PODCAST: Macy’s – the Man, the Store, the Parade

What year is this picture taken? (Click on it to view details.) Note the elevated rail line, no automobiles, and the New York Herald building still standing. You can also tell that the building’s later additions have not yet extended it down towards 7th Avenue. A little research on the Hippodrome and when the shows ‘Neptune’s Daughter’ and ‘Pioneer Days’ performed there reveals this picture was taken in Feb-March 1907 — a little over one hundred years ago.

PODCAST Did you know that the man whose name adorns one of the most successful department stores in the world was a sailor turned failed businessman? Or why Macy’s Department Store ALMOST takes up an entire city block? Or how many clowns have been in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade? The Bowery Boys let you in on those answers and lots of other fun facts about one of New York City’s premier retailers.

Listen to it for free on iTunes or other podcasting services. Or you can download or listen to it HERE

The man who started it all — Rowland Hussey Macy

The first Macy’s store in Manhattan — 204-206 14th street, near 6th Avenue

Herald Square….before Macy’s, circa 1893. The Sixth Avenue elevated train dominates the right and a cable car cuts down Broadway. What we know as the park in Herald Square is nothing but a traffic triangle; however the Bell Ringer’s monument sits anew on top of the New York Herald building. Macy’s would soon sit wheter that sign with the coat of arms hangs.

A gigantic Macy’s bag conceals the building which prevented the Straus brothers from expanding the store over the entire city block. It is probably the most advantageously placed Sunglass Hut in the entire world.

Macy’s holiday windows, circa 1915

The Macy’s famous star logo — derived from the tattoo that founder Rowland Macy received during his stint as a sailor

Below, some funky looking balloons from the 1932 parade. Swapatorium has many, many more from this period that are simply breathtaking.

A wonderful tradition that we forgot to mention happens the night before the parade, in the grounds of the Natural History museum, as hundreds gather to watch the balloons being inflated. (Here’s Grover and Big Bird being blown up.)

Forgotten NY explores the remnants of Macy’s first store, as well as the gives you a birds eye view on Macy’s wooden escalators. We talk more about some of the more dog-shaped parade balloons in this podcast. The Macy’s Parade website has the details on times and route.

The City Room reports that this year’s balloons got a trial run in Queens this week. Meanwhile, some people aren’t happy with Macy’s swallowing up the Marshall Field’s department store brand.

Fun fact: Wartime demand in the 1940s halted the production of women’s nylon pantyhose. When retailers were allowed to resell them, Macy’s restocked their shelves with almost 50,000 pairs, all of which were sold in six hours.