Proteus parade 1931 featured floats displaying history in novels.
Proteus parade 1931
The Krewe of Proteus parade 1931 presented the theme, “Reminiscences of History in Novels.” Float 17 in 1931 held the title “When Knighthood Was in Flower.” Leda Hincks Plauche created the design and this illustration.The float presents the scene of a squire being knighted in a traditional ceremony. The lord rises from his throne as the squire approaches for the accolade.
The Krewe of Proteus organized in 1882. While Wikipedia lists it as the third-oldest krewe (behind Comus and Momus), this is incorrect. Twelfth Night Revelers paraded in 1870, and Rex, King of Carnival began in 1872. Local men formed Proteus because the waiting list to join Comus grew too long. Additionally, members of Proteus formed the Pickwick Club, a luncheon/social organization. The membership of the Boston Club was linked to Comus. So, joining that club presented the same delays as joining the krewe.
Proteus withdrew from parading from 1993 to 1999. When the City of New Orleans approved the “Mardi Gras Ordinance” in 1992, Proteus, along with Comus and Momus, chose not to parade. The ordinance required all Carnival krewes to disclose their membership rolls. While the ordinance targeted racial discrimination, it presented another problem for the krewes. These organizations affiliated themselves with private clubs. Disclosure of the membership rolls meant it would be easy to identify business connections through the krewes and clubs.
The Krewe of Orpheus filled in the Lundi Gras gap left by Proteus in 1993. Proteus returned to parading in 2000.
Proteus floats use the same wagon platforms the krewe built in 1882. Those wagons limit the number of riders on a float. While the parade presents elegantly designed floats, they still only have four or five riders on each side.
According to the Tulane Library’s record, this is a “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.”
Comus 1968 presented “The History of New Orleans” as their theme.
The Mystick Krewe of Comus presented quality parades with thoughtful themes. Comus 1968 offered “The History of New Orleans.” Naturally the Battle of New Orleans in 1815 earned its own float.
Comus first paraded in 1857. So, Comus 1968 rolled through Uptown New Orleans over a century later. While the krewe no longer parades, their heritage lives on in several other krewes. Comus declined to parade in 1991, because of the city’s “Mardi Gras Ordinance” targeting discrimination. While the krewe withdrew from public view, they eventually prevailed in court over the city.
A note in the top right of the drawing shows the title, “Triumph of Jackson, 1815.” Comus 1968 presents the battle from the perspective of memorial. While the actual battle was quite bloody, this design invokes reflection. A handwritten note on the left says, “Andrew Jackson on a white horse on front of float.” This may be a suggestion to the designer (who is not identified). That suggestion was likely rejected, since an equestrian image takes the parade-goer to Jackson Square. Comus 1968 challenged the crowd’s education.
So, instead of the general, Comus 1968 offers a triumphal arch, supported by two columns in the Ionic style. Live Oak branches with acorns, then white roses, flow out from the martial symbolism, to under the arch.
A musket sits on top of a military drum, inside a wreath of victory. Next to the drum is a hunting horn, symbolizing the transition from hunters, trappers, and farmers to soldiers defending their city. A further cluster of muskets with fixed bayonets protrudes from banners and flags.
The red flag of a British regiment is the most prominent of the banners. While the red-white-blue bunting gives the float a neutral take, the British flag actually looks more like a Beauregard flag from the Southern Rebellion. A classic regimental flag would have the Union Jack in the top left corner, rather than covering the flag.
The bales of cotton indicate the economic basis for Britain’s move on New Orleans.
Small float parade
The notes at the bottom shows this float was #11. It had ten men, five a side. Their positions overall in the lineup appear at the bottom.
Image courtesy the LaRC: Watercolor on paper, 14 x 17 inches, Comus float designs, Carnival Collection, Manuscripts Collection 900, Louisiana Research Collection, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana
Comus 1956 gives a shout-out to another old-line krewe.
The Mystick Krewe of Comus first paraded in 1857. New Orleans considers this organization the origin of modern Carnival parades. Yes, Carnival’s been around for much longer, but we point to Comus as how/where our parades got started.
The “Society” krewes maintain the post-rebellion traditions. Before the “Mardi Gras Ordinance” of 1991, the parading lineup was:
- Knights of Babylon – Wednesday before Mardi Gras
- Knights of Momus – Thursday before
- Krewe of Hermes – Friday before
- Krewe of Endymion – Saturday before
- Krewe of Bacchus – Sunday before
- Krewe of Proteus – Lundi Gras
- Rex – Mardi Gras, during the day
- Comus – Mardi Gras evening
While Endymion and Bacchus continue to make a huge splash on the weekend nights, they are “superkrewes” and far from “society” organized. Endymion grew out of friendships in Gentilly and the Ninth Ward, mostly guys who attended St. Aloysius. Bacchus was the brainchild or businessmen who wanted a blow-out parade for people who couldn’t stay through Mardi Gras. Older, established, WASP-y families dominated Comus 1956.
Babylon, Momus, Hermes, Proteus, and Comus were the “old line.” That changed when the city demanded the organizations publicize their membership rolls. Comus, Momus, and Proteus refused to do so, choosing to no longer parade. Their members (well, mostly their sons and grandsons) filtered into other krewes.
Twelfth Night Revelers
The Twelfth Night Revelers hit the streets in 1870. It was their one and only parade. They retired from the streets. Since then, TNR presents their bal masque on, naturally, Twelfth Night. TNR present the season’s crop of young women making their debuts.
Float Symbolism for Comus 1956
This Comus 1956 float presents much of the TNR symbolism. Up front, riders present a King Cake, part of the TNR tradition. The Revelers wear bells of different sorts, as they ring in the Carnival season. The knight’s helmet is a play on “night” in the name. At the rear are gold and silver beans. The TNR king cake contains beans instead of a baby. The debutante who gets the gold bean is the queen. The others get silver beans, indicating they are the maids of the court.
The numbers underneath the float indicate the positions of the riders. Comus placed only 10ish riders on a float. They chose not to go the giant-float route of the superkrewes.
Image info: Watercolor on paper, 15 x 23 inches, Comus float designs, Carnival Collection, Manuscripts Collection 900, Louisiana Research Collection, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana
Happy Twelfth Night!
Phunny Phorty Phellows begin Carnival on Twelfth Night.
Members of the Phunny Phorty Phellows prepare for their uptown ride on January 6, 1994. (Infrogmation photo)
Phunny Phorty Phellows begin Carnival
While the “society” folk attend the bal masque of the Twelfth Night Revelers, the Phunny Phorty Phellows begin carnival on the streets of New Orleans. The PPP ride streetcars, announcing the start of Carnival. The title of one of Erroll Laborde’s books says it all: I Never Danced with an Eggplant (on a Streetcar Before): Chronicles of Life and Adventures in New Orleans.
The Original PPP
On Mardi Gras in 1878, a group of men followed behind the Rex parade, mocking the King of Carnival and his procession. These “Phunny Phorty Phellows” continued to follow Rex until 1885, when they disbanded.
In 1981, group of New Orleanians desired to form a new Carnival organization. Some were part of the original “Krewe of Clones,” the spiritual predecessors of what is now the Krewe du Vieux. A bit older at that point, this group wanted to revive the whimsy of the Clones. To keep costs reasonable and make the outing a ride rather than a march/walk, they decided to charter a NOPSI streetcar. They chose to revive the name, Phunny Phorty Phellows, even though the new group included women.
On the evening of January 6th, the PPP gather at 6:30pm at NORTRA’s Carrollton Station. At 7pm, they roll out of the streetcar barn on Willow Street in a pair of arch roof streetcars. They roll down S. Carrollton and St. Charles Avenues, announcing the start of Carnival. The streetcars circle around Leah Chase Circle, then return to the barn.
The PPP do not have an annual theme, as do many krewes. They don costumes of their choosing, mask up, and have a good time. While NOPSI (and later, NORTA) allowed consumption of alcohol on “party car” rides in the early years of the PPP, risk management rules changed this in recent years. A good time is had by all, nonetheless, as seen in this 1994 Infrogmation photo.
The PPP aren’t rolling in 2021. We look forward to their return next year.
Brochure for the Krewe of Hermes, 1940 (courtesy John Minor Wisdom collection, UNO)
Hermes parade and ball over the years
Krewe of Hermes, 1938 (Teunisson photo)
Even in times of adversity, New Orleans uses Carnival to give the city an emotional boost. Carnival time got the city through the Great Depression. In typical New Orleans fashion, a group of businessmen expanded the celebration for the 1938 Carnival season.
Hermes Ball, 1938 (Teunisson photo)
Carnival parading grew from Comus in 1857 to Rex and Momus in 1872, to many more by the 1930s. In 1938, the Friday night was empty. In 1937, Congressman F. Edward Hebert sponsored a group of businessmen in their effort to start a krewe. These businessmen gathered enough interested men to hold a parade the following year.
Hermes on Canal Street, 1987 (courtesy Infrogmation)
The Krewe of Hermes was an instant hit. Looking to introduce new ideas to the Carnival celebration, the krewe outlined their floats with neon lights, so that the floats lit themselves as well as drawing light from the flambeaux carriers marching along with them.
Dukes and Maids
Queen of Hermes, 1938 (Teunisson photo)
Hermes adopted the tradition of holding a bal masque that doubled as a debutante ball.
Hermes parade in 1987. A duke rides in a convertible. (Infrogmation photo)
A number of parades extend the length of their celebration by using “Maid/Duke floats” which are smaller than the average krewe float. The queen and maids of Hermes don’t parade, but the dukes do. In the 1970s and 1980s, the krewe’s dukes rode in convertibles.
Hermes 2007: Float, “Apocalypse of Ragnorak” (Infrogmation photo)
Now in its 80th year, the krewe still parades on the Friday before Mardi Gras, on the Uptown route. The krewe holds its formal bal masque the night before the parade. The king and his court are presented to the guests, and a festive supper dance is held after the ball. On the street, the Hermes parade is followed by the Krewe d’Etat.
Walking to the parade
In addition to the float parade on Friday night, Hermes continues a long-standing tradition of a “walking parade” in the French Quarter. Carnival organizations have long been restricted from bringing their floats into the Quarter, mainly for fire safety and traffic control reasons. Mindful of their roots, however, Hermes members, dressed in business suits with krewe-logo ties, gather on Royal Street and march through the Quarter, throwing beads and doubloons. They then make their way to the parade’s Uptown staging area for the ride.
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Twelfth Night Reveling!
Invitation to the 1884 bal masque of the Twelfth Night Revelers. (Public domain image courtesy the Louisiana State Museum)
Twelfth Night Reveling!
It’s Carnival Time! We’re starting off the season talking about Twelfth Night, the Feast of the Epiphany, King’s Day. There are three segments to this week’s pod. In the first segment, we discuss the history of Twelfth Night, from its pre-Christian origins to how we celebrate Epiphany in the modern world.
Our second segment is about the part of King’s Day that matters most, King Cake. The tradition of the king cake goes back centuries. Celtic peoples practiced the notion of the “sacred king”. The village or tribe would choose one of their own, a man, to be the sacred king. He would be sacrificed. The sacred king’s blood would flow into the land, an offering to the gods to ensure a good harvest.
When Christianity came to Europe, the concept of human sacrifice as stopped. The “sacred king” became a “Lord of Misrule” who led the celebrations. The selection process for both roles was basically the same. The women of the village would bake bread or a cake, and put a bean into the cake. When the cake was cut up and served, the man who got the bean became the sacred king. In Christian times, the tale was changed, so that the bean represented the Christ child. That’s where the modern concept of “getting the baby” originated.
The modern, commercial king cake came about in the 1930s. Haydel’s Bakery began to include a porcelain “baby” in each cake in the 1960s. The baby became plastic not soon after that.
Buying King Cakes
You can buy Dong Phuong king cakes at the bakery, or at Pizza NOLA in Lakeview
Twelfth Night Reveling in New Orleans
The Twelfth Night room at Antoine’s Restaurant in the French Quarter
Our third segment walks through Carnival celebrations in early New Orleans, to the first parade, Comus, in 1857. Parading on January 6th began in 1870, with the Twelfth Night Revelers. The krewe paraded in the streets until 1878. After that, they limited their celebration to just a bal masque. Tonight, there will be three parades: The Phunny Phorty Phellows, the Société Des Champs Elysée, and the Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc.