Today in New Orleans History

February 21

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First Electrically Lit Parade
The Krewe of Nereus
Wednesday, February 21, 1900

Invitation to the Krewe of Nereus' Carnival ball, held at the Grand Opera House on February 21, 1900. Thinking to usher in a new, modern age, Nereus chose to greet the new century with a "Grand Electric Display" (note the electric light bulb on the invitation). Its parade was the first (and the last!) ever to be mounted on streetcar trucks. The effort, writes Perry Young in The Mystick Krewe, was a failure:
Sixteen gorgeous tableaux were mounted on regulation trolley trucks, the last and most triumphant scene representing the Era of Electricity. Four bands on trolley cars were interspersed in the procession. The parade was certainly a pronounced and undeniable success,' said the Times-Democrat. But the newspaper was alone in the opinion, and nothing like it ever again was attempted. The trolley poles reaching up through the decorations were monuments too modern for the medieval fete. Electric lighting had the same fixed and artificial incongruity as the trolley poles. Delays were worse than any ever caused by men or mules, the cars became separated to intervals of three, four, and five city squares, and the curtain did not rise at the Grand Opera House until 11:15 o'clock. It caused also a tremendous expense, and Nereus retired in his next year to tableau balls.  Text and photo from the New Orleans Public Library.
The Krewe of Nereus' first and only parade in 1900 included 16 floats and four bands -- all riding along the streetcar tracks.
Named for the Greek God of the Sea, the krewe was organized in 1895.  On February 3, 1896, the krewe's innaugural ball was themed “Sea Views” -- the queen was Miss May Van Benthuysen.  For their 1897 ball, themed “Coral Groves and Grottoes”, a 100-foot structure designed as a mythical fire-breathing Nordic sea monster, supported by fifteen men, writhed across the floor of the opera house though reproductions of underwater caverns.  The  1912 ball, titled “A Christmas Party”  had Santa Claus calling the call-outs to the stage and giving each lady an envelope containing the number of her masker for the first dance.  
The 1900 Mardis Gras was the first to be extended beyond the Monday and Tuesday before Lent.  Nereus became the first krewe to parade on the Wednesday before Lundi Gras.  It kicked off the parade season which ran from February 21 to February 27, 1900.  Nereus continues today to celebrate the Carnival season by holding an annual ball.

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Carnival Day was celebrated on February 21 in 2012, 1950, and 1939.  It will fall on the same date in 2023, 2034, and 2045.

On Monday February 21, 1979 (Lundi Gras Day), the Meters performed at Tipitini's, 501 Napoleon Avenue.

Famous silent film and network radio organist for soap operas and dramas, Rosa Rio (Elizabeth Raub) visited the New Orleans Saenger Theatre on February 21, 1976 and played the theatre's organ. She continued to perform until the age of 107, becoming one of the oldest performers in the music  industry.

Several photos of Arts Street on February 21, 1950Photos of Gentilly Boulevard and Music Street on the same day.

Photos of Rex parade float designs for Carnival Day, February 21 ,1939 with the theme "Belgian Fairy Tales."

The Gentilly streetcar ran from February 21, 1926 until July 17, 1948. Gentilly was derived from the old Villere Line. It was unusual in being named for the neighborhood it served, rather than the street along which it ran. At one end, it traversed the French Quarter. Then it turned up Almonaster (now Franklin) to its terminal at Dreux. Replaced by diesel bus service, which was eventually renamed Franklin for the street.

The St. Claude Avenue streetcar ran its last route on  January 1, 1949.  Beginning on February 21, 1926, it and the Gentilly Line were the last two streetcar lines to open in New Orleans until August 1988 with the inauguration of the Riverfront line.  St. Claude's streetcars were replaced with a trolley bus and later diesel bus service. 

John Edward Bouligny, congressman. Born, probably Plaquemines Parish, La., February 5, 1824; son of Louis Bouligny (q.v.) and Elizabeth Virginie d'Hauterive.  Grew up in Jefferson Parish, and probably attended the local public schools.  Attained prominence after the death of his older brother François Bouligny (1819-1857), who was mayor of Lafayette, Jefferson Parish, when it became the Fourth Municipal District of New Orleans in 1852 and elected recorder of the Fourth District in 1856.  In 1859 elected to Congress from the First Congressional District as the only successful Louisiana candidate of the American (Know-Nothing) Party, which was firmly opposed to secession.  On February 5, 1861, when news that Louisiana had seceded reached Washington, he made a speech on the floor of the House declaring his steadfast loyalty to the Union and his intention to serve out his term; was the only Southern congressman who remained in Washington after his state seceded.  Married Mary E. Parker in Washington in 1861.  No children.  In late 1862 returned to New Orleans (then under Union occupation) to run for reelection, armed with a letter of recommendation from President Lincoln to Gen. Benjamin Butler (q.v.); failed to gain Butler's support and was defeated.  Returned to Washington.  Died, Washington, D. C., February 21, 1864; interred Congressional Cemetery.  F.M.  Sources:  Bouligny-Baldwin Papers, The Historic New Orleans Collection; St. Louis Cathedral Vital Records; L. C. Soulé, The Know Nothing Party in New Orleans (1962); Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln; Congressional Globe, February 7, 1861); New Orleans Daily Picayune, December 4, 1862; New Orleans Daily Delta, December 4, 1862; obituaries, New York Times  and Washington Evening Star, February 22, 1864. From

February 21, 1831- The Pontchartrain Railroad (aka Smokey Mary)This newspaper clipping from the February 21, 1831 issue of the United States Weekly Telegraph newspaper published in Washington, DC by Duff Green is part of a 1/2 page report about the Pontchartrain Railroad (AKA The Smokey Mary) in New Orleans. The report describes the route and construction of the Railroad that connected Lake Pontchartrain and the city.

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Abreviations used on this site: NOPL (New Orleans Public Library), LOC (Library of Congress), LDL (Lousiana Digital Library), HNOC (Historic New Orleans Collection), WIKI (Wikipedia).

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