Today’s post was written by David Langbart, archivist in Research Services at the National Archives at College Park, MD.
New York City has seen many ticker-tape parades. Presidents. Prime Ministers. Kings. Queens. Astronauts. Sports figures and teams. Politicians. Even one musician. All have ridden through the high rise canyon of the Big Apple as the ticker-tape and shredded paper floated down and people cheered.
On March 24, 1959, the New York Times published an editorial entitled “The Well-Papered Parade.” In it, the Times questioned the “lavishness, frequency, and artificiality” of the parades, noting their cost to the city. The editorial closed with:
New York City enjoys playing host to notables, and it plays a constructive role in our foreign relations with the warm official welcomes given. But these welcomes will not be less warm if they are given simply, sensibly and with less expense, including the disruption of the official and business day.
A list on Wikipedia lists 29 parades in the previous 9 years just for foreign dignitaries, not to mention the American military leaders, sports figures and teams, and other notables for a grand total for that period of 58 parades.
In response to the criticism by the New York Times, Wiley T. Buchanan, Jr., the Chief of Protocol in the Department of State, sent the following letter to Arthur H. Sulzberger, publisher of that newspaper, defending the “thrilling” spectacle of a New York City parade, something he clearly believed was the premier example of this “typical American institution.”
The parades have continued despite the editorial criticism, although events that featured foreign visitors ended in the mid-1960s with the notable exceptions of Pope John Paul II in 1979 and Nelson Mandela in 1990.
Source: Wiley T. Buchanan, Jr. to Arthur H. Sulzberger, April 10, 1959, file 033.0011/4—1059, 1955-59 Central Decimal File (NAID 302021), RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.