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A History of New York City's Ticker-Tape Parades

By Nicole Levy | July 9, 2015 7:50am | Updated on July 9, 2015 9:02am

Temperatures this week in the city will hover in the 80s, but the Friday forecast calls for a blizzard.

A blizzard of paper strips an inch wide, that is.

This Friday at 11 a.m., New York City will salute the U.S. women’s soccer team and its World Cup championship win with a ticker-tape parade on that stretch of Broadway known as The Canyon of Heroes.

The parade will be the first the city has held in honor of a women’s team and the first since 1998 to celebrate a group other than a local sports team.

The tale of the ticker-tape parade begins in 1886 with a procession for the dedication of the Statue of Liberty. The tradition gets its name from the one-inch-wide ribbon of paper on which a machine called a ticker printed stock quotes transmitted over telegraph lines. In the 1880s, brokerage firms dotted Lower Manhattan and skyscrapers were replacing squat buildings in the neighborhood; the firms provided confetti, the skyscrapers a perch for its tossing.

Over the past 128 years and 205 parades, the city has given astronauts its papery commendation — with ticker-tape until the ‘60s, then strips of recycled office paper — seven times, pilots 16, foreign monarchs 18, and armed servicemen 33. According to a list compiled by the Downtown Alliance, it has feted a pope, a pianist and and a passel of presidents.

Aviator Amelia Earhart, golf pro Bobby Jones, and Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie could all say they’d had two parades held in their honor. And it’s no surprise that the Yankees can boast they've had four more parades than the Mets’ three.

Here's a timeline of a few notable New York City ticker-tape parades and the events and people they celebrated:

► October 28, 1886: About 300,000 men march in the parade on the day of the Statue of Liberty’s dedication, a ceremony that President Grover Cleveland presides over. But a land parade isn’t enough fanfare for the gift from France; a naval parade take place in New York bay.

 June 18, 1910: Theodore Roosevelt, then former President of the United States, docks in New York after an expedition to Africa. New Yorkers watching the parade greet him with calls of “Teddy! Teddy! Bully for you!” and clutch souvenirs like miniature teddy bears and jungle hats with ribbons bearing Teddy’s favorite word, “delighted.” 

► August 27, 1926: The parade for Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim across the English channel, draws a reported 2 million people. Born in New York City, Ederle was only 20 years old at the time. 

 June 13, 1927: Twice as many well-wishers gather to cheer on Charles Lindbergh, not long after he had completed the first-ever solo airplane flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Paris had already celebrated Lucky Lindy’s accomplishment, but New York City wasn’t about to be outdone; in a New York Times article, the aviator described his Big Apple reception as “much more overwhelming than all the others.” 

► September 3, 1936:  Jesse Owens, the track and field athlete who embarrassed Hitler and his theory of Aryan superiority by winning four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics, and his U.S. Olympic teammates get a parade. Owens receives more than just praise during the procession; someone hands him a paper bag containing $10,000 in cash. 

► April 20, 1951: The city holds a parade for Korean War General Douglas MacArthur, by some accounts its largest. The Sanitation Department collects 3,249 tons of paper in its wake; to put that in perspective, it will later pick up a mere 36.5 tons after a 2008 parade for the New York Giants.

 April 12, 1962: New York City hosts a parade for the Mets the day after they play their first official game as a new team in the National League. Players ride in convertibles and a crowd of 40,000 show up to cheer them on, despite a snowy forecast.

► August 13, 1969: New York is the first stop on a one-day transcontinental tour for Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, the first men to land on the moon. Along their parade route, a sign hung by a greeting card shop on Broadway says, “We’ve gone lunar over you.”

 June 20, 1990: Nelson Mandela, a symbol of resistance to South African apartheid, takes an obligatory picture with the Statue of Liberty before setting off up Broadway. He rides in a vehicle called the Mandelamobile, a flatbed truck outfitted with a bulletproof glass shelter.

February 7, 2012: After winning the Super Bowl, the New York Giants are treated to the city’s most recent ticker-tape parade. Fans throw footballs to the players, who autograph and send them right back. Naturally, the confetti falling is blue and white, the team's colors.