Celebrating New York

Celebrating New York

Ticker-Tape Parades, Media & the Global City

by Michael C. Bienert

Historian Michael C. Bienert lays out the story of how ticker-tape parades in New York progressively emerged as large-scale events like no other. Other cities did indeed have similar parades. But those hosted by the metropolis on the Hudson became iconic, and intimately bound up with its global image and prestige.

As the city developed into an economic powerhouse in the late nineteenth century, the parades emerged and grew in stature and importance. But by the early twentieth century, just as the USA began to take a central place on the global stage, the political and business leaders of New York sought to lift the city’s designation from “first metropolis” to one of being a truly “global city”. Figures like Lewis Rodman Wanamaker, Grover Whalen and James “Jimmy” Walker, each saw an opportunity to use the parades as a means to this end, by crafting a new, dynamic image of the city that could resonate internationally.

At the confluence of this zeal to promote the city and the economic expansion that powered it, were also the newly emerged media forms of radio and film – and New York took full advantage of them. Those who ran the city and those who ran the media found a common cause. 

Celebrating New York examines the interplay of these elements – the city’s leaders, media, the dynamics of the parades, and importantly the role of its inhabitants – and how they combined to create an iconic image of a global city. The book then concludes with a reflection on why Berlin, the author’s home city, never had ticker-tape parades. A reflection that not only tells us something about Berlin, but also reinforces what was so unique about New York.