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Friday, October 31, 2008

The Ticker Tape Parade

With so many anniversaries this week (the opening of the first subway; the Great Crash of 1929), it was easy to overlook that the city’s most famous statue—Frederic August Bartholdi’s Liberty Enlightening the World, aka the Statue of Libertyturned 122 years old on October 28.

The official grand opening in the harbor was followed by a parade up Broadway from Battery Park. It was during that parade that some enterprising office worker in one of the brokerage houses on Broadway decided to turn his company’s used ticker tape into confetti. Thus was born the ticker tape parade, an enduring New York tradition.

The parades took a while to catch on. The next one was for Admiral Dewey, hero of the Spanish-American War, following his return from Manila. Then ten years went by before the next parade, for Jack Binns, the radio operator of the RMS Republic. (The Republic had struck the SS Florida in January; because the ship was equipped with wireless radio, Binns was able to send a Mayday signal and the passengers and crew were rescued.)

In the 1920s ticker tape parades really started to take off. The parades, under the purview of the mayor’s office, were mostly given to arriving dignitaries, sports heroes, or pioneers in flight. The two busiest years were 1951 and 1962, which each had 9 parades. In 1962, honorees were as diverse as John Glenn, the New York Yankees, and Archbishop Makarios of Cyprus.

The Yankees hold the record for most parades at eight. While a handful of individuals have been feted twice (including Glenn), only one person has been honored three times—Admiral Richard E. Byrd, the polar aviator and explorer.

If you find yourself in Lower Manhattan, take a stroll up Broadway from Battery Park. All the recipients of ticker tape parades are commemorated in plaques in the sidewalk.

More about ticker tape parades—including what was at the time the biggest ever held for the Apollo astronauts in 1969—can be found in Inside the Apple, which is available for pre-order now.

[Photo by StormyDog on flickr.]

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