Superman and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a History!
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade started in the 1920’s by Macy’s department store employees. The employees, many first-generation immigrants proud of their new American heritage wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving with the type of festival their parents had enjoyed in Europe.
In 1924, the annual Thanksgiving parade started by Louis Bamberger in Newark, New Jersey at the Bamberger’s store was transferred to New York by Macy’s. In New York, the employees marched to Macy’s flagship store on 34th Street dressed in vibrant costumes. There were floats, professional bands and live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. At the end of that first parade, as has been the case with every parade since, Santa Claus was welcomed into Herald Square.
Anthony Frederick Sarg loved to work with marionettes from an early age. Sarg moved from London to New York City to perform with his puppets on the street. Macy’s heard about Sarg’s talents and asked him to design a window display of a parade for the store. Three years into the parade, Macy’s replaced the live animals with Sarg’s large animal-shaped balloons, which were produced by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio. 1927 saw the debut of the Felix the Cat balloon.
Over the next decade, slowly but surely more balloons were added. 1934 saw the debut of Mickey Mouse, 1935 The Marx Bros and Donald Duck and 1938 Uncle Sam debuted. In 1939, they added their eighth balloon, an 80 foot Superman! The balloon was so large it needed to be handled by 50 people.
Actual footage was captured in 1939 of the Superman balloon, enjoy!
In 1966 the second Superman balloon debuted after the decision was made to retire the 1939 balloon. The 1966 Superman balloon was similar in size and was posed in an upright position like the 1939 balloon.
Not much, but the only known footage of the 1966 balloon.
1982 saw the debut of the third Superman balloon, It was the last balloon made by Goodyear. It was the largest balloon ever made for the parade and took a whopping 14,000 cubic feet of helium to inflate it. The balloon measured out at 104 feet long and 35 feet wide. The third Superman balloon was created to place Superman in a horizontal flying pose. The 1982 balloon was ranked #10 by mtv’s The Definitive Style Ranking of the 27 Best Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons of all time.
Superman got his hand torn off after striking a tree in 1986, no injuries were reported.
The Superman balloon was retired after 1987, probably due to it’s size and will most likely hold it’s designation as the largest balloon to ever appear in The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. In 1997 New York city passed a rule limiting the size of the bigger balloons in the parade after A Cat in the Hat balloon that was over 80 feet long was caught by heavy 40 miles per hour winds and knocked down a street lamp into a group of people. 34-year-old Kathleen Caronna was in a coma for 22 days and ended up suffering brain damage and vision impairment after a cross member from the lamp post struck her in the face.
This eliminated Bugs Bunny, Woody Woodpecker, the Pink Panther and of course the Cat in the Hat balloons. The ban applied to all balloons exceeding 78 feet in length, 40 feet in width or 70 feet in height.