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Ticker-Tape Parades

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Fresh off their 27th World Series win, the New York Yankees will take a victory lap through lower Manhattan this morning. It will be their record-setting ninth trip down the so-called “Canyon of Heroes,” the skyscraper-lined stretch from the island’s southern tip to City Hall. And if past ticker-tape parades for sports champions are any guide, they can expect to be showered with up to 50 tons of confetti and shredded paper.

The stock ticker — a machine that tracked financial data over telegraph lines and stamped it on strips called “ticker-tape” for the sound the printing made — had barely been around two decades before Wall Streeters realized that throwing its ribbony paper out the window was a fun way to celebrate. They first did it on October 29, 1886, inspired by the ceremony to dedicate the Statue of Liberty. The practice was still a novelty ten years later, when the New York Times reported that office workers had “hit on a new and effective scheme of adding to the decorations” at a parade for presidential candidate William McKinley by unfurling hundreds of ticker-tape reels out the window.

By 1899 two million people turned out to make Admiral George Dewey, hero of the Battle of Manila Bay, the first individual honored with a ticker-tape parade. Former President Teddy Roosevelt got one in 1910 upon returning from his African safari. But it wasn’t until 1919, when Grover Whalen was made New York City’s official greeter, that ticker-tape parades took off: from 1919 to 1953 he reportedly threw 86 of them, many at the urging of the State Department. The luminaries he feted in his early years included Albert Einstein in 1921 — the only scientist ever honored with a ticker-tape parade — as well as the U.S. Olympic team in 1924 and Charles Lindbergh in 1927. By then, of course, the tradition had spread: thousands of Chicagoans showered boxer Gene Tunney with paper that year when he arrived in the city to defend his world title; Boston and St. Louis have also held ticker-tape parades, though New York remains their epicenter.

However, all were not happy. A 1904 letter to the editor urged the New York Times to speak out against the “evil” practice, suggesting that parade horses spooked by falling ticker tape might plow into the crowd on the sidewalk and cause “disaster.” A few years later, an overzealous reveler reportedly neglected to tear the pages out of a phone book and instead threw the whole thing out the window; it struck a passerby and knocked him unconscious. By 1926, New York Stock Exchange officials had grown concerned about the cost of tossing miles of ticker tape out the window any time someone important came to town: they considered buying confetti to distribute to employees but decided against it. In 1932, another irate Times letter-writer demanded that lobbing paper be “promptly and strictly banned,” to be replaced by tossing flowers or waving handkerchiefs, the more dignified customs of “civilized cities” in Europe and South America.

In 1945, V-J Day prompted the most lavish ticker-tape parade in history–5,438 tons of material were flung on New York City’s streets. On Aug. 14, 1945, three thousand street-sweepers worked through the night to clean it up, only to have their efforts undone when the merriment continued the next morning. A few months earlier, General Dwight Eisenhower and the Allied Forces were celebrated at the same canyon. The April 20, 1951 parade honoring ousted General Douglas MacArthur was the biggest parade thrown for an individual. [Above, photo by Mark Kauffman].

Queen Elizabeth (and her uncle Edward while he was still Prince of Wales) and Pope John Paul II received a ticker-tape parades  and so did the Yankees, the Mets and the Rangers. The Apollo 11 astronauts were also honored, but by this time, the Stock Exchange was upgrading to electronic boards, leaving them little use for ticker tape, and the parades dwindled. There were only a handful in the 1970s and 1980s. John Glenn saw a fete in 1998 honoring him for becoming the oldest person to go into space, at age 77. Coming 36 years after his first one, it put him in an elite club of multiple-parade honorees, including Amelia Earhart, Dwight Eisenhower, and Charles de Gaulle. Rear Admiral Richard Byrd, a polar explorer, had three ticker-tape parades. That is a record for one individual.

[Excepted from Laura FitzPatrick’s article in Time Magazine].

Wrong_Way_CorriganNew York Post cover, featuring the tickertape parade to honor “Wrong-Way Corrigan”.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

November 6, 2009 at 9:57 am

3 Responses

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  1. Your blog is really really awesome.

    Pablo

    November 7, 2009 at 9:33 pm

  2. […] image found here […]

  3. […] returned triumphant. Half a million greeted him on his arrival in San Francisco; New York threw him the biggest ticker-tape parade ever, with five million people turning out to see MacArthur. The general gave an address to a defiant […]


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