Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Nantucket Sea Monster

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade float designer Tony Sarg owned a curiosity shop in Nantucket, Massachusetts. In the summer of 1937, and with the help of many others, he staged an unusual sighting off the coast using one of his Macy's balloons, the Nantucket Sea Monster.

The initial sighting off the coast of Nantucket, MA

Footprints are found and measured on the shore.

Spectators examine the beast

Some are more daring than others

Tony Sarg with fellow spectators and the Nantucket Sea Serpent.

The Nantucket Sea Serpent made its debut the following November in the 1938 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

All of the following images, plus more, can be viewed on the Nantucket Historical Association's flickr page.

Here is a video of the "discovery" from the NHA YouTube channel.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

The holidays are upon us, and in a few weeks, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will wind its way down Central Park West and Sixth Avenue to the Macy's flagship store at 34th Street and Broadway.

The first Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade took place on November 27, 1924. At the time, it was called the Macy's Christmas Parade, and featured animals form the Central Park Zoo. In 1927 the parade featured the first giant character balloons, held up by store employees, and one year later, the parade debuted giant helium balloons designed by illustrator and puppeteer Tony Sarg.

From 1927 to 1983, every balloon was fabricated by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in Akron Ohio. The University of Akron currently holds the company's archive, which includes a great collection of Macy's Parade float photos. All of the images below, except for the wartime poster, are from that collection.

Tony Sarg with one of his creations at the Goodyear Rubber and Tire Co. in Ohio, 1933. Image: University of Akron

Here, a 9-story tall Gulliver balloon is accompanied by several animal friends including "Tom-kat" and "Jerry the Pig," 1933. Image: University of Akron

In 1942, Macy's balloons were deflated, and the rubber and helium donated in support of the WWII effort.

The yearly parade resumed in 1945, two weeks after the end of WWII, and has been a highly anticipated event ever since.

Crowds gather outside of Macy's celebrated widows at the flagship store on 34th Street, 1945.Image: University of Akron

Other Sources:
1. Gripo, Robert; Christopher Loskins. Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
2. Sullivan, Robert (Ed.). Life: America's Parade: A Celebration of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Los Angeles Aqueduct Digital Platform

Yesterday UCLA launched the Los Angeles Aqueduct Digital Platform on the Aqueduct's centenary. I'm proud to say that the woman largely responsible for the conception and implementation of this project is my very dear friend and fellow archivist Jillian Cuellar.

Growing up in Southern California, drought warnings are issued consistently and water usage has always been a highly debated topic among the state's politicians and citizens. I'm slightly embarrassed to admit how little I know of the Aqueduct's history, and that most of what I do know likely came from watching Roman Polanski's movie Chinatown.

This project fills a large void in resources devoted to California's history. Ignoring the Aqueduct's influence on the development of Los Angeles would be like ignoring Robert Moses' role in the development of New York City. It'll be exciting to see how researchers take advantage of their new resources. It already looks promising.  

The Aqueduct fills with water for the first time on November 5, 1913. Image via

Mule team. Image via