ID this photo or the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man will be very, very angry
December 29, 2008 2:47 AM   Subscribe

Can you ID this wonderful vintage photo?

Any info appreciated... Photographer, year, background story. I found it at a photodump site and there was no information attached. I would guess that it's the aftermath of a storm (or else the float is just grounded for normal reasons) during a Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, but I have no idea. I'd love to see more photos from the photographer, though.
posted by taz to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I do remember that Donald Duck balloon as part of the Macy t-giving parade from way back.
posted by citybuddha at 3:14 AM on December 29, 2008

Best answer: The balloon is certainly from the Macy's parade... perhaps from 1962...

"Heavy rain filled the brim of Donald Duck's hat in 1962, causing the character to tip over and dump 50 gallons of water on unamused onlookers".

The above quote is from this article cataloging Macy's parade balloon disasters of years past.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:52 AM on December 29, 2008

Heavy rain filled the brim of Donald Duck's hat in 1962

Maybe 1963 since he doesn't appear to be wearing a hat.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:30 AM on December 29, 2008

By the looks of the cars, 1963 would seem late.
In 1958 and 1959, there was a helium shortage so the balloons were filled with air and suspended from cranes, not the case here.
In 1957 it "rained really hard" per caption on one of these pix. That would seem about right for the vehicles, also.

By the way, a nice animated parade history page is here.
posted by beagle at 5:29 AM on December 29, 2008

On the other hand, the image is named "duckstorm.jpg". They have a tarp under him, so this looks like either pre-launch or a controlled landing. You can try contacting Macy's for more info.
posted by mikepop at 5:32 AM on December 29, 2008

I concur that the cars place it in the mid-to-late 1950s, not the 60s. Also, Donald is covered in netting as well as weighted by sandbags, so I suspect he is indeed filled with helium. The netting is used, in addition to the sandbags, while the balloons are being inflated (I just watched them get inflated this year on W 81st st. next to AMNH, so I'm sure of this). So this isn't a collapsed duck, but a duck either being inflated or deflated at the beginning or end of the parade.

It's an extraordinary photo, for sure. Truly surreal.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:46 AM on December 29, 2008

The car in the fore ground appears to be late 50's (a buick I believe) however the one turning the corner in the distance looks like an early 60's model GM car like a Ponitac Ventura or Bonniville or a Chevy Impala. You could have 50's cars in 1962 or 63 but you can't have a '61 Ventura in 1957.

Also notice the "cobra" streetlights. These were invented in 1957, so we know for sure it's not earlier, but they really took off in the early 60's.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:31 AM on December 29, 2008

That's looking west on 77th Street toward Columbus Ave, just south of the American Museum of Natural History. As fourcheesemac said, this is where the balloons get inflated for the parade.
posted by plastic_animals at 6:48 AM on December 29, 2008

Response by poster: mikepop, I saved it as "duckstorm" I think; I'm pretty sure the file name was just a bunch of numbers (I definitely wouldn't have changed a descriptive name).
posted by taz at 7:55 AM on December 29, 2008

Best answer: I think it's 1962. According to this NY Times article (which is behind a paywall, sorry) and this book, that version of Donald Duck made his debut that year. And it was rainy. There was a Donald Duck balloon before that but it looked different

Here's the only photo I could find of the balloon (from 1984 when it was brought back from retirement)

You don't see his hat because it's cut off in the photo. As for the cars I'm still driving a car from 1997. That doesn't mean it is 1997. Except maybe in my car.
posted by interplanetjanet at 8:11 AM on December 29, 2008

Also, FYI, that NY Times article from 1962 has a photo of Donald and a 1963 article had a photo of him again but neither one is your photo. 1963 is described as "a fine, sunny day for a parade," but Donald's foot deflated when somebody stepped on it.
posted by interplanetjanet at 8:33 AM on December 29, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks guys! The book that interplanetjanet points out features photos from the "Bill Smith Collection" so I found Mr. Smith's web site, and have contacted him to see if perhaps he recognizes the photo. I'll let you know if he answers back!
posted by taz at 12:55 AM on December 30, 2008

Response by poster: Bill Smith (nice guy!) has answered thusly:
Thank you for your email. Yes- I know the details of that picture. It was taken Thanksgiving morning 1962 in NYC on West 77th Street. The year of the debut of the Donald Duck balloon. It was a cold, rainy "duck day".

He is netted, kept secure by sandbags awaiting his handlers to report. The other balloons that year included The Woman On The Flying Trapeeze, Happy Dragon, Popeye and Bullwinkle Moose.

Glad you enjoyed the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade book by Robert M. Grippo. Watch in February for another new book about Macys 150th illustrated store history by Grippo. He promises yet more parade images and facts will be included.

I am also in the process of writing (finishing) my own book on the history of Parade Figure Balloons. This will come out in October 2009.

Thank you once again. Hope that this information helps.

Bill Smith
and he adds:
I will look up the photographer. I will let you know.
posted by taz at 9:12 AM on December 30, 2008

Yay! I was the first person to guess right! Whaddoo I get, taz? Waddoo I get?

Happy New Year!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:17 PM on December 31, 2008

Response by poster: you get a best answer, and a very damp duck kiss!
posted by taz at 12:41 AM on January 1, 2009

posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:36 AM on January 1, 2009

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