Sure, New York has plenty of interesting history, but who would have thought the first recorded St. Patrick’s Day parade was held not in Ireland, but in our fair city? It was on March 17, 1762, 255 years ago and 14 years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, that Irish soldiers serving in the British army marched to honor the Catholic feast day of St. Patrick, their country’s patron saint. With Irish immigrants flocking to the United States, and in large numbers to New York, in the mid-19th century, the parade became an annual tradition and spread elsewhere in the country.
The parade in 1904 at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street via NYPL
Many books and archived newspaper articles cite March 17, 1763 as the first St. Patrick’s Day celebration–claiming it was held not as a parade, but as a breakfast meeting at the Crown and Thistle Inn on Whitehall Street. Then in 1779, the annual breakfast turned into a staged parade where “400 Irish volunteers marched behind a British band from Lower Broadway to a tavern on the Bowery.”
I guess we can’t be 100% certain on the parade’s founding date, but we are sure that it’s the largest Saint Patrick’s Day parade and the oldest civilian parade in the world.