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June 6, 2021

Rare Photographs of New York City’s Parade at the End of World War I

On March 25, 1919, 20,000 men of the New York National Guard’s 27th Division owned the streets of Manhattan. Two million people turned out to see the division march five miles up Fifth Avenue after they came home from World War I.

City officials estimated Manhattan’s population grew by 500,000 as people came from upstate New York and surrounding states to see the parade. There were 10,000 policemen on duty—6,000 regular cops and 4,000 reserves—to control the crowds. Five hundred plainclothes detectives were scattered throughout the crowd to watch for trouble.

There was a special grandstand for 500 Civil War veterans and another for 1,000 Spanish-American War Soldiers. And 6,820 wounded Soldiers and Sailors who had been convalescing in New York City hospitals lined the parade route.

The parade route’s official start at Washington Square featured a massive white victory arch that featured four balloons floating above the road and white pillars lining the route. An arch at 60th Street was covered with crystal glass. Searchlights illuminated the structures at night.

Horses pull a carriage filled with flowers while large crowds look on.

Looking down Fifth Avenue, from 61st Street. That is the Arch of Jewels in the distance.

Late in the parade, as the sun was low in the sky. That might be, at top left, the Pulitzer Fountain in Grand Army Plaza, outside the Plaza Hotel.

Soldiers on parade, marching north on Fifth Avenue. Note the street sign on the light pole: 59th Street and 5th Avenue. A part of the Arch of Jewels is visible at top right.

An artillery gun. This one may have been captured from the Germans.

A tank on display. Tanks were used for the first time in World War I; they were particularly well-suited to getting close to and then destroying machine gun positions.

What looks like a rather impromptu placement of a sculpture, on New York’s streets.

This is quite a visual–a pyramid built of what appears to be artillery shells, with a gun in the foreground.

A longer view, on a Manhattan avenue, with artillery guns, columns, and murals in the mid-ground and the pyramid, surrounded by more columns, in the distance.

A closer look at the murals lining the avenue.

This Victory Arch, a temporary structure erected just to the west of Madison Square Park, at the intersection of Broadway and Fifth Avenue, where the crowd surged into the streets to greet the marchers. Work on the Victory Arch, designed by a team of 40 artists, was completed the night before the parade.

The temporary plaster and lath Arch of Jewels stretched across Fifth Avenue at 60th Street. The two shafts of the Arch of Jewels rose to 80 feet. They were covered with thousands of prisms; when lit up at night by beams cast by several dozen searchlights, the prisms sparkled with the colors of the rainbow. 

Spears and shields stood in front of the New York Public Library, at the Court of the Heroic Dead.

Columns wrapped and a banner above the doorway: “THAT THEY SHALL NOT HAVE DIED IN VAIN.”

(via Green-Wood)


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