Clio Logo
This marker, installed on the corner of the building at Magazine and Julia Streets, indicates the starting point of the first Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, which took place on February 24, 1857. The Mistick Krewe of Comus led the parade, which went west on Julia Street. From this point forward, Mardi Gras parades would become a cherished New Orleans tradition. Mardi Gras parades would soon influence other Carnival parades around the country and abroad.

  • The marker is located on corner of the building facing Julia Street.
  • Mardi Gras in 1900
  • Mardi Gras in 1907
  • Mardi Gras in 1885
  • Revelers in Mardi Gras 2007
  • Close up of marker
Although the celebration originated in Mobile, Alabama, the holiday of Mardi Gras is celebrated in Southern Louisiana. Celebrations are concentrated for about two weeks before and through Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. Usually there is one major parade each day (weather permitting); many days have several large parades. The largest and most elaborate parades take place the last five days of the Mardi Gras season. In the final week, many events occur throughout New Orleans and surrounding communities, including parades and balls (some of them masquerade balls).

The parades in New Orleans are organized by social clubs known as krewes; most follow the same parade schedule and route each year. The earliest-established krewes were the Mistick Krewe of Comus, the earliest, Rex, the Knights of Momus and the Krewe of Proteus. Several modern "super krewes" are well known for holding large parades and events, such as the Krewe of Endymion (which is best known for naming celebrities as grand marshals for their parades), the Krewe of Bacchus (similarly known for naming celebrities as their Kings), as well as the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club—a predominantly African American krewe. Float riders traditionally toss throws into the crowds; the most common throws are strings of colorful plastic beads, doubloons (aluminum or wooden dollar-sized coins usually impressed with a krewe logo), decorated plastic "throw cups", Moon Pies, and small inexpensive toys. Major krewes follow the same parade schedule and route each year.

While many tourists center their Carnival season activities on Bourbon Street and in New Orleans and Dauphin, major parades originate in the Uptown and Mid-City districts and follow a route along St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street, on the upriver side of the French Quarter. Mardi Gras day traditionally concludes with the "Meeting of the Courts" between Rex and Comus.

The first record of the holiday being celebrated in Louisiana was at the mouth of the Mississippi River in what is now lower Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, on March 2, 1699. Iberville, Bienville, and their men celebrated it as part of an observance of Catholic practice. The date of the first celebration of the festivities in New Orleans is unknown. A 1730 account by Marc-Antione Caillot celebrating
music and dance, masking and costuming (including cross-dressing).  An account from 1743 that the custom of Carnival balls was already established. Processions and wearing of masks in the streets on Mardi Gras took place. They were sometimes prohibited by law, and were quickly renewed whenever such restrictions were lifted or enforcement waned. In 1833 Bernard Xavier de Marigny de Mandeville, a rich plantation owner of French descent, raised money to fund an official Mardi Gras celebration.

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

"Starting Point of the First Traditional New Orleans Mardi Gras Parade." The Historical Marker Database. Accessed December 22, 2016.

Creecy, James R. (1860). Scenes in the South, and Other Miscellaneous Pieces. Washington: T. McGill. pp. 43-44.

All on a Mardi Gras Day: Episodes in the History of New Orleans Carnival
 by Reid Mitchell. Harvard University Press: 1995. pp. 25-26

 Three centuries of Mardi Gras history. From: