November 21, 2017

The wonderful – and occasionally weird – Philly Thanksgiving Day Parade captured in old photos

This marks the 98th year of the city's holiday tradition, making it the oldest in the United States

History Parades
thanksgiving parade 1964 wildcat COURTESY OF THE SPECIAL COLLECTIONS RESEARCH CENTER/TEMPLE UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

A wildcat balloon float for the 1964 Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia is seen here in front of the the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Thursday dozens of parade floats and celebrities will crowd Benjamin Franklin Parkway to kick off the holiday season. Though now known officially as the 6ABC Dunkin Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade, the celebration has seen several iterations – and a few different names – since first introduced in 1920.

The event is the oldest Thanksgiving parade in the United States, making Philadelphia the first to ever commemorate the holiday with hovering floats and numerous performances stretching across city blocks. New York didn’t catch on to play copycat until a few years later, in 1924.

When the parade first launched, it was known then as the Gimbels Thanksgiving Day Parade, named after its longtime sponsor before the department store shuttered in 1986. Since then, the parade has had several different names, including Boscov's and Ikea, among others, before landing a deal with Dunkin Donuts in 2011.

Today the parade route covers 1.4 miles of miles and holds the honor of being the first parade to feature a float with an ice rink on it – a spectacle used in 2007 and borrowed from “High School Musical: The Ice Tour.”

Look through the parade’s long history below, and then make plans to head to the 98th annual Thanksgiving Day Parade yourself.

The black and white photos below are from the Temple University Libraries Special Collections Research Center (found here on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram).

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

Crowds packed Market Street to watch the 1961 Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia. Here balloons depicting “Pussycat” and “Piggy Wig with a Ring” are led toward Gimbels department store, which sponsored the parade for years.

NoneJacqueline Larma/AP

Crowds watch the annual Thanksgiving Day parade in Philadelphia Thursday Nov. 25, 2004. In the background is City Hall Tower.

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

A three-wheeled car entertains the crowd on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway during the 1977 Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia.

NoneJoseph Kaczmarek/AP

David Caddick drives a small car while dressed as 'Digger the clown' during the 92nd annual Thanksgiving day parade in Philadelphia on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2011.

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

Two children stand on a ladder to get a better view of the 1969 Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia.

NoneJoseph Kaczmarek/AP

Irina Ahissou, 5, waves to Santa Claus as she sits on the shoulders of her brother Stely Ahissou, 12, during the 93rd annual Thanksgiving day parade, Thursday Nov. 22, 2012, in Philadelphia.

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

Mother Goose waves to the crowd on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway during the 1968 Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia.

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

Spectators lined the parade route near 21st Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway during the 1976 Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia.

NoneJoseph Kaczmarek/AP

Children wave to Santa Claus during the2016 Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia.

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

A balloon of Dino from 'The Flintstones' is prepared for the 1965 Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia.

NoneJoseph Kaczmarek/AP

Handlers make the T-Rex balloon bite a parade volunteer during the 2016 Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia.

NoneJoseph Kaczmarek/AP

The Mistletoes the Snowman balloon make its way down J.F.K. Boulevard during the 95th annual Thanksgiving day parade, Thursday Nov. 27, 2014, in Philadelphia.

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

Vampire and giraffe balloons seen here were featured in the 1965 Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia.

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

Floats, balloons and marching bands move along Benjamin Franklin Parkway during the 46th annual Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1965.

NoneJoseph Kaczmarek/AP

Handlers walk a turkey balloon down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway during the 2016 Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia

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

George Washington crossing the Delaware River was a popular theme in the 1977 Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia.

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

An elephant balloon makes its way along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway during 1976 Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia.

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

During a preview of the 1962 Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia, Dolores Genis-Avila, 9, of South Philly, and Anthony Batory, 8, of West Philly, are amused by the elephant balloon.

NoneJoseph Kaczmarek/AP

The Horton the Elephant balloon passes an alleyway as handlers walk it down 16th Street during the 2014 Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia.

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

Antique bicycle enthusiasts cruise the Benjamin Franklin Parkway during the 1968 Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia.

NoneJoseph Kaczmarek/AP

Members of the Woodside One Wheelers participate in the 2013 Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia.

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

Fresh off his team's World Series victory, the Phillie Phanatic kisses a woman during the 1980 Thanksgiving Day Parade, while members of Bishop Kenrick High School band watch.

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

Ape and hippo balloons float above the heads of Linda's Lassies Twirling Corps at the 1968 Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia.

NoneJoseph Kaczmarek/AP

Members of the Fishers High School Marching Tiger Band make their way down JFK Boulevard during the 2015 Thanksgiving day parade in Philadelphia.

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

Members of the color guard of Bishop McDevitt High School, in Cheltenham, march along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at the 1970 Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia.

NoneJoseph Kaczmarek/AP

Dancers perform on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway during the 2016 Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia.

NoneJoseph Kaczmarek/AP

Members of the Tournament Of Bands All-Star Marching Band make their way down 16th Street during the 2015 Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia.

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

The 1964 Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia featured balloons of a Scottish bagpiper and zebra.

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

Parade workers guide an octopus balloon around the west side of Logan Circle during the 1963 Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia.

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

A caravan of camel floats are led up the Benjamin Franklin Parkway during the 1961 Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia.

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

Parade workers carry giant horse balloon across the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art on their way to Thanksgiving Day Parade preview in 1972.

NoneJoseph Kaczmarek/AP

Handlers walk the Tweety Bird balloon down JFK Boulevard during the 2016 Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia.

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

Children smile as Santa Claus waves from his float at the 1970 Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia.

NoneJoseph Kaczmarek/AP

Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus wave to spectators during the 2016 Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia.

PhillyVoice staffer Jon Tuleya contributed to this article.