More than 300 people were on hand for the first St. Patrick’s Day parade in St. Paul in 1851. For several years the parades were led by the Irish Catholic Temperance Society, and in 1856 the Benevolent Society of Erin hosted a dinner complete with toasts of cold water instead of liquor. After the Civil War, the festivities began to get rowdy and lasted much of the day and well into the night. By the turn of the century, Archbishop John Ireland had enough of the indulgent celebrations that had turned into what he called “midnight orgies”, and put a stop to the parade and celebrations.
It wasn’t until 1967 that another St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in St. Paul. Planning for the parade took place in just two months, but many traditions we see today came from that first parade, such as the swath of emerald paint down the center of the parade route. The tradition of crowning Ms. Shamrock began with that first parade too–Agnes Sullivan was the lucky lady. The parade started at noon and left from Hilton (now the Radisson) and proceeded down Kellogg Blvd. to the St. Paul Hotel; the entire parade lasted only 40 minutes.
This photo was taken along the parade route in 1978. Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society (02255-0).