Mummers Museum subject files
Held at: Mummers Museum [Contact Us]1100 South 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19147
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 their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
"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  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."
The Mummers Museum opened in 1976 and houses numerous costumes, memorabilia, and archival materials relating to the Mummers Parade.
Quoted material from: Coper, Steve. "History." Accessed February 27, 2012. http://phillymummers.com/history.htm
This collection is primarily comprised of newspaper clippings, pamphlets, and ephemera on topics related to the Mummers Parade, mummery, and similar parades in other locales. There is a small amount of primary source material, such as judges reports, photographs, correspondence, certificates, prize receipts, and other materials. One drawer is devoted to individual people, and is almost entirely made up of newspaper clippings.
The files in this collection are in rough alphabetical order.
Materials collected at various times by the Mummers Museum.
- 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.