JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

Mardi Gras: 1906

New Orleans circa 1906. "The Rex pageant, Mardi Gras." Laissez les bons temps rouler! Panorama of two 8x10 glass plates, Detroit Publishing. View full size.

New Orleans circa 1906. "The Rex pageant, Mardi Gras." Laissez les bons temps rouler! Panorama of two 8x10 glass plates, Detroit Publishing. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Ankles, that's a good one.

Today, we have the same floats, riders' costumes, and buildings. But the crowds! This Canal Street crowd is larger than most of today's, but they are quite nattily dressed and extremely well-behaved by today's standards. Granted some of today's Uptown and Endymion Mid-City crowds are as large, but not on Canal, not to mention the sloppy dress and unruly behavior.

Many more men than women on the neutral ground - it's a bowler forest. Also almost no children - I can only find a couple of small children in their parents' arms.

Rex parade no longer loops around to be on both sides of the Canal Street neutral ground, but several other parades do. Today, the Canal Street neutral ground is mostly blocked off for emergency responders. If you ride on the sidewalk (right) side today (parades now run the wrong way on Canal), you gotta unload most of your throws before hitting Canal.

Before movies and TV, just the spectacle of the floats, costumes, and crowds was enough to draw massive crowds without requiring a constant barrage of throws.

A Curious Notion of Utopia

The parade theme sign "IN UTOPIA" identifies this as the 1906 Rex parade. The float and costume designs were by Bror Anders Wikstrom, an immigrant from Sweden to the Crescent City who produced some of the finest Mardi Gras designs of the late 19th and early 20th century. Attached is a depiction of one of the floats in this parade, "Where Submarines are Used as Autos".

Yes, the "red building" with bay windows on the left is still there, it's the Macheca Building from 1901. Even more significant is the shorter white building just this side of it; that is the Boston Club building, constructed in 1844, housing the exclusive private club connected to Rex.

The Rex parade is still a beautiful highlight of Mardi Gras. I caught it yesterday, though Uptown on Napoleon Avenue rather than on Canal Street. My photo shows "The Butterfly King" float.

Packed in Like Sardines

The number of people in the Mardi Gras photo is scary. If there were an emergency, how would ANYONE be able to get help in there? There were obviously few restrictions in those days as far as safety was concerned.

And why not?

I am so looking forward to seeing a version of this appear in the 'Colorized Photos' section.

Just the thing for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Meet me at the parade

I'll be wearing a derby.

Is the photographer known?

If not, my guess would be Alexander Alison. He was a New Orleaniean who photographed many many great photographs of New Orleans.

[The photographer was an employee of the Detroit Publishing Co.; this photo is from their archive, which was donated to the Library of Congress. - tterrace]

WMKC New Orleans

@History_Fan: Yes, I did notice MKC, but had no idea what it stood for. Your explanation probably explains fanhead's comment about two parades down the sides and the people watching from the middle. Picture must have been taken before midnight. ;-)

Viewing stands

Those "balconies" are viewing stands; they still have them today, but are made from steel scaffolding. They are completely independent of the buildings. Also, this is Canal Street. It has an incredibly wide neutral ground (medians to you non-natives); it's large due to the many networks of street car tracks.

They DID have throws back then, but the doubloons (which were likely wooden) & the beads were hand strung from China and were EXPENSIVE. You'd be very lucky to catch one of anything.

The sign hanging in the middle of the street reads "French Opera," so this would lead me to assume it was at Bourbon St. since the Old French Opera House was on Bourbon at Toulouse and burned down in 1919. It is the site of present-day The Inn On Bourbon. The only tell-tale sign that the Opera House was there is the indent on the sidewalk where the carriages would pull up on the corner to drop off their passengers.

"Show me your ankles" made me L O L!

Fallout Shelter

"The building at the left edge appears to be the designated fallout shelter, though I wonder why that was necessary circa 1907. You might say I am Curie-ous about that."

Did you notice the letters under the symbol, MKC? That stands for Mystic Krewe of Comus, the last Krewe to ride on Mardi Gras night. When the courts of Comus And Rex meet at midnight, Mardi Gras is officially over.

Modern Google street view

It seems the photographer was right about at Bourbon and Canal Streets. The taller white building on the right is what replaced the Maison Blanche building in 1908 and is now the Ritz-Carlton. The red building on the left side of the street with the bay windows seems to have survived since 1907 though.

View Larger Map

Throw me something, mister!

Regarding kirkbrewer's hilarious comment, "Show us your ankles," with a woman's footwear of the day, she would probably have to show a bit of calf to get some beads. Those lace-up "high tops" of that era must have been murder to get on and off!

Trading Places

It appears that the people stand in the street and watch the parade go down each sidewalk. Strangest parade I ever saw.


I want the hat concession.


From most of the photos we see of the early 20th century, we might get the impression that people then were rather a stoic bunch. The woman in the white hat in the foreground (left of center) of this photo, frozen forever with her expression of honest laughter, is a refreshing departure.

Old Maison Blanche

Another view of the lovely turreted department store, although not at Mardi Gras:

Safety First

I like how they use those 2x6 braces to hold up the buildings to support all those extra people. Looks really safe.

The way to get beads and dubloons in 1907

"Show us your ankles!!"

Bon temps sans beads.

None of the women are wearing beads! Mardi Gras is better now.

No way, no how

There is no way in Hades you could entice me to sit in or stand under those balcony. I have a hard time believing, with all the balcony disasters of late, that that would ever be approved these days!

Syndicate content is a vintage photography site featuring thousands of high-definition images. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago. Contact us | Privacy policy | Accessibility Statement | Site © 2023 Shorpy Inc.