The Best Ever! Parades in New England, 1788–1940

0 out of 5


Co-published with Old Sturbridge Village

by Jane C. Nylander

Softcover with gatefold



Book starts shipping from Peterborough November 12th!



November 2021

Sku: 9780872333451 Category: Books Tag:


Everyone loves a parade!

Filled with drawings, daguerreotypes, historical photographs, and detailed description, The Best Ever! brings to life the creativity and impact of New England parades, while expanding popular understanding of many similar events today. Parade days give communities an opportunity to reveal themselves, showing both local residents and out-of-town visitors what is valued and who is respected while giving participants and attendees an opportunity to see and be seen. Parade planners draw upon personal experience, fond memories, cherished symbols, and favorite stories to create floats illustrating memorable scenes from history, honoring civic leaders and military heroes, mourning fallen soldiers or dignitaries, advocating change, inspiring reform, influencing consumer behavior, or celebrating innovation and progress. Specific holidays such as Independence Day, Patriot’s Day, Bunker Hill Day, Armistice Day, and Old Home Day provide additional inspiration for red, white, and blue celebration. Of particular interest is the section on the uniquely New England tradition of “Antiques and Horribles.” The Best Ever! explores common themes in parades, including honor, civic and ethnic identity, fraternity, progress in public works, advocacy of political candidates or favorite causes, memorialization of wartime bravery or cherished virtues, and just plain fun! Each is seen in an exciting public moment, leaving memories of reassuring symbols, influencing action, and raising questions. At the same time they show how ideas have been shaped over time and changed by circumstance, even as perceptions of the past are still evolving and questioned in the present.

Praise for The Best Ever!:

What a parade! Lined up two-abreast and a mile long, the more than 300 images in this book celebrate the art of celebration. As Jane Nylander makes clear, New England parades were both inventive and competitive, determining who could make a fire engine disappear or a ship on wheels appear to float. They were also lineups of who did and did not matter in a town. From triumphal arches to “horribles,” they displayed the living culture of a time and place.

—Laurel Thatcher Ulrich Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785–1812

Reading The Best Ever! is like watching the ghost of another America walk by—a ghost with a vibrant village life, brimming with homemade exuberance and an unexpected ambition. The determination to stage an allegory and pull it down Main Street speaks to the power of classical education and patriotic lessons. Here are so many naïve Columbias, women dressed as the 36 or 38 states, a kaleidoscopic array of Uncle Sams, and temporary triumphal arches without end. These efforts to translate classical ideals into bunting and swags of evergreens are what make the homage so appealing. Our small-town parades today pale by comparison.

 —Howard Mansfield Author of Chasing Eden, A Book of Seekers and The Habit of Turning the World Upside Down

Jane Nylander reminds us that “everyone loves a parade!” And she tells us why in this groundbreaking book that pushes cultural history out of the house and onto Main Street. Here, we find our public selves—our history of aspiration, advocacy, community, and self-identity—through a trailing lesson designed to teach civic pride from the Federal Era to WWII. Using the rich imagery of all kinds of parades, Nylander’s narrative enlivens our understanding of what was important in American life. Don’t miss this parade of parades!

—Philip Zea President Emeritus, Historic Deerfield

Additional information

Weight 3 lbs


There are no reviews yet.

Only logged in customers who have purchased this product may leave a review.