Today in New Orleans History

February 24

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The First Mardi Graw Krewe Parades

February 24, 1857

TodayInNewOrleansHistory/1857February24ComusEmblem.jpgComus, the god of revelry, became the first New Orleans Mardi Gras parade with a theme, floats bearing masked riders, parade route and a list of members who participated, on Feb. 24, 1857. The parade came about in a sense because of misfortune, or, better yet, misconduct.

The year before, citizen revelry was once again getting out of hand on Mardi Gras day. Shortly after the Louisiana Purchase, city officials canceled all Mardi Gras balls from 1805 through 1823 and masking from 1806 through 1827 as result of the unruliness.

But as luck would have it, misfortune would lead to good fortune. City fathers were happy to learn that six men now living in the city and who once belonged to a New Year’s Eve parade group in Mobile were going to organize a parade group here.

The six men prepared a list of prominent leaders in the city’s American uptown section. A short time later, the group met in a room above the Gem Saloon in the 100 block of Royal Street. None of the men was of local heritage.

This select group nominated 83 people to take part in a proposed Mardi Gras pageant.

The next order of business was to choose a name. The Greek name Komos was suggested by Dr. John H. Pope, an authority on Greek and Roman mythology. He informed the members that Komos, the god of revelry, would suit their cause admirably.

Someone suggested that the Greek name be given an Anglo twist; why not, he said, spell it Comus and, at the same time, present a semblance of Greek influence by calling the group “Krewe” instead of “Crew?” Hence was born the name Krewe of Comus.

Committee chairmen for costumes, floats, flambeaux, music and ball arrangements were appointed; all committees were filled without delay. A committee was dispatched to Mobile to arrange for the use of two of the Cowbellion de Rakin and all of its flambeaux. The request was graciously granted.

After dark on Mardi Gras evening, Feb. 24, 1857, curious people began to fill the streets. The skeptics remained in the comfort of their homes. And at exactly 8 o’clock on the corner of Julia and Magazine streets, Comus came to life.

Within moments, the sky was glowing as if the entire city had been ignited. One person in the crowd was quoted as saying, “It was as though they came from within the bowels of the Earth, for one minute they were not there, and the next, floats, flambeaux and maskers were just everywhere.”

Upon seeing the glow, people were drawn from their homes to the parade like moths to a flame.

The first Comus parade and ball made the following contributions: The organizers coined the word krewe; it organized the first secret Mardi Gras society and was first to choose a mythical name. It held the first organized Mardi Gras themed parade in the U.S. (Mobile did not have a Mardi Gras parade until 1867).

It brought law and order back to the New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration, thereby saving it from possible extinction.

By Buddy Stall.  Source: The Clarion Herald (

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Carnival Day was celebrated on February 24, 1998, 2004, and 2009.

Photo of The Krewe of Venus Queen's float at Gallier Hall, February 24, 1963. The krewe's theme that year was Command Performance; the queen was Miss Jo Ann Carroll and the king was Mett Sanford Carroll, Sr. Mayor Victor Schiro is at the microphone at the upper right in the reviewing stand. (NOPL)

By ordinance of May 13, 1836 the force of the First Municipality Guard was set at one captain, one lieutenant, two sergeants, forty privates, and ten lamplighters. This force apparently operated according to existing ordinances until the passage of new legislation officially organizing the Guard on February 24, 1837. That law increased the size of the force and provided that it be composed of men "in good condition to serve, intelligent, and speaking French and English." These men were to be controlled by the captain, but were always at the orders of the Mayor, Recorder, and Aldermen. The force was divided among posts at the City Hall, in the Faubourg Treme, and at Bayou St. John. Its officers were appointed by the Mayor, with Council consent; the other members were named by the captain, with the consent of the Mayor. All were required to give security to assure the faithful performance of duties and to swear to enforce the laws of the Municipality. (NOPL)

Marie Celeste Marigny, wife of Jacques Francois Enoul de Livaudais, sold her plantation measuring Sixteen Arpents front on the River, to Matthew Morgan, Samuel Jarvis Peters, Levi Pierce and William Henry Chase, by act passed before Louis T. Caire, Notary, on February 24, 1832. The purchasers on March 5, 1832, had Benjamin Buisson, Surveyor of Jefferson Parish, subdivided the property; they then called it Faubourg Lividais. (NOPL)

René Auguste Chouteau born on September 7, 1749  or September 26, 1750, in New Orleans, was also known as Auguste Chouteau.  He was the founder of St. Louis, Missouri, a successful fur trader and a politician. He and his partner had a monopoly for many years of fur trade with the large Osage tribe on the Missouri River. In addition, he had numerous business interests in St. Louis and was well-connected with the various rulers: French, Spanish and American. He died on February 24, 1825 in St. Louis.

The jurisdiction of justices of the peace was first defined by the Territorial legislature in 1805. This act did not discuss their duties concerning marriage, but two years later, on February 24, 1807, the legislature legalized all marriages that had been made in the Territory of Orleans by a county judge, justice of the peace, minister, or commandant, if these marriages had been "contracted agreeably to the laws and usages of the country."(NOPL)

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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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