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The Mummers Parade, in 10 vintage photos

The oldest folk parade in the country has always been quite the spectacle

Sequins and feathers go hand in hand with the Mummers.
Courtesy of Bettmann/Getty Images

Ah, the Mummers. The annual New Year’s Day parade where thousands of these bedazzled and boisterous folks strut down Broad Street has been taking place since 1901, making it the oldest folk parade in the country and cultural experience iconic to Philadelphia.

Today, Mummers are locals who don bright, intricate, and colorful costumes and perform throughout the year as part of one of five divisions: The Comic, The Fancy, the Wench Brigade, the String Band and the Fancy Brigade. They all come together on New Year’s Day during the Mummers Parade, when they make their way down Broad Street and perform for judges and thousands of parade-goers.

But the history of the Mummers stretches back way before it came to Philly. The word Mummer can be traced to Greek mythology, according to the Mummers Museum, which states, “Momus was the personification of satire, mockery and censure.”

Over the course of the Mummers’s long history, there have been many ups and downs. In the 1800s, the act of masquerading was banned in Philadelphia. The ban of firearms during the parade followed decades later. And most recently, some Mummers went through sensitivity training with the city after its performances were criticized as offensive and inappropriate.

Nevertheless, there’s no denying the spectacle and tradition that is the Mummers here in Philly. With New Year’s Day just around the corner, let’s take a trip down memory lane to see just how long the Mummers have been putting on a show.

c. 1909

The Fitzenheimer Band prepares to perform during the Mummers Parade in this photo, taken around 1909.
Courtesy of Buyenlarge/Getty Images

1917

It’s not just about sequins: This person dressed up as a walking violin at the 1917 Mummers Parade.
Courtesy of Bettmann/Getty Images

1926

This is Francis Patameda, a prize winner at the 1926 Mummers Parade. The original caption read, “Oh boy, how he strutted down Broad Street!”
Courtesy of Bettmann/Getty Images

1928

The Mummers strut around Logan Square on New Year’s Day, long before the parade route changed and took over Broad Street.
Courtesy of Photographic Prints, Free Library of Philadelphia

1930

This duo won first prize for best-dressed couple at the 1930 Mummers Parade.
Courtesy of Hulton Archive/Getty Images

1936

The 'Fountain Girl' from the Gallagher Club shows off during the annual Mummers Parade in 1936.
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1938

The Mummers make their way past Market Street and City Hall on New Year’s Day in 1938.
Courtesy of Print and Picture Collection, Free Library of Philadelphia
One of the floats during the 1938 Mummers Parade as a protest against World War II. It’s shown here passing Broad and Ritner streets.
Courtesy of the Print and Picture Collection, Free Library of Philadelphia

1946

At the New Year’s Day Parade in 1946, more than one million people came to watch 7,000 Mummers strut through Philly. Here, the comic section of the Murray Club perform as they pass the judges stand.
Courtesy of Bettmann/Getty Images

1984

Two Mummers dressed as angels take a break during the 1984 Mummers Parade.
Courtesy of Francois Le Diascorn/Getty Images