Mobile Carnival Museum

Mobile Carnival History

Mobile Carnival Museum History

 

The Mobile Carnival Museum opened in 2005 to rave reviews. The concept of a museum wholly dedicated to Mardi Gras had been a goal of numerous native Mobilians for years.

When the opportunity to lease the historic Bernstein-Bush house became available, the Mobile Carnival Association took the lead in securing the building lease and acquiring important and appropriate memorabilia and props. MCA coordinated a volunteer effort of historians, artists, lawyers, businessmen, architects, contractors, and seamstresses- just to name a few – who all gave of their time and talents to get the museum established.

The museum offers 14 gallery rooms, a pictorial hallway, a theater, a den (social gathering area), and a gift shop. In addition, the home is registered as a historic building and affords visitors the opportunity to enjoy detailed crown molding, pine floors, and exquisite chandeliers.

Families of monarchs donated royal robes, crowns, and scepters. Members of local mystic organizations donated emblem costumes, favors, doubloons, and such. The accumulation is beautifully displayed throughout the museum.

Mardi Gras Historical Timeline

1703
Mardi Gras is born

Mardi Gras observed for the first time in the New World by French pioneers at Twenty-Seven Mile Bluff, the first settlement of Mobile. 

1711
First Parade

Carnival is born in present site as residents join in song, food and dance. Tradition holds a papiér-maché bull, in honor of Boeuf Gras (another name for Mardi Gras), is pulled down Dauphin Street in what is believed to have been the first carnival “parade” in North America.

1711
First Parade

Carnival is born in present site as residents join in song, food and dance. Tradition holds a papiér-maché bull, in honor of Boeuf Gras (another name for Mardi Gras), is pulled down Dauphin Street in what is believed to have been the first carnival “parade” in North America.

1830
First Masked Parade Society

Michael Kraft wakes up the mayor on New Year’s Eve with rakes and hoes and cowbells, forming the Cowbellian de Rakin Society: the first masked parading society in America. 

1840
Horse-Drawn Floats

Cowbellians introduce horse-drawn floats in a parade entitled, “Heathen Gods and Goddesses.” 

1842
Striker's Formed

Striker’s Independent Society formed. Paraded for over fifty years. The oldest remaining mystic society in America. 

1864-1865
Civil War

No street celebrations or parades were staged.

1866
Joe Cain

Cowbellion de Rakin Society has first parade after the Civil War on New Year's Day. Lost Cause Minstrels stag a walking parade on Mardi Gras Day (also known as Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday).

1867
Order of Myths

The oldest continuous parading society founded: Order of Myths.

1868
First OOM Parade

First Order of Myths Parade on Mardi Gras night. 

1868
Infant Mystics

Infant Mystics became the second society to parade on Mardi Gras night and later moved to Lundi Gras (Fat Monday). 

1872
Royal Court

The first Royal Court was reigned over by Daniel E. Huger, the first king of Carnival, styled as Emperor Felix I. The Mobile Carnival Association is organized. 

1874
KoR Established

Knights of Revelry established, parading on Mardi Gras Day

1874
Legislature declares Holiday

Alabama legislature declares Shrove Tuesday a holiday in Mobile. The public is encouraged to close down businesses and to mask. 

1884
Comic Cowboys Established

Comic Cowboys of Wragg Swamp are established, along with their mission of satire and free expression. 

1889
First Empress of Mardi Gras

First Empress of Mardi Gras reigns as queen and is chosen as consort for Felix. 

1890
Continental Mystic Crew

First Jewish mystic society, The Continental Mystic Crew, is founded.

1893
Mobile Carnival Association

Mobile Carnival Association reorganized.

1894
Order of Doves Formed

Order of Doves, believed to be the first Black mystic society in Mobile, is formed. 

1898
MCA Charged

Mobile Carnival Association is charged with entertaining the public and protecting the populace. 

1902
Masks Banned

The public is prohibited from wearing masks to parades.

1917-1918
World War I

Carnival was canceled because of World War I. 

1920
Juvénile Court

Juvenile court is formed for children approximately five years in age.

1921
COC & Follies Founded

The Krewe of Columbus (later Crewe of Columbus) is Founded. The Follies are Founded.

1924
Permits Required

Permits become required in order to parade on city streets. 

1927
MCA

Mobile Carnival Association reorganized. 

1928
Floral Parade

Floral Parade debut. 

1929
First Electric Float

First electric floats roll into Mobile via the Infant Mystics’ Parade.

1935
100th Anniversary

100th Anniversary of the arrival of Carnival parades. 

1938
First African American Mardi Gras Parade

First Black Mardi Gras parade. The first king hailed “Mayor of Carnival.”

1938
MAMGA Formed

The first “Colored Carnival Association” was formed. It later became the Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association (MAMGA). Mr. Samuel Besteda was named “First Mayor of Colored Mobile.” 

1940
MAMGA First King & Queen

Colored Carnival Association selected its first king and queen, Alex Herman and Aliene Jenkins.

1942-1945
World War II

World War II cancels celebration of Carnival. 

1946
Post World War II

Carnival resumes full-scale in Mobile.

1952
Camellia ball debuts

Camellia Ball debuts and Zulu Club parades for last time. 

1956
Hank Aaron Crowned by MAMGA

MAMGA names Hank Aaron as its mayor for the celebration.

1965
First Doubloon Thrown

First doubloon thrown in Mobile by the IM’s, two years before their 100th anniversary.  

1966
Joe Cain's 100th

100th anniversary of Joe Cain’s celebration. 

1967
Church Street Cemetery

Joe Cain's celebration revived at Church Street Cemetery, a location quickly outgrown.

1969
MAMGA Revolutionizes Float Logistics

MAMGA dedicates its first float warehouse. Develops a revolutionary system of pulling floats in and out of the warehouse. 

1974
Alexis Herman named Queen of MAMGA

Alexis Herman, Secretary of Labor under the last administration of Bill Clinton, was named Queen of MAMGA. 

1980
Order of Osiris' First Dance

Order of Osiris, the first gay Society in Mobile, holds its first dance. 

1990
MAMGA 50th

MAMGA celebrates its 50th anniversary. 

1995
First International Carnival Ball

First International Carnival Ball held in Mobile with every known mystic society represented. 

1995
OoOoT's First Ball

First ball of the Order of Out of Towners. 

2002
Mobile Tri-Centinnial

Mobile Tri-centennial celebrated with huge parade representing every known mystic society. 

2004
Carnival Queen 100th

100th coronation of a carnival queen in Mobile. 

2005
Mobile Carnival Museum Opens

New Carnival experience opens: the Mobile Carnival Museum opens with Gordon Tatum, Jr. named first curator.