What’s Up with Ticker-Tape Parades?


After coming across multiple references to ticker-tape parades in the last few weeks, I got thinking. How did this whole ticker-tape parade thing ever get started? One of the wonders of the internet is that any question, no matter how random, can be answered in moments. Wikipedia does an admirable job of explaining the phenomenon:

The term originated in New York City after a spontaneous celebration held on October 28, 1886 during the dedication of the Statue of Liberty, and is still most closely associated with New York City. The term ticker-tape originally referred to the use of the paper output of ticker tape machines, which were remotely-driven devices used in brokerages to provide updated stock market quotes. Nowadays, the paper products are largely waste office paper that have been cut using conventional paper shredders. The city also distributes paper confetti.

Admittedly, waste-office-paper parade doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. Still, there is something that just feels wrong about a ticker-tape parade that employs anything other than ticker-tape. Also, having a city hand out confetti so the whole thing can come together feels disingenuous. Though, I do understand the spontaneous thing for the first parade in 1886. Want to celebrate that shiny new statue by chucking all this paper out the window? Sign me up.

My original question answered, I moved on. Are ticker-tape parades less popular now that we don’t have all that ticker-tape? Wikipedia to the rescue again. Yes, there has indeed been a serious decline in the number of ticker-tape parades in New York since the obsolescence of ticker-tape in the 1970s. Here’s a swanky graph I made from the data:

Ticker Tape Parade by Decade

I found tons of other interesting tidbits too. Amelia Earhart got two ticker-tape parades in her honor before she went missing. Lots of royalty got them in the old days too, though now they seem reserved for sport teams. As you can see above, there was a huge surge in the 50s and 60s. My hunch is ticker-tape obsolescence was widely predicted, and that it held on for much longer than anticipated. Everyone thought: we better get one last ticker-tape parade in before it’s too late. There were three-ticker tape parades in June of 1962 alone. How can a single month ever offer that much worthy of so much celebration?

Oh, and in case you can’t tell. I started writing a new novel, and I’m willing to accept any excuse at all to not work on it. Perhaps we should have a ticker-tape parade?

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