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Carnival Archives - Edward Branley - The NOLA History Guy
Podcast 41 – Krewe of Proteus

Podcast 41 – Krewe of Proteus

We’re talking about the Krewe of Proteus, a Lundi Gras tradition.

proteus

Mobilius in Mobili photo

Podcast 41 – Krewe of Proteus.

Happy Lundi Gras! The Krewe of Proteus first rolled the streets of New Orleans in 1882. While they’re not the oldest Carnival organization, they’re the oldest that still parades. Here’s the video of the history of Proteus:

Heere’s the PDF of the presentation.

The Krewe that came back

proteus

Of the three krewes that withdrew from parading in 1992 (Comus, Momus, and Proteus), the Krewe of Proteus returned to the streets in 2000. As we discuss in the pod, Proteus had stronger reasons to return to public view. While the other two krewes hold seniority, Proteus held visibility. Momus paraded on the Thursday before Mardi Gras. That spot now belongs to the Knights of Babylon. Babylon traditionally paraded on Wednesday, and moved up in the pecking order. Or did they? After all, Thursday night now belongs to the Krewe of Muses, one of the super-krewes.

Comus paraded on Mardi Gras night. When they began in 1857, the Mystick Krewe were the only parade in town. Over a century, however, other krewes out-shone the oldest organization. By the 1980s, the Comus parade was essentially glorified transportation to their ball. Worn out from a day of marching clubs, Zulu, Rex, and the truck floats, the majority of Uptown carnival-goers gave up before dusk.

proteus

The Comus ball, held for decades on one side of the Municipal Auditorium on Mardi Gras, is still the Big Deal in “society” circles. Even Rex defers to Comus by leaving his own ball and closing out the season with Comus. So, the members of the Mystick Krewe didn’t lose much sleep over not returning to parading. That’s ironic, of course, since they eventually did prevail in court over the city.

Proteus, on the other hand, had the most prominent position of the three. Even before “Lundi Gras” was an event in itself, they embraced the anticipation and excitement of the evening, leading into the big day.

Podcast 40 – New Orleans King Cakes

Podcast 40 – New Orleans King Cakes

New Orleans King Cakes date back centuries, with exciting times ahead.

a carnival primer, new orleans king cake

King Cake from Adrian’s Bakery in Gentilly

New Orleans King Cakes

From Twelfth Night to the start of parades, the public face of Carnival is the King Cake. Let’s run down some of the background on this wonderful tradition. Note that this is background, history. Your preferred modern king cake is up to you!

Here’s the YouTube version of the pod. As we’ve mentioned previously, I record the pod using Zoom. It’s wonderful, because Zoom generates audio and video. I like to think the audio version of the pod is more fun, but what the heck.

Show notes

Here’s the PDF of the images, so you can follow along with the audio.

new orleans king cake

The Clay Monument. On 31-December-1869, the Twelfth Night Revelers invited New Orleans to see them pass by the Clay Monument on January 6, 1870. As mentioned in the pod, we’re going to have to do a full episode on the monument’s history. The reason TNR used this landmark as a gathering point was its size. The original monument dominated the three-way corner of Canal, Royal, and St. Charles Streets. Can you imagine this beast of a monument in the middle of modern Canal Street? Perfect place to tell the city, “come see us.” This is a Theodore Lilienthal photo.

new orleans king cakes

Restaurant Antoine: New Orleans’ oldest restaurant, on St. Louis Street, between Royal and Bourbon. Several of the dining rooms at the restaurant are named after Carnival organizations. This is the Twelfth Night Revelers room.

Bakeries

Tastee-McKenzie

Adrian’s Bakery in Gentilly

Blue Dot Donuts

Bywater Bakery

King Cake Hub

King Cake Hub, located at Zony Mash Brewery, 1464 S. Broad, is a great option for one-stop king cake shopping. You’re looking to have a king cake tasting at the house, or at work? No better way to get a sampling of different styles than here.

CORRECTION: I said North Broad for the location of King Cake Hub at Zony Mash when it should be SOUTH Broad!

 

 

 

 

Queen Zulu 1997 #watercolorwednesday

Queen Zulu 1997 #watercolorwednesday

Designers created a red costume for Queen Zulu 1997. (cross-posted to krewehistory.info)

Queen Zulu 1997

Queen Zulu 1997

Costume for Queen Zulu 1997. Here’s the LSM record for the watercolor:

Costume drawing for queen’s costume, Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, queen was Mercedes Antoine-Robert (wife of king), standing figure in large costume in watercolor shades of pale red, gold scrolls, wearing “Z” headpiece, signed “Colombo” l. r.

This illustration is part of the extensive Carnival Collection at the Louisiana State Museum.

Zulu Royalty

Carnival organizations use a number of methods to choose their kings, queens, and other “royalty.” For example, the School of Design’s choices for King of Carnival (Rex) are usually civic leaders. They don’t necessarily have to be a member of the organization. Endymion chooses their king via a lottery. Members desiring kingship pay a fee, their name goes in a hat, and the last name remaining in the hat as they draw them out becomes king.

Zulu holds an election for their king. Candidates for the position “campaign” by holding lavish parties and dinners for voting members. The club votes, and the man elected chooses his queen. Many Zulu kings select their wives to be their queen. That’s what happened in 1997. Reigning as Zulu the King is an expensive proposition, between the “campaign” and actual expenses for the parade and ball.

Carnival artwork

This watercolor is signed “Colombo.” I haven’t researched who this artist is. If you have more details, please comment or drop me a note. These illustrations are incredible. They offer a vision to the costumers. Those folks build on that vision, lifting it from the page.

LSM Tour

While they don’t offer a tour every year, the tour of the LSM Carnival Collection is absolutely worth the price of admission. The tour is sponsored through the Friends of the Cabildo, so members of that organization get dibs on reservations. The curators pull out all sorts of interesting pieces from the collection that you can walk through and see up close. It’s a blast.

KreweHistory.info is Carnival History

KreweHistory.info is Carnival History

Carnival History is what Krewe History is all about.

(cross-posted to KreweHistory.info)

Krewe History dot info is Carnival History

That’s the idea behind Krewe History dot info. This site, part of the NOLA History Guy family, is an eclectic collection of stories and images from Carnival in New Orleans. There’s no rhyme or reason to these, more just things that inspire us. If something inspires you, then tell us, and we’ll work on it.

Long-term project

I’ve had an idea in the back of my head for ages: create lesson plan/curriculum modules about Carnival. As a former high school history teacher, I appreciate the struggles classroom teachers have with content, reading levels, and generally catching the attention of students. Add to that the need to present material that is more diverse than the average textbook approved by the State of Texas, So, a lot of this site’s content will be, throw it up and see if it sticks in a lesson plan. If it does, fantastic. Otwe’ll still have fun discussions.

If you’re an educator, you are most welcome to chime in on the project! We can always add a forum section and such.

Getting started

The first image for Krewe History is from the 1926 parade of the Krewe of Proteus. Their theme that year was “The Fair God.” While Proteus now rolls out a “permanent” king’s float, the king rode a float matching the theme back in the day. That’s why the “god of the sea” rode a float featuring cacti in 1926.

Float designs in the early 20th Century began as pencil/charcoal sketches. Artists transformed those into watercolors. After approval from the Captain of the krewe, float-builders took over. They transformed concept into reality. They built the floats on wagon bases. Those wagons remain in use to this day. Well, not the originals, but the design.

Citation (yes, we’ll be sticklers for these, given the ultimate lesson plan goal): Watercolor on paper, 15 x 21 inches, Proteus float designs, Carnival Collection, Manuscripts Collection 900, Louisiana Research Collection, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana

The king wears a traditional costume. Over the years, Proteus morphed their king’s costume to match the god-of-the-sea overall theme.

Cross posting

Krewe History will be cross-posted to NOLA History Guy, at least for a while. Since this is a specific project, the “work” of the site will likely remain here.

 

Christmas Tide – Rex 1914 #watercolorwednesday

Christmas Tide – Rex 1914 #watercolorwednesday

“Christmas Tide” was a float in the 1914 Rex Parade.

christmas tide

Rex presents Christmas Tide

The theme for the 1914 edition of the Rex parade was, “The Drama of the Year.” It’s no surprise that the krewe featured Christmas as part of that drama. This is a design sketch for the “Christmas Tide” float. The float features a Celtic Cross formed by light emanating from the Star of Bethlehem. A choir of angels surrounds the cross as a shepherd and his flock look up in wonder.

From the Tulane library record: Watercolor on paper, 16.5 x 20 inches, Rex float designs, Carnival Collection, Manuscripts Collection 900, Louisiana Research Collection, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Elaborate themes, exciting floats

The School of Design regularly presents beautiful parades. After all, the King of Carnival requires an appropriate escort when he takes to the streets of Uptown. While a modern parade offering a calendar/holiday theme might use “pool floats” on the cheap, Rex doesn’t play that. Their “drama” included floats like this one, “Lament of the Winter Winds,” and “Court of King Winter.” Artists hired by the krewe begin with pencil sketches of the floats. The Captain and his officers finalize the parade’s order. The sketches become watercolor paintings. The float builders turn those paintings into three-dimensional reality.

Actual photos

While this is #watercolorwednesday, I neverhteless wanted to find an actual photo of this float. I’ve yet to find one. There’s an auction site that offered a copy of the newspaper “broadsheet” published that year. I’m not a customer of that site, so all I can see is a thumbnail.

Happy Holidays!

I hope you had a wonderful Festival of Lights! May your Yule this week be everything you wish, and Christmas next week be happy and peaceful. May Mr. Bingle smile on you and bring you joy.

NORTA 922 carrying the Phunny Phorty Phellows

NORTA 922 carrying the Phunny Phorty Phellows

NORTA 922 carrying the Phunny Phorty Phellows on Twelfth Night.

NORTA 922, a vintage arch roof streetcar, serves as transportation for the Phunny Phorty Phellows on Twelfth Night, 2023.

NORTA 922 and the Phunny Phorty Phellows, Twelfth Night, 2023. Kerri Becker photo.

Seeing NORTA 922 carrying the Phunny Phorty Phellows is a treat.

The Phunny Phorty Phellows (PPP) announce the arrival of the Carnival season. While there are other organizations parading on Twelfth Night, PPP are the senior members of the cohort. We’ve written a bit about PPP here, but the star of this post isn’t the krewe. It’s the streetcar! NORTA 922 is one of the remaining vintage 1923-24 arch roof streetcars designed by Perley A. Thomas. They dominated the New Orleans transit landscape from their debut to the conversion of the Canal Street line to buses in 1964. There are 35 remaining 900-series cars.

A streetcar numbered 922

While any of the “green streetcars” is more than capable of transporting PPP on their run, NORTA 922 adds a bit of flair to the proceedings. It’s the streetcar from the streetcar movie. The film adaptation of Tennesee Williams’ play, A Streetcar Named Desire required a streetcar. The rail department of New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) chose car 922 to be the streetcar. The movie opens with it, and the rest is, well, less history and more legend.

Imposter, Desired

So, NORTA 922 was a movie star. By the 1970s, however, an imposter took credit for 922’s starring role! NOPSI 453, a wood-frame Brill streetcar, received the appelation, “Streetcar Named Desire.” This streetcar functioned for decades as the “training car.” NOPSI installed it at their facility on Tchoupitoulas Street and Napoleon Avenue. They rigged the operator’s console with the same equipment as the 900-series. New-hire motormen (and the “motorettes” during WWII) trained on 453. It was set up to rock and bump. Senior motormen taught the new folks.

As streetcar service in New Orleans dwindled, so did the training needs. NOPSI 453 stood idle. The story of how this streetcar became identified with the movie is fascinating. I invite you to go read this article by Earl W. Hampton, Jr. and H. George Friedman, Jr., for details and lots of photos.

922 back at work

In the meantime, NOPSI 922 went back to work on the St. Charles line. It’s done its duty well, coming up on a century of service. One of those duties is charter rides, like the PPP. On Twelfth Night, the news folks and photographers head to Carrollton Station to see off the year’s designated driver. They file their stories and go home, as the streetcar rolls the krewe down S. Carrollton Avenue, turning onto St. Charles Avenue. They announce the start of Carnival along St. Charles. When the streetcar reaches Tivoli Circle, the streetcar circles around. It becomes an outbound car, returning to the barn.

Streetcar identification

On a side note, streetcar 922 started live as NOPSI 922, and was designated as such from when it first rolled out of the barn. In 1983, NOPSI transferred its transit division to a new entity. The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority assumed control of the city’s transit routes and assets. So, those 35 green streetcars switched to the new notation.

Happy Carnival!