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December 27, 2017

Check out these vintage photos of the Mummers Parade in Philly

Decades-old images illustrate city's New Year's Day tradition

History Mummers Parade
mummers parade 1982 TEMPLE UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES, PHILADELPHIA, PA./COURTESY OF THE SPECIAL COLLECTIONS RESEARCH CENTER

Joseph M. Guanere and other shooters of a Pural Club comic brigade present an 'Autumnfest Clowne' theme in the 1982 Mummers Parade.

The Mummers Parade conjures images of ornate costumes, long-standing cultural traditions, intricate performances – and, at times, controversy – in the minds of many Philadelphians.

The word "mummer" derives from the mythological Greek god Momus, who was the personification of satire or mockery, and ancient Romans commemorated the festival of Saturnalia – in honor of the god Saturn – in December each year, donning masks and satirizing current events.


RELATED: For WMMR’s Jacky Bam Bam, Mummers’ the word


By the 17th century, Swedish settlers around Philadelphia had reinterpreted the tradition, keeping the costumes as they chanted and shot firearms in hope neighbors would give them dessert and alcohol on Christmas. Even President George Washington got in on the Mummer tradition in Philly, which then took place in the week leading up to New Year’s Day.

In the 1800s, mummers were prohibited from shooting firearms during the parade – it’s hard to imagine that tradition not wreaking chaos among the crowds on 2 Street today – and for a time, even temporarily banned from masquerading in Philly.

But mummers continued to dress up for – an often boozy – mockery of the year’s events. By 1901, New Year's Day became the official day of the Mummers Parade, making it the oldest folk festival in the country. Among some mummers clubs, the drunken and rowdy behavior is has endured, and particularly in recent years, there have been allegations of gross insensitivity levied at some of the parade's participants.

Now the countdown 2018 Mummers Parade is well underway. Before the next chapter of Philadelphia's New Years Day tradition takes place, take a look at these photos from the parade through the years.

The images below are courtesy of the Temple University Libraries Special Collections Research Center (found here on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram). This year's Mummers Parade begins at 9 a.m. on Jan. 1, and for more information – including a link to the parade route map – visit the parade's official website.

COURTESY OF THE SPECIAL COLLECTIONS RESEARCH CENTER/TEMPLE UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

A mummer struts in the 1916 Mummers Parade, wearing a large costume and holding an umbrella.

COURTESY OF THE SPECIAL COLLECTIONS RESEARCH CENTER/TEMPLE UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

A mummer marches down Broad Street during the Mummers Parade on New Year's Day in 1921.

COURTESY OF THE SPECIAL COLLECTIONS RESEARCH CENTER/TEMPLE UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

Mummer William Murphy wears a large costume during the 1924 Mummers Parade.

COURTESY OF THE SPECIAL COLLECTIONS RESEARCH CENTER/TEMPLE UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

Louis Young, 64, is pictured in costume during the 1926 Mummers Parade. Young was the oldest participating mummer in that year's parade.

COURTESY OF THE SPECIAL COLLECTIONS RESEARCH CENTER/TEMPLE UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

Joseph Napoleon, a youth member of Jack Hines' Old Timers, is dressed as a king jockey for the 1928 Mummers Parade on Broad Street in Philadelphia.

COURTESY OF THE SPECIAL COLLECTIONS RESEARCH CENTER/TEMPLE UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

Eddie McGlinchey, of the Silver Crown Club and one of 18 mummers in the McGlinchey family, marches with other young mummers along Broad Street in Philadelphia during the 1928 Mummers Parade.

COURTESY OF THE SPECIAL COLLECTIONS RESEARCH CENTER/TEMPLE UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

Two mummers dressed as women pose with their parasols at the 1940 Mummers Parade.

COURTESY OF THE SPECIAL COLLECTIONS RESEARCH CENTER/TEMPLE UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

Two mummers in elaborate costumes pose at the 1941 Mummers Parade.

COURTESY OF THE SPECIAL COLLECTIONS RESEARCH CENTER/TEMPLE UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

Dorothy O'Keefe, 20, who dressed as a page and attempted to march in the 1945 Mummers' Parade, is told by parade director George McClernand that she may not participate. At the time, acting as a page would classify her as mummer, and “only men and boys [could] be mummers.”

COURTESY OF THE SPECIAL COLLECTIONS RESEARCH CENTER/TEMPLE UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

The Wheeler Fancy Club (later the Golden Sunrise Association) presents its 'Sweetheart' suit, left, carried by Anthony Fendo, and its 'Stardust' display, shouldered by George Keenan. Both costumes were worn during the the 1954 Mummers Parade

COURTESY OF THE SPECIAL COLLECTIONS RESEARCH CENTER/TEMPLE UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

James Donaghy leads the South Philadelphia String Band during the 1966 Mummers Parade in Philadelphia.

COURTESY OF THE SPECIAL COLLECTIONS RESEARCH CENTER/TEMPLE UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

Oregon Fancy Club captain James Young, Sr., of Marlton, New Jersey, follows 14-year-old Richard Parker, of South Philadelphia, in the club's Romans and Crusaders presentation during the 1970 Mummers Parade.

COURTESY OF THE SPECIAL COLLECTIONS RESEARCH CENTER/TEMPLE UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

The Woodland String Band performs at the 1971 Mummers Parade.

COURTESY OF THE SPECIAL COLLECTIONS RESEARCH CENTER/TEMPLE UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

Members of the Alpha Brigade of the Oregon Club in the Fancy Division dance in the 1977 Mummers Parade.

COURTESY OF THE SPECIAL COLLECTIONS RESEARCH CENTER/TEMPLE UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

'Rocky' leads the Garden State String band during the 1978 Mummers Parade on South Broad Street in Philadelphia.

COURTESY OF THE SPECIAL COLLECTIONS RESEARCH CENTER/TEMPLE UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

Bruce Rothman, of the Liberty Fancy Division, clears snow off a windshield at 17th and Moore streets in South Philadelphia, before the start of the Mummers Parade in 1979.

COURTESY OF THE SPECIAL COLLECTIONS RESEARCH CENTER/TEMPLE UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

Young marchers with the Landi Comic Club brightened South Broad Street during the 1982 Mummers Parade.

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