Professor Carl Nivale, Your Professor Emeritus of all things Mardi Gras
Back to our Welcome Centre
About Professor Carl Nivale
Carvial Krewes
Carnival Walking Clubs
Native Customs
What to do at Mardi Gras
What NOT to do at Mardi Gras!
Images of Mardi Gras
Frequent Inquiries
Carnival Around the World
Our Favorite New Orleans Links
Contact Prof. Carl Nivale
The History of Mardi Gras in New Orleans
 
Page 4

MARDI GRAS COMES TO AMERICA

In 1682, while Spain and Britain were searching for new land to claim on the North American continent, the French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle found his way to the mouth of the river, and claimed the river and all the lands that drained into it in the name of King Louis XIV, the "Sun King" - Louisiane, or "Louis' Land".  Seventeen The Brothers LeMoyne...watch the eyes...years later, Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville sailed into the Gulf of Mexico.  He reached the mouth of the river on Shrove Tuesday, and named it Bayou du Mardi Gras.  At the place where they made landfall, he named Pointe du Mardi Gras.  This point near modern day Ocean Springs, Mississippi was where the first Mardi Gras celebration on American soil took place (well done, Sir Iberville).  Pierre's brother, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, sailed into the mouth of the river in 1718, and formed a settlement in the crescent of the river, 100 miles from the mouth.  He named it Nouvelle Orleans, in honor of the reigning regent Duc d'Orleans.  According to Bienville's records, Mardi Gras celebrations in the settlement began almost immediately, firmly establishing American Carnival and Mardi Gras in the Crescent City.  Today, they are remembered in the streets that cross the city.  Iberville and Bienville streets run parallel from the river through the French Quarter, and into the heart of Mid-City, while LaSalle winds a broken path through the Central Business District and the Ninth Ward.

HOW MARDI GRAS GREW IN THE CITY

The United States and the Territories, circa 1803New Orleans has always been an independent city.  She views her inclusion in the Union with a kind of detatched interest.  This is represented on the lighting poles that stand in the 'neutral ground' on Canal St.  Each pole is adorned with 4 medallions commemorating the various occupations of the city by the French, the Spanish, the Confederacy, and the United States.  While the French controlled the city, Mardi Gras was celebrated freely with bal masques and festivals.  In 1725, the first recorded instances of black slaves escaping into the bayou with the assistance of the Indian population happened.  These escapes, and consequent incorporation of the two cultures would eventually form the basis for the Mardi Gras Indians, who would march in a gesture of gratitude by the African-American population.  By 1732, however, the French attitude of 'live and let live' so permeated the atmosphere that slaves were allowed to earn money in their spare time to buy their freedom.  In the early 1740's the Marquis de Vaudreuil, an early governor of Louisiana, began holding lavishly elegant social balls during Carnival.  The de Vaudreuil Soirees would become the foundations for all formal Carnival balls thereafter.  Then, in 1769 the Spanish occupied the city, and public celebrations of Carnival were banished.  However, secret celebrations continued.  In 1803, the United States made the Louisiana Purchase and New Orleans first became part of the United States.  Unfortunately, the ban against Carnival continued for another 18 years.  The new Americans were not enthusiastic about the Creoles, and vice versa.  Relations between the Creoles and the Americans became so bad, that a 171-foot neutral ground was created on Canal St., effectively creating the unique local penchant for refering to medians as neutral ground.  Still, the struggles for the return to Mardi Gras fell short before wealthy Creoles convinced the Governor to allow the bal masques to resume.  In 1827, street masquing was once again allowed, and Carnival began to grow anew from the long-dormant ashes.
Next up, the celebrations get out of hand until 6 gentlemen from Mobile arrive with a solution.

  

1 2  Back one pageTo the next page   6 7 8 9 10 11 12

The character and name of Prof. Carl Nivale are registered trademarks of Treehouse Players of New Orleans and its owners.
All images and text contained in these pages (except where noted) are the sole property of Treehouse Players and its associates, and may not be utilized or reproduced in any other media without the express written consent of Treehouse Players.