All Over the Sidewalk, Little Tidbits of Information

New York's 204th ticker-tape parade: NY Yankees in 2009

NY Yankees in 2009: New York’s 204th ticker-tape parade

One of my favorite things to do in Lower Manhattan is to walk down the street and listen to what visitors say about our area. Awhile ago, I saw a couple checking out the turntables on Broad Street and react with complete awe.

This one is in a different direction. Walking down Broadway recently, I overheard someone say, “What are these little tidbits of info all over the sidewalk?”

What are these little tidbits of info all over the sidewalk?

What a great question. It’s funny, because we at the Downtown Alliance, think of them as the Canyon of Heroes markers, plaques in the sidewalk from the bottom of Broadway all the way up to City Hall, that commemorate every single ticker-tape parade New York City has held.  In fact, our new Canyon Of Heroes app lets you explore the history of these parades so you can learn about the many heroes honored on this historic stretch of Broadway.

But the idea that the markers are “little tidbits of information” actually makes sense. Let me see if I can provide some background so you can enjoy these little tidbits yourself.

In case you aren’t old enough to remember, ticker tape was a one-inch-wide ribbon of paper on which the “ticker” machine recorded telegraphed stock quotes. Employees working in skyscrapers along Broadway realized that ticker tape sent swirling into the air created a dramatic effect.

The ticker-tape tradition started on October 28, 1886, with the dedication of the Statue of Liberty. The New York Times reported that the festivities of the day inspired so many employees to throw ticker tape out the windows that in a moment “the air was white with curling streamers.”

Almost 125 years later, we have held more than 200 ticker-tape parades, celebrating everything from the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration to foreign leaders and Olympic athletes, the first woman to swim the English Channel, soldiers returning from war and, most recently, New York sports teams winning championships.

From 1919 to the present day, the mayor of New York City has decided who will receive a parade. Before then, they were rather spontaneous celebrations. Because Downtown’s financial companies don’t use ticker-tape machines any more, New Yorkers now use shredded recycled paper.

To honor the Canyon of Heroes, the Downtown Alliance created a granite marker embedded in the sidewalk for each ticker-tape parade up Broadway—the “little tidbits” the person I overheard was mentioning. Each marker gives the date of the parade and the honoree. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough space to include a description of each parade, but you can check out our Canyon of Heroes web page for more information and use our handy brochure for a full listing if you want.

I have been at the Downtown Alliance for almost eight years, and I have had the privilege of working on many different projects, including a pilot program to track the condition of each and every one of these markers. I’ve started at the Battery and walked all the way up Broadway, making sure the plaque that was in the sidewalk matched exactly what we have in our records and checking to make sure it wasn’t damaged or defaced. If a marker gets damaged, we replace it as quickly as we can.

To this day, I cannot step on any of the markers, sometimes doing a little two-step to avoid it if necessary, even though they obviously were built strong enough to be stepped on by millions of people every single year. They are wonderful little tidbits and I don’t want to cause them any damage or make them harder for the next person to read and enjoy.

I hope you’ll take some time to enjoy these little tidbits, maybe during your lunch, or on your way home from work one day. Please comment below or let me know what your favorite tidbit is. Maybe we can help someone else enjoy these little tidbits as well.