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15 vintage photos of Mardi Gras in New Orleans show it's always been a wild party

Published by Business Insider on Fri, 21 Feb 2020

Mardi Gras "Carnival" was first referenced in a 1781 report to the Spanish governing body, and that iconic year kicked off the formation of hundreds of carnival organizations, which have carried on their legacy ever since.By the late 1830s, parades were in full swing, with krewes marching through streets illuminated by gaslight torches.In 1872, the official Mardi Gras colors were declared. Purple representing justice; gold for power; and green for faith. Three years later, Fat Tuesday was deemed a national holiday in Louisiana.Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.Mardi Gras arrived in the United States in the late 1600s, thanks to the Le Moyne brothers, whom King Louis XIVsent to defend France's right to the territory of Louisiane.Traditionally,Fat Tuesday ushered in the last chance to eat fatty foods and party through the night before the self-denial season of Lent began for Christians. But even after France decamped from the New World, their traditional spring hurrah stuck around. The infamous days spent parading through busy streets lit by gaslight torches, wearing masks to remain anonymous, decorating floats for months, and of course, lots of throws doesn't show any signs of stopping.To gear up for Mardi Gras, check out these vintage photos from the early 20th century, which prove it's always been America's coolest party.Paige Cooperstein contributed to a previous version of this story.SEE ALSO:Brazil's Carnival and New Orleans' Mardi Gras happen at the same time. Can you guess which picture is from which'The royal chariot with Rex, the King of the Carnival, starts the Mardi Gras procession in downtown New Orleans, in 1906.The Rex pageant joined the Mardi Gras parades in 1872, and to this day is still one of the most celebrated parades, with "Rex" reigning as the King of Carnival.During the parade, civilians would pack into every corner of the street, even sitting atop scaffolding and climbing onto tiny balconies just to catch a glimpse of the floats.There is always an air of mystery while watching the floats, because float-riders wear detailed masks to hide their identities.The parade winds down Canal Street, the widest business district street in the country that was originally intended to just be a common area. Today, you can still ride the streetcar down the same tracks.Source: FriedmanRex passes by Camp Street on its typical route through downtown New Orleans between 1900 and 1906.Parades have always been inventive and theatrical, often poking fun at the theme for the krewe. Here, a 1907 Mardi Gras celebration shows a float towering over the crowds of people.Floats from the Bachus parade make their way through the screaming crowds full of hands waving for throws in the early 1900s.Each float takes months to design and put together, and are always kept a secret until the day of the parade.Here, a float is seen honoring the life of John Audubon, an American naturalist and artist known for his study of birds, in 1956.As the float approaches you, the best thing to do is put your hands up and scream for beads. A Mardi Gras queen tosses beads during a parade in the 1950s.Mardi Gras is all about letting loose, and it's tradition to don a wild outfit.A storefront is seen here advertising a few options in 1941.Mardi Gras is a family affair, and the costumes are no exception. A family of six dolled up as clowns watch the parade from the sidelines in 1956.In 1906, Rex is seen receiving an honorary key to the city of New Orleans in front of Gallier Hall as the grand finale of their parade.The celebration continues into the night as the krewes usually throw luxe balls filled with dancing and drinking, as seen here in 1929.
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