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Mummers Museum audiovisual materials collection

1962-2010, 116 linear feet


This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Mummers Museum. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Summary Information

Mummers Museum
Mummers Museum.
Mummers Museum audiovisual materials collection
Date [inclusive]:
Call Number:
116 Linear feet
The tradition of mummery dates back to the late 17th century, but the parade was first sponsored by the City of Philadelphia in 1901. The Philadelphia New Years Shooters and Mummers Association administers the annual Mummers Parade in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Mummers Museum audiovisual materials collection, 1962-2010, consists of video recordings of the Mummers Parade and published audio recordings of Mummers string bands.
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"The tradition of Philadelphia Mummery started in the late 17th century as a continuation of the Old World customs of ushering in the New Year. Mummery in America is as unique to Philadelphia as Mardi Gras is to New Orleans. For example, the Swedes were Philadelphia's first settlers. When they came to Tinicum, just outside of Philadelphia, they brought their custom of visiting friends on "Second Day Christmas", December 26. Later they extended their period of celebration to include New Year's Day, and welcomed the New Year with masquerades and parades of noisy revelers. Most people carried firearms for protection in those early days of the [colony], and it did not take long before pistols and muskets joined with bells and noisemakers to create the sound of a New Year. Those who "shot in" the New Year became New Year's Shooters, and thus the name much later evolved to officially become the New Year's Shooters and Mummers Association. Groups would travel from house to house, sing songs, and perform dances -- all to be rewarded with food and drink.

"By the 1870's, what had been an uncoordinated group of neighborhood celebrations turned into an area-wide parade with two main groups of participants: Fancy Dress and Comic clubs. The City of Philadelphia finally sponsored and organized the first official Mummers Parade on January 1, 1901.

"The Philadelphia Mummers of today [2012] total over 10,000 marchers. The parade is still held on New Year's Day, with four distinct divisions: Comic, Fancy, Fancy Brigade and String Band. Comic division clubs lampoon modern day local and national political and social themes. The Fancy division clubs wear large, ornate costumes, carrying back pieces and performing with floats and props. The Fancy Brigade division clubs also wear large, ornate costumes, and perform intricate dances and drills with elaborate props... The String Band division clubs not only wear elaborate costumes like the Fancy and Fancy Brigade divisions, but also drill and perform playing musical instruments."


Quoted material from: Coper, Steve. "History." Accessed February 27, 2012.

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of video recordings of the Mummers Parade, and published audio recordings of String Bands.

The videos were recorded by various news stations and date from 1971 to 2010. The videos are in several formats, including VHS tapes, U-Matic and film reels of various sizes.

The published audio recordings were distributed by SURE Music and Record Company, Inc., 1962 to 2010. Some are recordings of sets by one String Band, and some are compilation albums. There are many duplicate recordings.

Administrative Information

Publication Information

Mummers Museum

Finding Aid Author

Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Michael Gubicza through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories


This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Access Restrictions

Contact Mummers Museum for information about accessing this collection.

Immediate Source of Acquisition Note

Videos gifts of various television stations, 1976-2010.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)
  • Philadelphia Mummers (Organization).
  • Philadelphia New Year Shooters and Mummers Association.
Geographic Name(s)
  • Philadelphia (Pa.)
  • South Philadelphia (Philadelphia, Pa.)
  • New Year
  • Parades
  • Philadelphia (Pa.) -- Social life and customs
  • String band music

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