In 1856 six businessmen gathered at a club room in New Orleans's French Quarter to organize a secret society to observe Mardi Gras with a formal parade. They founded New Orleans' first and oldest krewe, the Mystick Krewe of Comus. According to one historian, Comus was aggressively English in its celebration of what New Orleans had always considered a French festival. It is hard to think of a clearer assertion than this parade that the lead in the holiday had passed from French-speakers to Anglo-Americans. . . .To a certain extent, Americans 'Americanized' New Orleans and its Creoles. To a certain extent, New Orleans 'creolized' the Americans. Thus the wonder of Anglo-Americans boasting of how their business prowess helped them construct a more elaborate version than was traditional. The lead in organized Carnival passed from Creole to American just as political and economic power did over the course of the nineteenth century. The spectacle of Creole-American Carnival, with Americans using Carnival forms to compete with Creoles in the ballrooms and on the streets, represents the creation of a New Orleans culture neither entirely Creole nor entirely American.
In 1875 Louisiana declared Mardi Gras a legal state holiday. War, economic, political, and weather conditions sometimes led to cancellation of some or all major parades, especially during the American Civil War, World War I and World War II, but the city has always celebrated Carnival.
1972 was the last year in which large parades went through the narrow streets of the city's French Quarter section; larger floats, crowds, and fire safety concerns led the city government to prohibit parades in the Quarter. Major parades now skirt the French Quarter along Canal Street.
In 1979 the New Orleans police department went on strike. The official parades were canceled or moved to surrounding communities, such as Jefferson Parish. Significantly fewer tourists than usual came to the city. Masking, costuming, and celebrations continued anyway, with National Guard troops maintaining order. Guardsmen prevented crimes against persons or property but made no attempt to enforce laws regulating morality or drug use; for these reasons, some in the French Quarter bohemian community recall 1979 as the city's best Mardi Gras ever.
The marker at this location has inscribed the following:
From this corner on February 24, 1857, the Mistick Krewe of Comus began its first parade, heading up Julia Street toward St. Charles Avenue. With that parade, Mardi Gras was solidified as a New Orleans tradition that ultimately influnced Carnival celebrations throughout the continent. Comus would introduce the continuing custom of krewes staging annual parades and would influence the New Orleans style of Carnival, including floats,the word krewe and the playful element of mystery.
At 9:00 o'clock, or thereabout, the glare of the torchlights shattered the darkness of Magazine and Julia Streets, bands burst into symphony, and the Mistick Krewe... revealed a company of demons, rich and realistic, moving in a procession that seemed to blaze from some secret chamber of the earth.
Perry Young, The Mystick Krewe: Chronicles of Comus and His Kin - 1931