What Exactly Is a Ticker-Tape Parade? All About the History of These Iconic Celebrations

Interesting facts you may not have known about ticker-tape parades.

Ticker-tape parades began on a whim. There was a parade taking place in New York City on October 28, 1886, to honor the dedication of the Statue of Liberty. That fateful day, oh, so long ago, started what would become quite a tradition—a type of celebration that still happens today.

The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France, and President Grover Cleveland presided over the ceremony. Afterward, as the parade loomed down Broadway, an odd thing occurred.

People who were working in the business district started throwing ticker tape out the windows. Little did they know that the casual sprinkling of those small pieces of paper would, by 1910, officially become a tradition when hosting a parade for notable people and events.

Below is everything you need to know about the incredible story of the ticker-tape parade and how they became what they are today.

What is a ticker-tape parade?

A ticker-tape parade is like a normal parade, but with floating ticker-tape paper that slowly and gently covers the parade (and parade goers) down below the skyrise windows that they are released from.

Ticker-tape parades were a way to celebrate those people at the head of significant events, as well as events themselves (for example, presidential candidates, end of wars, heads of state like the Queen, men on the moon, etc.).

These parades could be held in just about any large city, but when people think “ticker-tape parade,” the Big Apple is normally the first to come to mind, along with the political stronghold of our capital, Washington, D.C.

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Why do they call it a ticker-tape parade?

The celebration is considered a ticker-tape parade because up until the 1960s or so, people would toss out ticker tape from windows—practically snowing paper onto the parade below.

Ticker tape is what was used to transmit stock price information over telegraph lines using Morse code. This form of communication was used from the mid-1800s until around 1970, when this technology was superseded by televisions and computers—rendering it obsolete.

Apollo 11 ticker-tape parade in 1969.<p>HUM Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images</p>
Apollo 11 ticker-tape parade in 1969.

HUM Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

What’s the difference between confetti and ticker tape?

Not much is different about confetti and ticker tape. They are both small pieces of paper, and for parades, thrown out from above as an "extra" dab of festivity. Ticker tape is simply specific to the machine that used it.

Ticker tape was more like a paper ribbon, while confetti can be made of almost any small, shredded paper. Nowadays, confetti is used for parades instead of ticker tape because ticker tape is no longer used in a business setting.

Instead, recycled and biodegradable forms of confetti are thrown out onto large parades or events (like New Year’s Eve in New York City).

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What year was the first ticker-tape parade?

The first ticker-tape parade spontaneously took place in 1886. Two more of these events followed—one in April 1889 for George Washington's inauguration, and another in September 1899 when Admiral George Dewey returned home from his victory in the Battle of Manila Bay in the Philippines.

However, ticker-tape parades were not "officially sanctioned" until the next one took place— a parade for Teddy Roosevelt on June 18, 1910. The parade, in all of its grandeur, was declared "a hero's welcome" for the former president's return from an African safari. It's estimated that there were around one million spectators for the event.

New York City alone has held over 200 ticker-tape parades to date!

Where are ticker-tape parades held?

A ticker-tape parade could happen in any large urban city—especially in notable locations like New York, Washington, D.C. and Chicago.

New York has had the most ticker-tape parades since their conception, and these have been held along the section of Broadway known as the "Canyon of Heroes.” The route begins at Bowling Green and ends at City Hall Park in Manhattan.

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"Hometown Heroes" ticker-tape parade in 2021.<p>Alejandra Villa Loarca/Newsday RM via Getty Images</p>
"Hometown Heroes" ticker-tape parade in 2021.

Alejandra Villa Loarca/Newsday RM via Getty Images

Famous people honored by ticker-tape parades

From celebrating the Pope to the Queen, Olympic heroes to presidential nominees, and more, there have been plenty of notable ticker-tape parades throughout history.

Here are just some of the most recognizable names that have been bestowed a ticker-tape parade in their honor.

Theodore Roosevelt

June 18, 1910 – Following his return from an African expedition.

U.S. Olympic Games Athletes

August 6, 1924 — On their return from Paris.

Gertrude Ederle

August 27, 1926 – Gertrude Ederle was the first woman to swim the English Channel (which she did on August 6, 1926).

Charles Lindbergh

June 13, 1927 — Celebrating the first solo nonstop transatlantic flight.

Amelia Earhart

July 6, 1928 — Honored as the first woman to complete a transatlantic flight, alongside Wilmer Stultz, and Louis E. Gordon.

Jesse Owens

September 3, 1936 — Following his win of four gold medals in the 1936 Summer Olympics.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower

June 19, 1945 — Celebrating the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in World War II

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip

October 21, 1957 — Welcoming the royals as they arrived on a visit to New York.

Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins

August 13, 1969 – Following the Apollo 11 mission to the moon (the first manned moon landing).

New York Mets

October 20, 1969 – Celebrating the New York baseball team's World Series championship.

The most recent ticker-tape parade in NYC was the "Hometown Heroes" ticker-tape parade on July 7, 2021, thanking and celebrating healthcare professionals and essential workers for their labor during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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