How The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons Looked in 1936 – Snapshots Taken From Broadway & 92nd Street
The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was held in 1924. In 1928 helium filled balloons made their first appearance. By the early 1930’s over one million people were attending the parade.
The Thanksgiving Day Parade held on November 26, 1936 was quite a different affair than it is today.
At 1 pm on 110th Street near the south wall of The Church of St. John the Divine just off of Amsterdam Avenue, the paraders and balloons lined up and made their way west to Broadway. The parade route then remained on Broadway for its entire length until it reached Herald Square. There were 2,311 policemen assigned special parade duty along the route, with mounted men to lead the march and bring up the rear. As incredible as this may seem, on the main crosstown arteries of 34th, 42nd and 59th streets, traffic was let through, even if it meant temporarily halting the parade.
The weather for the 1936 parade started out sunny but very cold. By 2:00 pm the sky had filled with dark clouds accompanied by blustery winds. Despite the frigid air, the mile and a half long procession delighted onlookers with a fairy tale theme of helium filled balloons. As you can see by these snapshots taken by an unknown photographer at Broadway and 92nd Street looking north, there was no commercialism in the balloon subjects . The parade featured characters like Humpty Dumpty, Jack in the Box, The Cow Jumping Over the Moon, a 58 foot Indian, a 30 foot turkey, The Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe and a 120 foot fire spewing dragon.
One of the old symbols of New York, Father Diedrich Knickerbocker had a 68 foot balloon. To the delight of children, Father Knickerbocker’s nose got caught in the Ninth Avenue elevated structure at Lincoln Square (65th and 66th Streets at the intersection of Broadway and Columbus Avenue) and his head became separated from his body as helium leaked out of the balloon. An emergency crew was able to do some quick surgery and fill him up with helium and get him going again. The lesson learned, the gigantic dragon balloon was tilted on its side to avoid the same fate and everyone cheered when it cleared the elevated.
Other participants of the parade included an old horsecar filled with people dressed as New Yorker’s from the 1890’s, knights clad in silver armor on horses and people dressed in colonial outfits.
Two things have remained the same since 1936: huge crowds and Santa Claus on a float with his reindeer ending the parade.