Thomas Cullen

The Legend of Brooklyn’s Long Defunct Thanksgiving Day Parade

Thomas H. Cullen

The Thanksgiving tale involving Thomas H. Cullen has been repeated in Brooklyn for generations and amazingly, it’s a true story from the 1890s that was retold at numerous political functions for generations. 130 years ago Brooklyn celebrated Thanksgiving far differently. The highlight of the public celebration was a parade that went through much of the City of Brooklyn, heading along Bedford Avenue through Bedford Stuyvesant and Williamsburg. Thousands of spectators turned out for the event and it was a natural draw for aspiring politicians.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle archives: Feb. 17, 1933

The surest way to present oneself to the voters as a candidate for elected was by riding in the Thanksgiving Parade mounted on a noble horse. Tom Cullen was a young Irish-American longshoreman who dreamt of leaving the sweaty docks of Red Hook by entering local politics, but as a humble dockworker living in an overcrowded tenement, he was too poor to own his own horse. Cullen longed for a horse, but his ambition was not just to ride any horse. Cullen dreamt of riding in the parade atop a noble white steed and nothing would stop Cullen from procuring the white horse of his dreams. The inconvenient truth that Cullen had never actually ridden a horse before in his life seemed unimportant, such was the ambition of this naive aspiring politician. Continue reading

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