up at the tail end of the 20th century.
Times Square might be a vastly different place now than it was 40, 50, or 60 years ago, but this collection of photos from its early days proves that it's always been an area in flux — much like the city it calls home.
Joel Stice holds a Bachelor's degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with more than 10 years of experience in writing and editing, during which time his work has appeared on Heavy, Uproxx, and Buzzworthy.