Monday, January 18, 2016

Mardi Gras Past in Alabama

Despite New Orleans' claim to the contrary, the Catholic celebration Mardi Gras began in America in Mobile when the city was a French colony and long before statehood. French explorer d'Iberville recorded the city's first Mardi Gras in his journal in 1699. The Civil War brought Mardi Gras to a temporary end; by that time various societies with their own rituals had developed. After the war Joe Cain was instrumental in reviving the city's festival.  

Below are some photos of past Mardi Gras activities in Mobile. A video of a parade in Mobile in 1966 can be found here. Further down are some illustrations from elsewhere in the state. Many additional photos and other materials can be found on Alabama Mosaic. Mobile also has a Carnival Museum documenting the festival in the city. 

1918 postcard of a Mardi Gras parade in Mobile

Spectators crowd a Mobile street for a 1949 parade. Note the sign on the upper left for the studio of WABB "Dial 1480" radio station

Source: Alabama Mosaic 

A float in a parade in March 1981

Mardi Gras King & Queen and Court in Mobile in 1982

Source: Alabama Department of Archives & History Digital Collections 

Other cities have tried Mardi Gras celebrations in addition to Mobile. In its issue of February 18, 1875, the Birmingham Iron Age reprinted a long article from a Huntsville newspaper with a detailed description of that city's first carnival. 

In the late 19th century Birmingham held Mardi Gras parades and activities in various years. The first one was held in 1886; a BhamWiki article is available. That site also has a more general article on the celebration in the city.

Biddle Warren Cycle Company's float in Birmingham's Mardi Gras parade ca. 1897

Source: Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections

Newspaper illustration of a Mardi Gras ball in Birmingham in 1899.

Source: Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections

A float in a Birmingham Mardi Gras parade in the 1890's

Source: Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections 

Ball invitation for the 1900 Birmingham Mardi Gras

Source: Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections 

Mardi Gras King and Queen and their Court in Birmingham in 1900

Source: Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections

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