Tom Pappalardo of Standard Design recalls that he found this 8mm reel of the 1939 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade at a western Massachusetts junk shop. He held onto it for a decade, unwatched, until this year when he began viewing all his “mystery reels” and found the parade footage. That year’s parade featured larger-than-life characters like the Fisher Price Snoopy Sniffer pull toy, a Pinocchio with an enormous nose, the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz (which was released that year), Old King Cole, Uncle Sam, a tied-down Gulliver and more.
…In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt launched the celebration of Thanksgiving a week early, on the next-to-last (instead of the last) Thursday in November. The purpose was to extend the Christmas shopping season and thus stimulate the economy. Legally, his proclamation only applied to Washington, D.C., but several state governors followed suit and adopted his proclamation in their own states. There was much confusion that year and the following year about when to celebrate Thanksgiving. Macy’s held its 1939 parade on the 23rd of November instead of the 30th, and thus participated in the prolonging of the Christmas season.
The 1939 parade also demonstrated important advances in technology that the country was experiencing. For the first time, there were no horse-drawn vehicles in the parade. Instead, tractors towed the floats down the streets.