Other than a brief 3-year hiatus during World War II, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has marched through Manhattan since 1924. The first balloons appeared in 1927, in a variety of animal shapes, but the first recognizable cartoon character was Felix the Cat, introduced in 1931. Starting in 1928 the balloons were released into the air at the end of the parade. That year they burst, but they were redesigned for 1929 with valves that allowed them to stay airborne for days. Macy’s would give a gift to whoever found the balloons and mailed them back. In 1932, after an all-too predictable incident with a balloon colliding with a plane over Queens, the practice was ended.
Happy Thanksgiving from the NYC Municipal Archives.