History of the Ticker-Tape Parade

By - Monday, February 6th, 2012

Ticker-tape parades are as much a part of a winning season for New York sports teams as showering in champagne and receiving a championship ring. Although the Yankees franchise has taken more trips down the Canyon of Heroes than anyone else, it’s not a privilege reserved exclusively for athletes. Those who have had ticker-tape parades thrown in their honor reads like a whose who of the history books, including Theodore Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, Jesse Owens, Howard Hughes, and Winston Churchill to name a few. There is no specific outline for what constitutes the throwing of a parade, it is decided by the current Mayor in office. In the latter part of the 19th century, skyscrapers replaced low buildings and turned the narrow downtown streets into what seemed like stone canyons, hence the term Canyon of Heroes. Parades were staged along Broadway because it was the broadest, straightest, longest street. All along Broadway, from the Battery to City Hall, hundreds of thousands of spectators crowd the sidewalks and look down from skyscraper windows. To commemorate past parades the downtown alliance has embedded more than 200 black granite strips into the sidewalks of lower Broadway which tell the story of each of the ticker-tape parades that the city has hosted. The term ticker-tape originally referred to the use of the paper output of ticker tape machines, which were remotely-driven devices used in brokerages to provide updated stock market quotes. The tossing of the ticker tape originated during a parade for the dedication of the statue of Liberty in 1886. During the procession, brokerage house workers spontaneously tossed bins full of ticker-tape onto the crowd below, it has been a tradition ever since. The parade on August 14 and August 15 of 1945 which marked the end of World War II covered the Canyon with 5,438 tons of paper, based on estimates provided by the New York City Department of Sanitation. Ticker-tape is obsolete these days yet around 35 tons of the it, amongst other forms of confetti, still manages to end up on the streets at the end of the day when one of these celebrations occur. Nowadays, the paper products are largely waste office paper that have been cut using conventional paper shredders. The city also distributes paper confetti. The largest parade was given for World War II and Korean War General Douglas MacArthur in 1951, after he was summarily relieved of duty by President Harry S. Truman. Through the 1950s, ticker-tape parades were commonly given to any visiting head of state, such as Habib Bourguiba representing the fight over colonialism. In the 1960s, following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, they became increasingly rare. They are generally reserved now for space exploration triumphs, military honors and sports championships. The most recent parade in the Canyon of Heroes was on November 6, 2009 for the New York Yankees in honor of their 27th World Series Championship. The New York Giants will celebrate their victory in the Super Bowl XLVI on tomorrow February 7, 2012 in the Canyon of Heroes.

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