Who knows where the desire to celebrate and remember times past can lead us? For the employees at Macy’s department store, it led to one of the most celebrated events in America.
“A marathon of mirth!” is what people were promised in the Macy’s newspaper advertisements in November 1924. The roaring twenties had been good to the quickly growing department store, and they decided that the best publicity stunt would be to stage an elaborate Christmas parade on Thanksgiving Day, and it did not disappoint.
That first parade, which would later become known as Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, was resplendent with floats that echoed the nursery rhyme theme of Macy’s window displays: the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, Little Red Red Hood, and Little Miss Muffet. Four bands brought the music, employees dressed up as an assortment of characters including Santa Claus, and a menagerie of animals on loan from the Central Park Zoo paraded down 34th street.
It was a smashing success, and Macy’s promptly announced that they would hold a parade again the following year.
The iconic helium balloons did not come into the parade until several years later: some of the lively and loud animals frightened the children, so the idea was formed to make balloon animals in their place. In 1928 Felix the Cat had the honor of being the first-ever giant helium balloon to grace the parade, with characters like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck appearing in future parades.
Photos courtesy of Macy's Inc.