Bizarre Mardi Gras floats of yesteryear

IO9's Cyriaque Lamar has dug through the Tulane University Louisiana Research Collection of Mardi Gras costume and float designs and uncovered an utterly bizarre float entered in 1873 by the Mistick Krewe of Comus, who set out to lampoon both Charles Darwin and the Reconstruction. They dressed up as their idea of the "missing link" with heavy racist overtones. They didn't make it through the parade -- the police shut them down at Canal Street.

In 1873, Mardi Gras revelers from the Mistick Krewe of Comus — unversed in this newfangled evolutionary theory and angry at the Northern interlopers — dressed up as the "missing links" between animals, plants, and humans. Therefore, you had frightening human-grape and human-corn hybrids running around and fauna baring the faces of Ulysses S. Grant, other hated politicians, and Darwin himself.

You can see these costumes here, but this being 1870s Louisiana, the masquerade was absurdly racist.

Lamar's post details other floats and costumes, including an 1884 version of the Aeneid, an 1888 Middle Ages mythos float, an 1892 tribute to fruits and vegetables, an 1895 Asgard, a 1900 Alice in Wonderland, and a 1925 Japanese mythology set.

In the 1870s, Charles Darwin was the theme of a downright deranged Mardi Gras parade


  1. This doesn’t surprise me.  Comus (as the Krewe is known) actually was forced to stop marching when the city forced the Krewes to integrate.  They’re known for having really, really highbrow stuff (comparatively), as well as really, really retrograde attitudes.

    Makes me sad sometimes that I had an uncle who was King of Comus one year.

  2. The “missing link” image here is not of Darwin, but Benjamin Butler.  A politician who first campaigned for office on the then progressive notion of a ten hour day for mill workers in Lowell, MA; the Civil War General who captured New Orleans; the later Governor of Massachusetts who appointed the first Irish and African American Judges to the Bench, and the first woman (Clara Barton) to executive office in that state.  He was reviled by residents in the city he captured who nicknamed him “spoons” among other things, symbolic of the looting of the city’s wealth at the hands of the Northern forces.  Note in this image his cavalry saber and “spoon” in place of a rifle. 

  3. The Louisiana Research Collection (LaRC) at Tulane University has more than 5,500 Carnival float and costume designs online! Check them out at

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