Community Collections

Nestled in the Rotating Exhibition Hall and housed in a deluxe exhibition case, the Community Collections houses the unique assemblages and archives of everyday New Yorkers.


Now On View:
Vintage Confetti
Through Winter 2019

The City Reliquary is proud to present the vintage confetti and confetti-related ephemera collection of Jennifer Rice. She was first inspired to start collecting when she learned that workers renovating NYC’s famed Rainbow Room found confetti from the 1940s beneath the rotating dance floor. Her collection includes packaged confetti from all over the world and items depicting confetti’s history, manufacture, cultural significance, and influence in design and branding.

Modern confetti has its roots in ancient civilizations and the act of throwing plant-based materials (i.e. seeds, nuts, twigs) to celebrate life, death, unions, or sacrificial offerings. The word ‘confetti‘ hails from the Latin conficere meaning “to prepare or to make ready.” This evolved to the French confit or confiture translating as preserved meats and fruits. After the colonization of the Americas these terms came to be more closely associated with preserving in sugar eventually evolving into 18th century Italian confetti (little sweets) or the English confectionary.
In 18th century France and Italy, Carnevale, an indulgent celebration before the start of Lent, confetti in the form of candied fruits and nuts were thrown. As sugar was a luxury item at the time, by the 1830s plaster of Paris replaced candied sweets. Written accounts and illustrations from the time, as pictured on postcards in this collection, show the need for masks also known as par a bonbons to protect the face especially during batailles de confetticonfetti battles.
Wearing masks to avoid the harm of thrown candied sweets and plaster evolved to non-harmful variations of confetti. In 1875 Italy, Enrico Mangili used the refuse of paper holes punched in paper to aid hatching silkworms to introduce the first variation of paper confetti. By 1892, plaster confetti was banned in Paris and in 1894 French poster artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec was commissioned by London paper manufacturer J. E. Bella to advertise their “injury-free” paper confetti.
Meanwhile, in New York City, confetti in the form of candy and paper was used throughout the late 19th century, but a unique to New York variation of confetti was first used in 1886 during a parade to celebrate the dedication of the Statue of Liberty. Ticker tape, a 1 inch wide piece of paper that recorded stock quotes, came to be known for its dramatic effect when dropped from a height. Ticker tape parades were so prevalent during the first half of the 20th century and so tied to New York’s cultural identity that the Alliance for New York embedded granite markers commemorating each significant parade along the historic stretch of Broadway known as the “Canyon of Heroes.” Another NYC confetti tradition continues today with the Times Square ball drop confetti shower at midnight on New Year’s Eve.