Wednesday, November 20, 2013

From the Archives: Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

BPC archivist, Anne Kumer, takes a look back at the origins of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in part one of our two part Thanksgiving posts. This post also appears on NYC Circa.

The holidays are upon us, and next week, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will wind its way down Central Park West and Sixth Avenue, right past Bryant Park towards the Macy's flagship store at 34th Street and Broadway.

The first Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade took place on November 27, 1924. At the time, it was called the Macy's Christmas Parade, and featured animals form the Central Park Zoo. In 1927 the parade featured the first giant character balloons, held up by store employees, and one year later, the parade debuted giant helium balloons designed by illustrator and puppeteer Tony Sarg.

From 1927 to 1983, every balloon was fabricated by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in Akron Ohio. The University of Akron currently holds the company's archive, which includes a great collection of Macy's Parade float photos. All of the images below, except for the wartime poster, are from that collection.

Tony Sarg with one of his creations at the Goodyear Rubber and Tire Co. in Ohio, 1933. Image: University of Akron

Here, a 9-story tall Gulliver balloon is accompanied by several animal friends including "Tom-kat" and "Jerry the Pig," 1933. Image: University of Akron

In 1942, Macy's balloons were deflated, and the rubber and helium donated in support of the WWII effort.

The yearly parade resumed in 1945, two weeks after the end of WWII, and has been a highly anticipated event ever since.

Crowds gather outside of Macy's celebrated widows at the flagship store on 34th Street, 1945. Image: University of Akron

Other Sources:
1. Gripo, Robert; Christopher Loskins. Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
2. Sullivan, Robert (Ed.). Life: America's Parade: A Celebration of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

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