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Marching with the Mummers
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By Karen E. Lange Photographs by Vincent J. Musi

Fantasy and feathers rule in Philadelphia when New Year’s revelers take to the streets in costumes fit for kings.

Get a taste of what awaits you in print from this compelling excerpt.

They’re called Mummers (probably after the German word for disguise)—thousands of mostly white blue-collar guys who nearly every January 1 since 1901 have paraded through the city in wild array from head to spray-painted toe. At its peak in the 1940s the parade drew two million spectators. Today fewer than a quarter million come—so few that last year’s route was cut from 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) to ten blocks. The Mummers remain defiantly merry. Says Tom Quinn, who rose before dawn to march, “I’m not out here for anyone but tradition.”

Get the whole story in the pages of National Geographic magazine.

In More to Explore the National Geographic magazine team shares some of its best sources and other information. Special thanks to the Research Division.

During the January 1, 2000, parade Mayor Ed Rendell became the first head of Philadelphia’s city government to march in costume as a Mummer. Previous mayors had marched in “civilian clothes” at the head of the parade, but at 6 a.m., during a special pre-parade to mark the new millennium, Rendell wore a “wench” outfit—dress, hat, wig, golden slippers, and parasol—and strutted down Market Street with about a hundred other “comics.”

Mummers Website
Find links to Mummers clubs, connect to the Mummers Museum, learn how to become a Mummer, and hear parade music including “Oh Dem Golden Slippers,” a traditional Mummer song.

The Mummers History Page
Learn the history of Mummery through articles from Smithsonian magazine, National Geographic Traveler, and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Philadelphia’s WB17 television station
View more photos of gaily-dressed parade participants and read the results of the parades contest for best floats, winning clubs and top brigades in four categories.


Bruch, Laura J. “Change a Tradition? Mummers may have to. Dwindling crowds leave organizers at a crossroads.” Philadelphia Inquirer, (Jan. 10, 1999).

Marion, John F. “On New Year’s Day in Philadelphia, Mummer’s the Word,” Smithsonian, (Jan. 1981).

Warren, Isobel. “New Year’s Day in Philadelphia—Mummer’s the Word,” The Globe and Mail, (Dec. 23, 1998).

Welch, Charles. Oh, Dem Golden Slippers! Book Street Press, 1991.


“Philadelphia,” National Geographic Traveler, (July/Aug. 1992), 54-69.

Freeman, Roland L. “Philadelphia’s African Americans: A Celebration of Life,” National Geographic, (Aug. 1990), 66-91.

DeLeon, Clark. “Mummers on Parade,” National Geographic Traveler, (Winter 1984/85), 131-137.

“Mummers on Parade,” National Geographic World, (Dec. 1981), 12-17.

La Gorce, John Oliver. “Artists Look at Pennsylvania,” National Geographic, (July 1948), 37-56.

La Gorce, John Oliver. “The Historic City of Brotherly Love: Philadelphia, Born of Penn and Strengthened by Franklin, a Metropolis of Industries, Homes, and Parks,” National Geographic, (Dec. 1932), 643-697.


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