A Short History of Mardi Gras

Most everyone knows that Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, but did you know that the first Mardi Gras to be held in the United States was in Mobile, Alabama? Mardi Gras is officially the last day of Carnival, the three day period before the beginning of Lent. These days most people think of the entire three day period as Mardi Gras.

This was not true for the Le Moyne brothers who were sent by King Louis XIV to defend France's claim on the territory of Louisiana, which included what are now the U.S. states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. One of the brothers founded the settlement of Mobile, Alabama in 1702 as the capital of French Louisiana, and in 1703 the Mardi Gras tradition began with celebrations by French settlers in that city. When the capital was moved to New Orleans in 1723 the tradition moved with it and grew to the point where today when we think Mardi Gras, we think New Orleans.

It wasn't just the overall tradition itself that moved from Mobile to New Orleans. Mobile continued, and continues to influence how Mardi Gras is celebrated in New Orleans, Mobile's Cowbellion de Rakin Society was the first formally organized and masked mystic society in the United States to celebrate with a parade in 1830. The idea of parading societies was exported to New Orleans in 1856 by six businessmen from Mobile.

The Mobile Carnival Museum tells the story of the history of the local tradition and how it has influenced the tradition throughout the area. The fact that the Dynasty Collection has several pieces included in the museum's collection illustrates the high quality work they do and the important place they have in Mardi Gras history.





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