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Parading the Past by Lauren Paljusaj

By Sarah Jones on December 2, 2019 10:21 AM | Permalink

This collection highlight blog post was written by Lauren Paljusaj, an undergraduate student assistant in Special Collections and Archives Technical Services. Lauren is a senior at UNLV, majoring in English with a concentration in professional writing. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in library science after graduation.

A dog on the back of a festive burro, Labor Day Parade, Tonopah, Nevada, 1904 (Blanch Jackson Photograph Collection, PH-00243)

Image Source: A dog on the back of a festive burro, Labor Day Parade, Tonopah, Nevada, Blanch Jackson Photograph Collection, approximately 1900-1941. PH-00243. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.

At the turn of the twentieth century, parades were a huge phenomenon in both major metropolises and small towns. Holidays were a major cause for celebration in the form of a parade, but so were events like the return of a hometown hero, or celebrating the winners of political elections. Parades have become embedded in American popular culture, most notably the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which costs over $13 million to produce and is viewed by over 50 million people nationwide.

Parade spectators on Main and Brougher Streets, Tonopah, Nevada, 1905 (Blanch Jackson Photograph Collection, PH-00243)

Image Source: Parade spectators on Main and Brougher Streets, Tonopah, Nevada, Blanch Jackson Photograph Collection, approximately 1900-1941. PH-00243. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.

Since the 1960s, many communities have started downsizing their parades due to economic reasons and declining attendance. Most holidays, especially Independence Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are still celebrated with parades in most cities and towns in the United States, but gone are the days when a parade meant that the whole town would take the day off of work, dress in their best clothes, and head out to socialize and watch the displays. Parades were a huge civic event, with weeks spent planning and making floats to dazzle the onlookers.

Crowds watching the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Labor Day Parade float in Tonopah, Nevada (Blanch Jackson Photograph Collection, PH-00243)

Image Source: Crowds watching the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Labor Day Parade float in Tonopah, Nevada, Blanch Jackson Photograph Collection, approximately 1900-1941. PH-00243. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.

These images from the Blanch Jackson Photograph Collection (PH-00243) in Tonopah, Nevada look back to those times. Tonopah experienced a population boom starting in 1903 with rapid growth from a primitive camp to a proper city, as evidenced in these photos spanning from 1904 to 1906. These Labor Day parades were a great way for residents to take the day off of working in the various mines and businesses in the area and celebrate their civic pride.

Sources:

Blanch Jackson Photograph Collection, approximately 1900-1941. PH-00243. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.

Donnelley, Grace. “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 2017.” Accessed November 13, 2019. https://fortune.com/2017/11/22/macys-thanksgiving-day-parade-2017/

UNLV Digital Collections. “Tonopah.” Accessed November 13, 2019. http://digital.library.unlv.edu/boomtown/counties/nye.php#tonopah