In honor of Thanksgiving, I gathered some gorgeous pictures from the early years of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade just for you.
Macy’s lore indicates that the tradition was initiated by some of Macy’s employees, first-generation immigrants who wanted to continue their European traditions here. Take that with a grain (or a pound) of salt.
All the photos are linked to their sources, most of which are really cool too and have more pictures! So go ahead, click through to see more!
The first parade featured Macy’s employees in colorful costumes, floats, bands, and real live animals from the Central Park Zoo! More than a quarter of a million people came to the parade in 1924, at which point Macy’s declared it an annual celebration.
We can thank Tony Sarg for the introduction of colossal balloons into the parade. Sarg lived in London to start his own marionette business (!) before moving to New York City to perform with his puppets there. Macy’s asked Sarg to design a window display of a parade for the store, where he created scale model balloons. Felix the Cat was the first balloon in the parade in 1927 (at which point the real animals no longer had to participate).
The most unbelievable fact about the first years of the Macy’s parade is that the balloons were released into the sky! After they unexpectedly burst in 1928, the balloons in subsequent years had safety valves so they could float for a few days. Address labels were sewn into them, so that whoever found and mailed back the discarded balloon received a gift from Macy’s.
Here’s the first appearance of Mickey Mouse in 1934. Look at this guy in the front right!!
The parade was suspended 1942–1944 during World War II because of the need for rubber and helium.
I think this is Pinocchio…
Here’s a cool spaceman.
The Tin Man from 1939. Check the cool home video below to see him and Pinocchio in color!
My favorite thing about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is how changing the point of view creates super-bizarre (and menacing) scenes. Ghostbusters had it right, these are eerie!
Here are two by Magnum photographer Elliott Erwitt, both from 1988.