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Amazing Vintage Photos of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from the Early Days, 1920s-1950s_teo

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is an American tradition that has been celebrated for almost a century. Every year, millions of people gather on the streets of New York City to witness the iconic parade, featuring massive floats, marching bands, and gigantic helium balloons.

Over the years, the parade has evolved and become more spectacular, but the magic of the early days is still alive in the vintage photographs that capture the spirit of the parade’s origins.

In this article, we will take you on a journey through time with a collection of vintage photographs of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

From the early days of the parade in the 1920s to the 1960s, we will show you stunning images of the massive balloons and colorful floats that captured the imagination of millions of people.

These photographs are not only a fascinating glimpse into the past but also a testament to the creativity and ingenuity of the parade organizers who brought these magnificent spectacles to life.

The first Macy’s parade was held in 1924. In the beginning, this was a rather small, employee-run event. That first parade was mostly employees and animals from the Central Park Zoo. Around 250,000 people attended that first parade.

In 1924, store employees marched to Macy’s Herald Square, the flagship store on 34th Street, dressed in vibrant costumes. There were floats, professional bands and live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo.

At the end of that first parade, Santa Claus was welcomed into Herald Square.At this first parade, Santa was enthroned on the Macy’s balcony at the 34th Street store entrance, where he was then crowned “King of the Kiddies”.

With an audience of over 250,000 people, the parade was such a success that Macy’s declared it would become an annual event, despite media reports only barely covering the first parade.

The Macy’s parade was enough of a success to push Ragamuffin Day, the typical children’s Thanksgiving Day activity from 1870 into the 1920s, into obscurity.

Ragamuffin Day featured children going around and performing a primitive version of trick-or-treating, a practice that by the 1920s had come to annoy most adults.

The public backlash against such begging in the 1930s (when most Americans were struggling in the midst of the Great Depression) led to promotion of alternatives, including Macy’s parade.

While ragamuffin parades that competed with Macy’s would continue into the 1930s, the competition from Macy’s would overwhelm the practice, and the last ragamuffin parade in New York City would take place in 1956.

Macy’s employees are shown dressed as clowns in 1924.

Through the 1930s, the parade continued to grow, with crowds of over one million people lining the parade route in 1933. The first Mickey Mouse balloon entered the parade in 1934.

The annual festivities were broadcast on local radio stations in New York City from 1932 to 1941 and resumed in 1945, running through 1951.

The parade was suspended from 1942 to 1944 as a result of World War II because rubber and helium were needed for the war effort.

The parade resumed in 1945 and became known nationwide shortly afterwards, having been prominently featured in the 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street, which included footage of the 1946 festivities.

The event had its first broadcast on network television in 1948 (see § Television coverage). From 1984 to 2019, the balloons were made by Raven Industries of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, through its Raven Aerostar division.

Since 1985, the parade was traditionally led by the New York City Police Department Highway Patrol. In 2019, the cast of Sesame Street led the parade in honor of the show’s 50th anniversary.

The 1924 Balloonatics float inspired famed puppeteer and Macy’s window designer Tony Sarg to create inflatable upside down marionettes, otherwise known as Macy’s giant helium balloons.

The star of the first and every Macy’s parade, Santa Claus, is seen here on his first float in 1924.

The first few parades did have some major highlights: the floats. The biggest and the best was Santa’s float. Here he is being watched by the crowd in 1925.

Felix the Cat, debuted in the Thanksgiving Day parade in 1927.

Macy’s presented Felix the Cat, its first ever giant inflatable balloon, in 1927.

Felix the Cat giant balloon in 1927.

A parade float from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1927.

A large outdoor float of Captain Nemo makes its way down the street during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, on Nov. 28, 1929.

Anthony Sarg (center) and puppeteers touch up a parade balloon in 1929.

Daschund- Released after conclusion of Parade 1929.

1st Macy’s Parade advertisement – Originally called Macy’s Christmas Parade, on November 26, 1924.

Here’s a floating dachshund.

The only balloon to be modeled after a real person was this one, for entertainer Eddie Cantor.

Father Knickerbocker floats through the streets.

Ferdinand the Bull.

A huge fish from 1938. Looks like something from a Guillermo del Toro movie.

Yarr, the pirate was a fan favorite in early years.

A soldier.

This spaceman was an early favorite, a relic of the space race era.

This Christmas stocking offered floats within a float.

This shot reminds us that the early years overlapped with the golden age of airships, it’s from 1930. The Hindenburg would crash 7 years later.

A clown floats through New York City in the 1940 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

A clown, from 1938.

A large outdoor float of Captain Nemo makes its way down the street during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, on Nov. 28, 1929.

A fish balloon is released as the parade nears its end on Broadway in 1929. They were filled with helium and will drift for a week, with a $100 prize awarded for each one recovered.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade passes down Broadway in New York on Nov. 27, 1930. The parade’s first giant balloons debuted in 1927.

This blind pig is not a speakeasy. He’s coming from the 1932 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. And don’t let that perspective fool you. Mr. Pig is not really over Empire State Building.

Balloons float down Broadway in thirteenth annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, November 25, 1937.


The Tin Man flies high in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in 1939.

A helium inflated Superman rises over Times Square to lead the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1940. According to Macy’s, in 1929, a newly added safety valve allowed helium to slowly seep out of the balloons as they floated above the city’s streets.

A helium-filled alligator is hauled through Times Square during Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in 1949. The parade drew an estimated 2,000,000 spectators.

Popeye, the sailor, flexes his muscles as he gets ready to parade in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in 1957. Popeye stands 56 feet tall, 32 feet wide and he’s filled with 6,000 cubic feet of helium. Thirteen bands will provide music for march.

A giant turkey float squeezes between buildings as the 31st annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade moves down Broadway near 37th Street in New York, Nov. 28, 1957.

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