Don’t Rain on My Parade

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.

soldier in uniform w/sunglasses looks down on camera smiling, ticker tape and skyscrapers stretch above him
U.S. Army Private First Class White waves an American flag while the confetti and ticker tape paper fall on the Welcome Home parade honoring the coalition forces of Desert Storm. (NAID 6481498)

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.”

defends ticker tape parades as a place for visitors to see more Americans, and for Americans to enjoy the visitors and spectacle
Letter from Wiley T. Buchanan to Arthur Sulzberger, 10 April 1959 (NAID 302021)

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.

One thought on “Don’t Rain on My Parade

  1. While the ticker-tape parade may have ended for foreign dignitaries in the mid-1960’s, a new venue took its place – one with many of the same traits where the US President could showcase American democracy and spirit. That place was Colonial Williamsburg. It was a favorite spot for Richard Nixon who included Williamsburg on head of state visits. Visitors included: Indira Gandhi in 1966; King Hussein of Jordan in 1969; King Faisal of Saudi Arabia in 1970; Swedish King Carl Gustaf in 1976; Queen Elizabeth visited twice – in 1957 and 50 years later in 2007. President Reagan hosted the Summit of Industrialized Nations there in 1983. (It does seem a little ironic that so many Kings and Queens visited the hub of early American democracy. Of course, they also visited Disneyland in CA and Disneyworld in FL too.

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