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Nineteenth-Century New Orleans and A Carnival of Women


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NINETEENTH-CENTURY NE W ORLEANS AND A CA RNIVAL OF WOMEN By RAGAN WICKER A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2006

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ii TABLE OF CONTENTS page ABSTRACT.......................................................................................................................iii CHAPTER 1 THE OPENING............................................................................................................1 2 AN OVERVIEW OF THE ORIGINS OF THE NEW ORLEANS CARNIVAL........9 3 RACE AND THE CARNI VAL IN NEW ORLEANS...............................................18 4 PROSTITUTES ON PARADE..................................................................................31 5 AMERICANS VERSUS CREOLES: A BATTLE FOR PRIVATIZATION AND POWER......................................................................................................................38 6 THE TRANSFORMATION OF TH E NEW ORLEANS CARNIVAL.....................43 7 REVISITING THE CREOLE PAST: WOMEN COLLECTIVELY RECLAIM THE STREETS...........................................................................................................54 8 CONCLUSION...........................................................................................................60 REFERENCES..................................................................................................................62 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.............................................................................................67

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iii Abstract of Thesis Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts NINETEENTH-CENTURY NE W ORLEANS AND A CA RNIVAL OF WOMEN By Ragan Wicker August 2006 Chair: Matt Gallman Major Department: History The Carnival in New Orleans is historic ally the largest and longest annual public ritual in the country. Celebrated often fo r months at a time throughout the city since the eighteenth century, the Carnival serves as an essential part of New Orleanss cultural heritage. Unlike other civic rituals celebrat ed around the United States the traditions at the heart of the Carnival hist orically provided an atmosphere to explore normally offlimit behaviors, such as easy social and se xual mixing between races and classes, and a topsy-turvy inversion of social roles, ultimately providing a leveling tool among the people that had lasting effects well after the ce lebration ended. During the citys colonial and antebellum periods, all women benefited fr om the loosened social restrictions and role inversions experienced through masquera ding by their active part icipation in social events on an equal f ooting with men. When analyzing the Carnival through the paradigmatic lens of the public versus private distinction often associated with ge nder studies, it becomes clear that gender had less to do with a persons social parameters than did class and race. While it is often

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iv asserted by modern scholars that nineteen th-century women were passive spectators during public events, this paper argues th e opposite in the case of the New Orleans Carnival. Not only did women participate in the many activities tr anspiring over the long Carnival season, they were essential to their success. Until 1857, the year that officially transformed the Carnival into what it is t oday, a woman was never forbidden to attend a parade, fete, or casual gathering because of he r sex; it was only because of her class or race. The same was true for men. Legally sa nctioned privatization of Carnival groups and events did not occur until after the Civil Wa r, and even then, the restrictions did not affect the masses, but rather the elites of society whose me n privately wanted to control the social currents of the city by controlling the influential Carnival.

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1 CHAPTER 1 THE OPENING All the mischief of the city is alive a nd wide awake in active operation . Men, boys, women, and girls, bond and free, wh ite and black, yellow and brown, exert themselves to invent and appear in grotes que, quizzical, diabolic al, horrible, strange masks and disguises. --Major James Creecy, 18351 Throughout the history of New Orleans, women always have openly participated in the customs associated with the Carnival seas on. Due to the unique colonial history of the city which was ruled under French and Span ish crowns for over one hundred years before the Louisiana Purchase, the involvement of its citizens in cultura l and socio-political matters naturally differed greatly from the re st of the nation. The women of New Orleans have always played direct a nd integral roles in maintaining the true essence of the celebratory Carnival fes tivities. The popular and historic public ritual, still much alive in New Orleans today, would not be possible wi thout womens direct contributions. The one hundred years of history that this paper is based on provides a compelling argument that the public versus private dis tinction often utilized in academic gender studies applies more to race and class, rather than gender, in the analysis of New Orleans Carnival rituals. In other words, partic ipatory options available to women during the long Carnival season had much more to do with their race and socio-cu ltural status than their gender. A man could find himself as easily included in or ostracized from any 1 James R. Creecy, Scenes In the Sou th and Other Miscellaneous Pieces (Washington, D.C.: T. McGill, 1860), 43.

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2 particular event as a woman. Gender counted for much less than class and race when accounting for an individuals, or often a groups, social calendar. Historian Mary Ryan attempts to draw parallels between San Francisco, New York City, and New Orleans during the nineteenth century in order to explore the roles available to women in the creation of public culture. Contrary to her assertion that womens public involvement in nineteenth century civic rituals was nominal and peripheral, direct public involvement in New Or leans Carnival was inclusive of all social groups, more or less, depending on the social an d political atmosphere of the time period in question.2 Given that New Orleans at the time of its founding in 1718 began with a triracial population consisting of French, Afri can, and Native American peoples, further diversifying as 550,000 immigrants poured th rough the port between 1820 and 1860, it becomes apparent that all local women ca nnot be examined as one inclusive body of people.3 Similarly, the public versus private di stinction often applie d to gender studies cannot be applied as ontological categories di rectly correlating with male and female experiences. As race and class divisions c ontinued to grow and diversify throughout the 1800s, women found themselves in a wider variet y of public roles and contexts than may be expected, and these roles depended far more on their social status than their gender. 2 Mary Ryan, Women in Public: Between Banners and Ballots, 1825-1880 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990). Ryan explains womens roles in antebellum public rituals not as participants, but as audience and symbol, (Ryan, 31). She claims that Prior to the 1840s, celebrations were either rowdy male encounters or the manufactured products of the city fathers, (Ryan, 23). Ryan cites New Years Eve visits as the one exception to her rule of men dominating antebellum ceremonial life in New Orleans. The longer and more broadly celebrated Carnival season is not mentioned. (Ryan, 29-30). For more historiographic examples of modern historians viewing women as audience, rather than participants in antebellum public rituals, see Susan G. Davis, Parades and Power: Street Theatre in Nineteenth-Century Philadelphia (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986); Joan Landes, Women and the Public Sphere in the Age of the French Revolution (Ithaca: Cornell Univers ity Press, 1988). 3 Records of the Cabildo http://lsm.crt.state.la.us/cabildo/cab6.htm (last accessed June 6, 2006).

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3 Mary Ryan states that women in ni neteenth-century public rituals were acknowledged to be mostly bystanders and audience, rarely participants, and were occasionally publicly displayed in ideali zed forms representing upper-class mens imagined role they played as such civic archet ypes as justice, liberty, and peace. If Ryan is correct that public ceremonies provide th e occasion to ferret out the cultural meaning attributed to sexual difference in the course of widely atte nded and festive conventions of the public, adding that, [t]his is the si te where public meaning is created and displayed, then an analysis of nineteenth -century New Orleanss Carnival will send an academic reeling with its mixed messages.4 In reality, Carnival in New Orleans functioned as a safety valve, a pressure rel ease for a person to escap e daily routines and societal expectations and beco me someone wholly different within the time boundaries of the celebration. Women of a ll stations took advantage of this opportunity by reveling on the streets, fully changing their iden tities through costumes, and engaging in debaucherous behavior and impromptu parade s. Elizabeth Varon takes issue with Ryan for suggesting passivity among women, imagini ng them as audience and symbol, rather than political actors. Varon thinks t hat to characterize womens partisanship as passive is to obscure the transf ormation in womens civic roles.5 The main theme in Varons article is to try to recover th e extent and degree to which white women participated in antebellum political history, but her observation aimed at Ryan is applicable to all female participation in nine teenth-century civic rituals, regardless of the womans class or color. In other words, the activity of women on the streets in New 4 Ryan, Women in Public, 16. 5 Elizabeth Varon, Tippecanoe and the Ladies, Too: White Women and Party Politics in Antebellum Virginia, The Journal of American History Vol. 82, No.2 (Sep., 1995).

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4 Orleans should not be discounted as mere am bulation or promenading in pretty dresses along the banquettes and levees. Women had places to go, people to see, opinions to offer, and business to take care of, all in the public sphere, just like the men. They participated in the manifold ways available to them, and all the more during the Carnival season. There are two main problems with the trad itional academic analysis of women in nineteenth-century public rituals. First, wh en considering nineteenth-century America, there is too often no clear desi gnation between the ladies th at are often referred to in scholarly writings and the many other wome n that deserve their own paradigms of analysis. In Alecia Longs recent book fo cusing on the mixing of sex and race in New Orleans, she suggests that the term southe rn lady was not app licable to non-white women.6 In the case of New Orleans, the women who would then not be considered southern ladies comprised the numerical majo rity of females in the city. These other women were responsible for introducing myriad social etiquettes and customs that greatly contributed to the renowned heterogeneous na ture of the area. The legitimate social differences among all women were generally less well documented and often denigrated by the elites of the period, a nd therefore are less accessible in their true form to the modern scholar. For example, public wo men is often used in connection with prostitutes, yet the term does not differentia te between the real streetwalkers and the many other women that lived the majority of their lives on the public streets. This is exactly what Christine Stansells work on the lower-class women of New York City attempts to shed light on; many respectabl e women who were not prostitutes lived a 6 Alecia P. Long, The Great Southern Babylon: Sex, Race, and Respectability in New Orleans, 1865-1920 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2004), 14.

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5 public life, yet would never atta in the elite lady status of the upper classes. Instead, they represented social categories all their own.7 The majority of public market and street vendors in New Orleans were women, yet hi storians too often overlook them as the important contributors to the citys culture and economy that they were.8 Second, there exists a tendency amongst hi storians to focus their analyses of nineteenth-century public ceremonies on parades. Especially in the ca se of urban centers, it is unrealistic to think that civic r ituals or ceremonies began and ended in synchronization with the timing of parades. Since city-wide celebrations often meant a break from work, the ceremony arguably bega n with the anticipati on of the people and did not end until the crowds dispersed and ceas ed to collectively process what the event offered in terms of social messages and si gnals. Public gathering places, saloons, and parties likely functioned as spaces where the people continued to communicate and assimilate the meanings conveyed by the hol iday, and the presence of women at these places was assured. Prior to 1857, because organized parades di d not exist as part of New Orleanss Carnival traditions, they ca nnot serve as a gauge for th e social undercurrents being processed by the community, a performative function often attri buted to organized processions. One must look into other mode s of celebration in order to find how the public was contextualizing and transferring the information offered by the event. A typical antebellum Carnival procession in Ne w Orleans often consisted of an impromptu gathering of mixed company, incl uding maskers and revelers of all types, colors, classes, 7 Christine Stansell, City of Women: Sex and Class in New York, 1789-1860 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986). 8 Records of the Cabildo http://lsm.crt.state.la.us/cabildo/cab6.htm (last accessed June 5, 2006).

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6 of both men and women of all ages, marc hing through the streets accompanied by a musical racket. Imagining the main public thoroughfares as ar teries clogged with multitudes of people all dressed up in costum es, talking, yelling, throwing bon-bons and flour, and heading in the same direction may provide a more accurate picture of antebellum Carnival parades. In postbe llum New Orleans, parades became more organized and thematic, but they accounted for far less than ten percent of the Carnival seasons activities, thereby hardly serving as a true mirror for the variety of social signals that the long, participatory festival conveye d, such as gender norms, political and national affiliations, and social prejudices. In most ot her cities, class, race, and gender separation between performers and audience characterized organized processions In New Orleans, however, isolation between participants and obs ervers could not be guaranteed, especially during Carnival. Consistent with the rest of the nation, women in postbellum New Orleans did not typically march in the organized Carnival crews, or krewes, as they are referred to in the local parlance, but it is equally true that the majority of wo men did not sit as complacent bystanders blankly watching the parade pass beneath their balcony perches. Women in New Orleans reveled on the ground with the rest of the heterogeneous crowd that gathered to cheer on the rolling theatrical pr esentations, essentially crossing the line that historians often imagine existed between active participants and passive audience.9 Professor and author Marie-Hele ne Huet points out that there always exists the possibility of the audience members reenacting a performa nce, as opposed to simply observing it. To her, the content of the message is not as important as the transmissibility of it. 9 Ryan, Civic Wars: Democracy and Public Life in the American City during the Nineteenth Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998).

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7 Transmission of words or symbols generates in terpretations in the a udience, causing them to react and affect the mean ing of the original message and how they remember and utilize it later. She explains that a woman s subsequent portrayal of what she has seen may transmute into feelings and actions that could be justified as her own theatrics.10 Customarily, in the case of Carnival fes tivities, mimicry, mockery, and theatrical representations are pervading as pects of the experience. It is difficult to draw parallels betw een Carnival in New Orleans and public ceremonies in other American cities during th e nineteenth-century due to the unique and deeply performative nature of the Carnival and the long-lasting de mocratizing effects it has on the social interactions between the people. The Carnival traditions of role inversion and publicly sanctione d exploration of taboos and otherwise illegal behaviors tend to serve as a lesson in the contingent natu re of social positions. For instance, in the case of New Orleans, slaves could be freed and buy slaves of their own, a woman could shift from a life of dependence on her husba nds to a life of financial and social independence if she made successful business d ecisions or if her spouse died and left her assets, and politically important men coul d be deposed anytime the colony changed hands. Although this is true, more or less, in any society, the people of New Orleans ritually acted out a society of contrariety every Carnival se ason, ensuring that everyone remembered that life is fr aught with precariousness. In her work on nineteenth-century public life, which includes a detailed treatment of New Orleans, Mary Ryan describes the publ ic in terms of people openly interacting in places of natural social gathering, such as the well used streets, taverns, theaters, markets, 10 Marie-Helene Huet, qtd. in Joan B. Landes, Women and the Public Sphere in the Age of the French Revolution (Ithaca: Cornell Univers ity Press, 1988), 166.

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8 and promenades. The first marker of the public is within the domain of everyday sociability, face-to-face or s houlder-to-shoulder encounters between city residents.11 The Carnival celebration, when considered in its broader unabri dged form, provided an atmosphere that fostered a sense of public belonging, discourse, a nd meaning, and at the same time served as a venue to perpetuate social prejudices between groups, ultimately offering the people far more opportunity for pursuing public relations and engaging in demonstrations than any ordinary passing parade. Interactions between people during Carnival at once revealed social boundaries and challenged them. Since the focus of this study revolves ar ound womens roles in nineteenth century Carnival festivities, it is necessary to presen t a historical summary of the origins of New Orleanss Carnival. An understanding of the history of New Orleans early settlers and their relationship to the celebration w ill undoubtedly shed light on the ancient and ongoing Carnival customs annually celebrated sin ce the time of the city s colonial birth. At the core of these customs is a tradition of pushing social limits, inverting social roles, and the paradox of exclusivity in a situation of inclusiveness. If there exists a tendency among scholars to envision men as the public actors during ninet eenth-century civic rituals and women as the passive audience, th en there exists a failure to consider New Orleans Carnival time. 11 Ryan, Civic Wars 14.

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9 CHAPTER 2 AN OVERVIEW OF THE ORIGINS OF THE NEW ORLEANS CARNIVAL The Presbytere is a historic building locat ed in the French Quarter. It was constructed in the late 1700s during the Sp anish colonial period to house an order of Capuchin monks. Today, The Presbytere functi ons as the citys official Mardi Gras museum. In the opinion of todays curators of The Presbytere, the exact origins of the Carnival celebrated in New Orleans are unknow n. They surmise that the ancient Roman Saturnalia, a yearly ritual marking the winter solstice, is the most direct connection to the nearly 300 year-old custom of celebrating Ca rnival in New Orleans. Their permanent exhibit on Carnivals origins explains that th e Saturnalia served as a time to halt all commerce, for people to masquerade and feas t, for masters to wait on servants, and for couples to be designated mock kings and queens.1 Historian and photographer Alexander Orloff also traces the origins of modern Carnival to the pre-Christian Saturnalia, a holiday honoring Saturnus, the beneficent King of Latinum, considered the civilizer of man and law-giver to the people of Italy. The festival of the Saturnalia was a ritual re-enactment of an idyllic time wh en nature was bountiful, work was unnecessary, and equality existed among people. In order to evoke a true sense of parity during the holiday, role inversion was necessary. The metaphoric coin was flipped and the world was tuned upside down. Slaves were set free in their masters clothes for the time of the festival and servants were waited on by their masters. Mock kings were elected from 1 Courtesy of The Presbytere New Orleans, Louisiana.

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10 among the commoners, issuing ridiculous rule s to the host of reveling masqueraders, pranksters, and dancing, drunken fools.2 In contrast, a number of New Orleans historians including James Gill, John William Koolsbergen, and Henri Schindler, hypot hesize that the origins of Carnival go back to the ancient Roman Lupercalia, a fert ility ritual celebrated during the month of February.3 Orloff explains that it is historically understood th at, in ancient times, naked youths, both girls and boys, ran around wrapped in the skins of sacrificed animals, with the women receiving lashes from the februa, or long strips of hide cut from skins of the sacrificed creatures, indicati ng that women had always been involved in this ancient celebration as ceremonial participants.4 As centuries passed, the Christian Church found pagan celebrations offensive, yet could not eradicate them, so slowly began in fusing them with Christian symbolism and overtones. In approximately 600 C.E., P ope Gregory the Great transformed the seemingly ineradicable pagan holiday into Mard i Gras, an official Ca tholic holiday, and a movable feast, immediately pr eceding the Lenten period of fasting and abstinence before Easter, in what would appear to be an act to mitigate the celebrations pagan 2 Alexander Orloff, Carnival: Myth and Cult (Worgl, Austria: Perlinger, 1980), 26-27. 3 For further information about the Roman Lupercalia, see T.C. DeLeon, Creole Carnivals, 1830-1890 (1881; repr., Mobile: Bienville Books, 2004); John Williams Koolsbergen, A Study in Popular Culture, The New Orleans Mardi Gras: Formation of the Mys tick Krewe of Comus and the Krewe of Rex Doctoral dissertation, City University of New York, 1989; Robert Tallant, Mardi Gras . As It Was, 4th ed. (Tallant: New Orleans, 1947; Gretna: Pelican Publishing Company, 1994); Henri Schindler, Mardi Gras and New Orleans (Paris: Flammarion, 1997). 4 Orloff, Carnival: Myth and Cult, 25.

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11 associations.5 Each year since the seventh centu ry, the holiday period commences on the twelfth night of Christmas, the sixth of January, and lasts until the eve of Ash Wednesday, ending anywhere from February third through March eighth. However, throughout at least the first half of the nine teenth century, the French settlers in New Orleans mimicked the Venetian Carnival calen dar that lasted six months a year, with masked balls commencing in November and lasting until May. Regardless of how hard the church trie d, no matter that it made the dates of Carnival conform to the Christian calendar, it could not rid the celebration of its pagan core; however, it did manage to Christianize it to the point that few people know that it is not a holiday initiated by the Catholic Church, as can be assumed from the words Carnavale or Carnelevamen a Latin translation of a farewell or a consolation to the flesh, respectively. Catholic doctrine asserts th at eating meat during the forty-day Lenten period is considered a sin, so this is some thing to indulge in before the period of abstinence, hence the ti me of overindulgence associated with Carnival. The celebrations with roots in Saturnalia and Lupercalia were not all fun and games. Often the people displayed more than just debaucherous behavior, including the settling of vendettas, holding public hangings and committing general violence. Most crimes were not punished, especially during th e climax of the festiv ities, because it was common knowledge that all rules, laws, and ta boos were suspended for the holiday. In 1890, James Frazer wrote of the darker side of the Saturnalia in his master work, The Golden Bough. He found proof in ancient texts th at Roman citizens or soldiers would choose a man among them, usually the least capable, to rule throughout the weeks 5 University of Cincinnati Web Site Search, http://libraries.uc.edu/libraries/arb/ger_americana/traditions.html (last accessed June 6, 2006).

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12 festivities, and when the last day ended, the temporary king was put to death as a sacrifice for the betterment of the people. Frazer spoke of the Saturnalia as a period of license where the moral degeneration of the people le d to wild orgies of lust and crime.6 As the Church gained more control of the festiv al, criminals suffered consequences for their transgressions. Death by hanging was often performed in th e midst of the festival in the public squares. Even with the Church, or later the police, monitoring and chaperoning the festival, observing the laws ultimately rested with the people. A law is only as effective as an authoritys ability to enfo rce it, and during the Ca rnival season in New Orleans, laws were often not enforced. Inst ead, unruly revelry, invers ion of social roles, and half-mock, half-real usurpation of author ity ran wild, and still do, although to a much lesser degree today. Violence, as well as elated celebration, has always found a venue during the New Orleans Carnival.7 Henri Schindler explains that the Bour bon King of France embraced the Carnival styles of Venice and Rome to such a point th at entire courts of allegorical aristocracy were created, and under Louis XIV Mardi Gras itself became a symbolic prince.8 The last day of the festival, known as Fat Tuesda y, Shrove Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, was often characterized by parties and burial rituals enacted in th e days honor. Louisiana was claimed as a colony of France under the lege ndarily decadent Sun King, Louis XIV. 6 Sir James Frazer, The Golden Bough (1890; Bucharest: Romanian Cultural Foundation, 1994), chap. 58, pg. 1. 7 For further information regarding violence associated with Carnival festivities, see Samuel Kinser, Carnival, American Style: Mardi Gras at New Orleans and Mobile (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990); Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Carnival in Romans (New York: George Braziller, 1979); Reid Mitchell, All on a Mardi Gras Day: Episodes in the History of New Orleans Carnival (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995). 8 Schindler, Mardi Gras and New Orleans 14.

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13 When French explorers Iberville and Bienvi lle found the mouth of the Mississippi River on Mardi Gras day in 1699, the coincidence did not escape them. The campsite was immediately christened Point du Mardi Gras , heralding the firs t celebration of the festival in the newest French colony. Subsequently, the first settlers in Ne w Orleans were a mixture of Canadian frontiersmen, company militiamen, slaves, and a variety of indigents, prostitutes, and convicts forced to relocate from France to the New World. The 1721 census counted 470 people in the three-year-old city.9 Storyville historian Al Ro se asserts that the first shipment of people from France consisted of not only women of bad repute, but thieves, vagabonds, gypsies, and other social unwanteds.10 The interests of Rose, as well as author Stephen Longstreet, lie mainly in th e history of New Orleans prostitution, and the latter believes that with the first shipment of people from France the Sporting House history of the town begins.11 Longstreet makes the point that a love of danger and debauchery have characterized the citizens of New Orleans since the moment of its founding and that women played full participator y roles in creating the culture of the city, from carrying muskets and axes, to growing cr ops, to openly displayi ng their sexuality in public, and it is from this first batch of dege nerate people that the subsequent Creoles and their colonial customs were born.12 9 Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, http://britannica.com/eb/article-11811 (last accessed June 6, 2006). 10 Al Rose, Storyville, New Orleans: Being an Authentic Illustrated Account of the Notorious Red Light District (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1974), 5. 11 Stephen Longstreet, Sportin House: A History of the New Orleans Sinners and the Birth of Jazz, (Los Angeles: Sherbourne Press, 1965). 12 The term Creole throughout this paper designates people of pure foreign blood born on Louisianas soil, referring in this case to the original French or Spanish settlers. Throughout the nineteenth century, rarely were locally born Africans or Anglo-Americans considered Creole in New Orleans, although they

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14 No extant records speak of New Orleanss Carnival cele brations under French rule. Even so, there is a long-standing legend that says Mardi Gras was first celebrated by Bienvilles successor as governor the Marquis De Vaudreuil, who threw elegant and elite society balls in the spirit of the French Carn ival tradition practiced by Louis XIV. Grace King, a renowned late nineteenth-century New Orleans writer, called herself a southern woman of letters. She wrot e several personal and historically based accounts of New Orleans life resounding with early notes of feminism. She tells of the legend of the Marquis De Vaudreuil and reminisces on hearin g about his Carnival society balls from the old women in the city. In a book publis hed in 1895, she refers to the women of the city as enthusiastic converts to the higher standard of the newer and more fascinating gay world, introduced by the Marquis, and makes a point of wome ns participation in the citys earliest Carnival celebrations.13 When the Spanish assumed ownership of the colony in 1763, it took them six years to assert any control over the French Creoles. In fact, the rowdy French exiled the first Spanish governor, Don Antonio de Ulloa. It was not until the next governor, Alejandro OReilly, executed six French men responsible for the coup to keep the Spanish out of French New Orleans that Spain gained any say in New Orleanss local affairs. It is at that point, after the Spanish wrested control of th e colony from the French Creoles, that the historical records begin to tell the tale of Carnival celebrations and the problems associated with them. technically would inherit the same designation. This is the most common use of the word in virtually all Louisiana history books. 13 Grace King, New Orleans: The Pl ace and the People (1895; New York: The Macmillan Company, 1926), 79. For further information on the legend of the Marquis, see George W. Cable, The Grandissimes: A Story of Creole Life (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1880), 31.

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15 The first tangible piece of historic evidence related to New Orleans Carnival is a decree issued in 1781 and recorded in the Ac ts and Deliberations of the Cabildo, the meeting place of the City Council. Governor Francisco Luis Carondolet is quoted as saying Because of the great multitude of tr oops and crews from the ships, (due to the state of war between Spain and England), and the great number of free Negroes and slaves in the city, the Attorney General reco mmends that all kinds of masking and public dancing by the Negroes be prohib ited during the Carnival Season.14 The Spanish prohibition on masking began in 1781 and lasted through the first two decades of the new American government, officially ending in 1823. The laws apparently were never enforced with any consistency, because in 1792 the La Salle Conde Theatre was built to house the growing numbers of masquerade balls. It was the first public ballroom recorded in the city and within fifty years there we re over 80 locations devoted to dancing. Carnival historian Perry Young referred to the ban on masking between the years 1806-1821 as soft-pedaled. He notes findi ng advertisements for masquerade balls between those years, yet the newspaper reco rds available from that time do not support Youngs claim.15 Between the years 1807 and 1823 The Louisiana Gazette carried advertisements for Grand Balls at the Orle ans Ball Room, the Jefferson Ball Room, and the Conde Ball Room during the final days of the Carnival seasons, and on only one occasion is anything mentioned about a dress code. The Orleans Ball Room hosted a public ball on Mardi Gras Day in 1820 and felt obliged to mention in the paper that no boots, surtouts, or canes would be admitted in to the dance. In over seventeen years of 14 Digest of the Acts and Deliberations of the Cabildo (Jan., 1781), book 2, pg. 47. 15 Perry Young, Carnival and Mardi Gras in New Orleans (New Orleans: Harm ansons, 1939), 15.

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16 publications, during a time of official prohibition on mask ing, not once was a cautionary word mentioned by The Louisiana Gazette about arriving in disgui se. The same is true for the advertisements in the Louisiana Courrier between 1813 and 1816.16 Did the people know that masking was prohibited and act according to the law, or did they disregard the law and mask anyway, not fear ing penalty and connoting that the law was indeed as soft-pedaled after the Louisiana Pu rchase as it was when the La Salle Conde Ball Room was built in 1792? When the Duke of Saxe-Weimar Eisenach vi sited the city in 1822, the final year of the official ban, he mentioned that the Fren ch Theatre hosted a great masked gala, and that all of the ladies in at tendance donned a costume, and intrigued as well as they were able.17 Historians John Koolsber gen and Karen Leathem both speculate that fear of sexual promiscuity between the races lay at the bottom of the legal decrees against interracial mixing at balls and prohibitions on mask ing that surfaced from time to time during nineteenth-century Carnival seasons.18 Regardless of what partic ular class or race a ball was billed for, masquerading was always a pleasure and a concern. A popular New Orleans newspaper, LAbeille, the French edition of The Bee ran an advertisement during the 1828 Carnival season for a costume store owned by Mlle. Lise Douvillier, enticing customers to find a costume and dress in the privacy of her faciliti es without curious 16 Advertisements, Louisiana Gazette 1807-1823; Louisiana Courrier 1813-1816. 17 Duke of Saxe-Weimar Eisenach, Travels through North America, During the Years 1825 and 1826 (Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Carey, 1828): qtd. in Albert E. Fossier, New-Orleans: The Glamour Period, 1800-1840: A History of the Con flicts of Nationalities, Languages, Re ligion, Morals, Cultures, Laws, Politics, and Economics during the Formative Period of New Orleans (New Orleans: Pelican Publishing House, 1957), 459. 18 Koolsbergen, A Study in Popular Culture 42; Karen Leathem, A Carnival According to Their Own Desires: Gender and Mardi Gras in New Orleans, 1870-1941 (Doctoral dissertation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1994), 200.

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17 eyes penetrating.19 Once people were covered from head to toe, they could pass for virtually anyone, and all races, classes, and genders tended to dress in fully disguising costumes, adding an element of equality, as well as mystery, to the already chaotic celebration. 19 Advertisement, LAbeille, February 1828.

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18 CHAPTER 3 RACE AND THE CARNIVAL IN NEW ORLEANS From the founding of New Orleans until afte r the Civil War, in the minds of the Creoles, the free people of color were potential social agitators and a threat to the slaveholder mentality and power, yet the Creoles co uld not help but interact with them in intimate ways. There had always been free blacks in New Orleans due to the favorable French and Spanish laws concerning the ri ghts of slaves. According to the African American Resource Center, part of the New Orleans Public Library, during the Spanish period, slaves could buy their freedom, be loaned money to purchase their freedom, have their freedom purchased by a relative or friend or be given their freedom, regardless of their masters disapproval, al lowing the free black population to grow in size and importance, often holding positions as skilled laborers, merchants, land owners, and even slave owners themselves.1 Free people of color existe d as a class of their own; too free and often too socially significant to be grouped t ogether with the slaves, but unable to vote or find a niche in white soci ety. Their strong presence, combined with their monetary and business success, made their middling existence a threat to the southern slave ideology that clung to the con cept that all blacks s hould be subjugated to whites. Miscegenation was a common occurr ence in New Orleans, as evidenced by the large number of mulattos born each year, addi ng to the already numerically significant 1 African American Resource Center, Emancipatio n Records, New Orleans Public Library Online, http://nutrias.org/~nopl/info/aarcinfo/guide/emancipations.htm (last accessed June 6, 2006).

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19 class of people more free than slaves, yet le ss free than whites, with internal social stratifications all their own. The census reco rds for Louisiana in the nineteenth century do not distinguish between whites and free pe ople of color in the category of births. However, in 1850, free people of color in Or leans Parish made up ten percent of the overall population. There were approximately twice as many free women of color than men, and twice as many white men as women.2 Karen Leathem posits that, in the 1850s, gender became the overarching rubric for unofficial masking regulations.3 More likely, all previous masking regulations, whether official or not, had existed for the same wh ite, fear-based reasons. Ease of association among all races of residents, combined with an unequal ratio of men to women, ironically made room for and implicitly encouraged the generally frowned-upon practice of interracial sexual intercourse. Late histor ian Kimberly Hanger wrote in her 1991 PhD dissertation concerning free people of colo r in Spanish New Orleans that with few exceptions . persons of all colors and cl asses worked and played together by choice and necessity. She continued by stating, New Orleans refused to function in accord with any strict social stratifications based on race, class, or legal status.4 Alecia Long relates several historical cases of sex across the color line, using them as aids to explain how the city went from having a dubious re putation for decadence and racial diversity before the Civil War to exploiting that d ecadence by creating a tourist market around the sex trade that encouraged indulgence in prostitution, including miscegenation, for 2 Geospatial and Statistical Data Center, University of Virginia Library, http://fisher.lib.virginia.edu/cgilocal/censusbin/census/cen.pl?year=860 (last accessed June 6, 2006). 3 Leathem, A Carnival According to Their Own Desires 38. 4 Kimberly Hanger, Personas de Varias Clases y Colores: Free People of Color in Spanish New Orleans, 1769-1803 (Doctoral dissertation, University of Florida, 1991), 243.

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20 government profit after the war. In 1898, the notorious Storyvill e district was born, composed of several city blocks set aside by local officials for the sole purpose of enticing tourists to luxuriate in a sanctioned erotic environm ent of sex and, later, local jazz music.5 The free people of color in New Orleans were not subjected to the same social etiquette that the French and Spanish Creole elites enforced. The free colored people had their own set of social sta ndards and, for those women deemed quadroons and octoroons, persons one-fourth and one-eighth black resp ectively, they had standards that both seduced and appalled Creole men and incensed many Creole women. To illustrate, in 1810 a woman named Lucinda Sparkle published a letter addressed to the City Council in the Louisiana Gazette Her concern clearly shows ju st how important the Carnival season was for women of her era, and just what a threat the Creole women considered the female quadroons. She petitioned for the following: [that a] suitable genteel, tree -shaded promenade be establis hed to foster the best female society who were losing out to the quadroons who promenaded the levees and ensnared the eligible gentlemen of the city. During the Carnival, when our young gentlemen from custom and the pleasur es of dancing are frequently in the company with our belles, feelings of th e most pure and tender nature are often excited; but, time passes, the Carnival e nds, and the period of female seclusion again returns, and there remains nothi ng to counteract the baneful voices complained of by your petitioner. [She envisioned that a proper public promenade would be a place where] the favorable and honorable impressions made during the Carnival might be renewed a nd new conquests might be made.6 Historically, in New Orleans quadroon women were distinguished for their exemplary educations and financial solven cy, qualities often thought of as unusual for 5 Alecia P. Long, The Great Southern Babylon: Sex, Race, and Respectability in New Orleans 1865-1920 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana Stat e University Press, 2004). 6 Lucinda Sparkle, letter to City Council, Louisiana Gazette Sep. 18, 1810.

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21 women of their time. Due to the promise of limited legal rights extended to free people of color, the quadroon women benefited as legal landowners and merchants, and were often socially independent. Grace King left behind her a wealth of information about New Orleans and its distinctive local culture in the many books she wrote, including a reproduction of an unpublished manuscript wri tten in the mid-nineteenth century by Charles Gayarre, the grandson of Etienne de Borre, New Orleanss first mayor, and a lawyer and fellow-writer friend of King. Ga yarres manuscript resounds with respect for the free colored women. He pleasantly remini sces about the comfor table living quadroon women afforded white men by cat ering to their every need, their affability, and their proverbial honesty, yet in the same breat h he complains that the women monopolized the renting, at high prices, of furnished r ooms to white gentlemen, sounding more like he had a personal gripe than was stating an ab solute fact. In cont rast, Kings opinions are much more severe than Gayarres. In regard to family peace and purity, she considers the women the most insidious and the deadliest of foes a community ever possessed.7 Given the contents of this quote, it is te mpting to imagine the name Lucinda Sparkle serving as a pen name for King if the latt er had been alive in 1810. The respective contrasting opinions of Gayarre and King echo the stereotypical responses held by white men and white women, respectively, in respons e to the unusual social position quadroon women occupied. After all, white men tended to benefit from the unusual social position of the quadroon women, while white women did not. More importantly, however, the opinions of King and Gayarre reflect the qua ndary in which the free women of color found themselves and dealt with daily, livi ng in a reality somewhere between freedom 7 King, New Orleans: The Place and the People 347; Charles Gayarre, unpublished manuscript, qtd. in King, New Orleans: The Place and the People, 347.

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22 and servitude, and in a world between the wh ite and black cultures, a world often fraught with hostility. One of the most noted reasons for the quadroon womens independence, financial solvency, and resented position in society sprang from the peculiar, yet common placage system, borrowed from the French West Indies In the placage system, the mother of a free young quadroon woman would offer her as th e mistress of a soci ally desirable young and unmarried white man. When a suitabl e match was made, the women became known as a placee. The legendary quadroon Carnival balls that occurred in New Orleans from some time in the 1700s until the Civil War, documented in the countless travelogues left by North American and European travelers, i nvolved more than just dancing the French quadrille until dawn.8 First and foremost, for the love of music and Carnival, free colored people held balls where technically no whites were allowed to attend. However, the quadroon balls represented a glaring doubl e standard. Quadroon mothers, acting as brokers and often placees themselves, woul d accompany their daughter to the quadroon balls in attempt to strike a bargain with an interested white man in attendance in order to place their daughter in that mans care for life. These balls were well known and in operation specifically for the purpose of inter -racial relations. They served as the courting ground of young white men of m eans looking for exotic darker skinned mistresses. 8 For further information on quadroon balls in travelogues, see Thomas Ashe, Golden Petticoats: Travels in America (London: printed for R. Phillips, 1808), qtd. in The World from Jackson Square: A New Orleans Reader ed. Etolia S. Basso (New York: Farrar, Straus, 1948), 87-91; Isidore Lowenstern, (1837), Harriet Martineau, (1830), The Duke of Saxe-Weimar Eisenach, (1825), James Stuart, (1829), Mrs. Trollope (1827), qtd. in Albert E. Fossier, New-Orleans The Glamour Period, 1957; John H.B. Latrobe, Southern Travels: Journal of John H.B. Latrobe, 1834 ed. Samuel Wilson Jr. (New Orleans: The Historic New Orleans Collection, 1986).

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23 Thomas Ashe, in his 1808 travels to New Orleans from London, took a great interest in the placage system and the quadroon women it involved. As one of the men captivated by the beautiful mixed-race ladies, he considered the wome n of color socially equal, if only in grace and elegance, to th e white society women. He noted that, The mothers regulate the terms and make the barg ain . generally fifty dollars a month; during which time the lover has the exclusive right to the house, where fruit, coffee, and refreshments may at any time be had, or where he may entirely live with the utmost safety and tranquility.9 In a similar vein, in 1859, Fredrick Law Olmstead, the noted landscape architect and designer of New Yorks Central Park, mused that living under the placage arrangement cost less money than rentin g hotel rooms that did not come with the cooking and laundry services that the quadroon placees provided. Olmstead guessed that a man could live a better life for less mone y in New Orleans with a quadroon mistress than a man with a salary could in New York City.10 If a white man of means desired to take part in the placage system to secure hi mself the services mentioned above, the place to institute the relationship would ha ve been the famous quadroon balls. Similar to all Carnival galas, the quadroon balls varied in qual ity, depending on the class of people in attendance, something likely determined by the elegance and entrance fee of the particular ballroom. In 1834, John Latrobe visited New Orleans from Baltimore. The son of the New Orleans architect and commentator Benjamin Latrobe is notable in having spearheaded the African r ecolonization movement, an effort to send manumitted slaves back to a newly establis hed African colony, Liberia, named by the 9 Ashe, Golden Petticoats qtd. in The World from Jackson Square ed. Basso, 91. 10 Fredrick Law Olmstead, Men and Manners qtd. in The World from Jackson Square ed. Basso, 160.

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24 American Colonization Soci ety to imply liberation.11 On the night of his arrival, he was escorted by his host to a quadr oon ball. This first ball La trobe attended was at the Washington Ball Room and required guests to come masked. He paid a one dollar entrance fee into the gorgeous building, commenting that, it far exceeds anything of the sort that we have in the North. Not su rprisingly, Latrobe left his wife Charlotte in their temporary quarters while he enjoyed an event she socially could not attend. Latrobes writings reveal incons istencies in his opinions rega rding people of color. On the one hand, he worked for the abolition of sl avery, desiring to rid th e nation of its racial problems by shipping all blacks back to Afri ca, yet on the other hand, he notes several times his fixation with the feet and ankles of unescorted colored women around Jackson Square, inquiring about their ident ities in an effort to make their acquaintance. It is likely that the same women he saw in the square dur ing the day starred in the quadroon balls at night. He commented with repugnance that the quadroon belles pass their lives in prostitution, only made worse by the fact th at New Orleans citizens, more or less, condone their behavior. Disguste d from the heat and smell of sweat, Latrobe left the first quadroon ball around midnight, yet he apparently could not fight the temptation to attend another ball of lesser quality that he coinci dently stumbled upon moments later. The second quadroon ball he attended was advertis ed in the November nineteenth issue of The Bee There he found colored women and w hite women of the lowest order, and nearly all of the women in the same sort of costume. Once again offended by the odor and the lack of lighting, he left the ball, but what is of impor tance are the descriptions of 11 Latrobe, Southern Travels 2.

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25 the evening Latrobe left behi nd, demonstrating that societal rules of the time concerning the mixing of races were inconsistently adhered to, at best.12 The elite white society women, often th e victims of cheating husbands, often enough used the quadroon Carnival balls to gain proof of their partners affairs and to aggravate the events other attendees. For instance, in 1835, yet another debate ensued over masquerading, because many white wome n were donning masks and entering the quadroon balls. The public spotlight cast upon th e elite white women from the Cabildo most likely served to warn them that their so cial status could be undermined, especially if they were accused of acting improperly at a ball by committing an act of adultery with any man, or worse, miscegenation with black men who easily could have gained entry as well under cover of a costume. Historian Laurraine Goreau cites Alderm an Allard in an 1835 debate defending married white women caught accessing a realm customarily prohibited to them. The Alderman supported their incognito passage into the balls suspecting that their intentions were solely to surprise their adulterous husbands openly consorting with their quadroon mistresses.13 Historian and author Albert Emile Fossier, in his early twentieth century book, New Orleans, the Glamour Period, 1800-1840 quotes an unnamed prominent English author from the ni neteenth century who further attests to white women infiltrating the quadroon balls of their own volition, but he suspects that their reasons varied more than Alderman Allard assumed. 12 Latrobe, Southern Travels 76-81; The Bee November 19, 1834. 13 Alderman Allard, City Council Debate, November 20, 1835, qtd. by Laurraine Goreau, The Past as Prelude: New Orleans, 17181968, ed. Hodding Carter (New Orleans: Tulane University Press, 1968), 346.

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26 In the twenties and even in the early thirties, these balls were strictly limited to [quadroon] women and their white admire rs. No white women would risk the opprobrium for attending them, even dis guised with a mask. The fear of apprehension was too great, but in the marvelous thirties when the population both males and females, grew to tremendous proportions, white women, either because of curiosity, for amusement, or to confirm their suspicions as to the whereabouts of their husbands, would attend these balls, where they were not welcome, in incredible numbers . at first carefully disguised, then flaunting all conventions by not attempting to hide their identity.14 The acting mayor, Culbertson, in a letter to the same City Council meeting in 1835, showed great concern that white ladies we re attending these balls events that he considered an ongoing custom promoting infide lity. Mixed feelings in the white male population between wanting their freedom to live a dual sexual life with a socially downcast, though desirable, race, and not wanting their wives to know, confront them, or, especially, take revenge by committing the sa me act with willing black males, was common. Culbertson complained of the wh ite women attending the quadroon balls, explaining that, the spectacle of their abomin ations is constantly offered to the public gaze. In a seemingly offended tone, Culber tson continued that these white women in attendance, often married, felt comfortable enough to bring with them as escorts, unprincipled men who have been expelled from other sates, and who find here, in consequence of the disguise they are allo wed to assume, and the protection of these females, every opportunity to follow their swindling career.15 Ten days later, The Bee commented in an editorial that however disp osed we may be to esteem ladies and to gratify their curiosity, etc., we did not like to see them disguised in liquor or dress. What they may be permitted to do at a fancy ball respectably got up can scarcely afford a 14 A Prominent English Author qtd. in Fossier, New Orleans: The Glamour Period 362. 15 Mayor Culbertson City Council November 20, 1835, qtd. in Fossier, New Orleans: The Glamour Period, 362-363.

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27 precedent to unrestrained freedom at masked ba lls for colored people two or three times a week.16 All of this implies nothing less than women, even ones considered high society, fully participating in the rituals asso ciated with the Carnival season, and they did so with much less compunction than many historians suspect. In 1834, Englishmen Charles Augustus Mu rray commented on the gaiety and ease of the Creole women at their Carnival ball s. He fondly remembered that he was privileged to address and to dance wi th any young lady in company without going through the ceremonial ordeal of introduction. He continue d by saying, it is impossible to conceive an assembly with more agreemen t and with less restraint, than this Creole coterie.17 He likely found himself in the company of well behaved Creole citizens at an extravagant fete, a privilege not extended to al l whites, or even all Creoles in the city. There is no doubt that there existed palpable qualitative differences among Carnival balls and their attendees. It is important to note that Creole societ y had its class stratifications, as well. Not all Creoles had access to money, resources, or even homes. The Creole balls ran the gamut from decadent and very socially restrict ive subscription or society balls, where the Duke of Saxe-Weimar Eisenach clai ms, none but good society were admitted, likely prohibited to most by their entrance f ee, to the inexpensive and easily accessible public balls, advertised in every newspaper, with women often admitted for free.18 Women were not only conspicuous ly present at all of these parties both in costume and 16 The Bee November 30, 1835. 17 Charles Augustus Murray, qtd. in Fossier, New Orleans: The Glamour Period 455. 18 Duke of Saxe-Weimar Eisenach, qtd. in King, New Orleans: The Place and the People 266.

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28 spirit, they were absolutely necessary to th eir success, especially if the male attendants desired dancing until dawn. Class and race determined admittance to the balls, especially admittance to the elite private sphere of the invitation-only galas, gender did not, yet there existed the promise of a good fete for ev eryone, usually six months out of the year and several times a week. All classes and colo rs of society had their bacchanals and the women were ever-present, partic ipating in the celebrations. In the atmosphere of New Orleanss antebellum Carnival, white southern womanhood and its reputation for delicacy and sacred virtue de serves reconsideration. It is apparent that New Orleans challenges the perspective of a monolithic Southern culture as evidenced by the social complexities of th e city, which at Carniv al time were brought to the surface in full public force. In theory, among the upper classes, there existed a stigma associated with the public balls due to the balls socially heterogeneous attendees, which offered no guarantee of whose company in which people might find themselves. Under the guise of masking, social tres pass occurred regularly. John Williams Koolsbergen comments that, In a broader sense the inve rsion of status is at the core of Mardi Gras because the centr al theme of New Orleans Carnival is the fantasy of becoming anything one desires for a day.19 People often disguised themselves as other races, classes, and genders in order to gain access, if only psychologically, into social spheres with which they were less well acquainted. In 1952, Mardi Gras historian, Arthur Bu rton LaCour, commented that the public balls of the nineteenth century created an at mosphere of offensiveness and immorality. Using women as the measuring stick for dete rmining immoral behavior, he wrote, Self19 Koolsbergen, A Study in Popular Culture 26.

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29 styled ladies wore masks but all other parts of their bodies were delineated. Hostility towards masking was renewed and the laxity of the public balls were severely criticized as Bacchanalian revelries.20 It seems LaCour assumed that the women would not have dressed so promiscuously were they not ma sked, and the fact that they did display themselves in a sexually provocative way led hi m to conclude that masking was the cause of, or excuse for female transgression, as opposed to the overall lax nature of Carnival sociability. In a similar vein to LaCour, local New Orl eans author Robert Tallant felt that the public balls of the late eight eenth and nineteenth centuries possessed varying degrees of respectability [and] which were open to ev eryone who could purchase a ticket, and some of these were helping to give New Orleans a reputation as a city as evil and as dangerous as Marseille, a city which was in time to earn the appellation of hell on earth.21 Tallant blames the reputation of the city on the debauched persons who attended Carnival balls, but, in reality, New Orleans gained its hellacious reputation for a variety of reasons, many having nothing to do with the Carnival. Historically, the city was no stranger to widespread bouts of epidemics, warring with local Amerindians, slave insurrections, pirate attacks, annual flooding of the city streets, hurrica nes, delinquents, dueling, gang fights, and prostitution. In truth, there existed no specific limits to open female sexuality and provocative behavior and this seemed to bother men much more than the majority of women who used Carnival as an excuse to display thei r bodies, act coquettishly, and behave in ways 20 Arthur Burton LaCour, New Orleans Masquerade: Chronicles of Carnival in collaboration with Stuart Omer Landry (New Orleans: Pelican Publishing Company, 1952), 10. 21 Tallant, New Orleans . As It Was, 97.

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30 often not normally accessible to them, challenging mens perceptions of their virtuousness. Since the social guidelines pe ople publicly adhered to greatly depended on their class, the anonymity of Carnival offere d everyone an opportunity to explore other social realms. Even the upper-class women wh o frowned on the quadroon balls, with all the implicit and illicit sexuali ty associated with them, still attended disguised enough to hide their personal identity, perhaps even their class, but not their gender.

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31 CHAPTER 4 PROSTITUTES ON PARADE Among the common people, or gens du commun it can be inferred that the prostitutes so commonly referred to in New Orleans history were often the lower-class white Creole women, although they were not alone in this profession. Many immigrant women arriving in the city with no resources or family support also turned to the illicit sex trade for money. In fact, Al Rose, an expert on Storyville, Ne w Orleanss red light district, uncovered much evidence of women traveling from different cities to New Orleans to make quick earnings by engaging in prostitution, and all the more during the Carnival season. Robert Tallant claimed, Mar di Gras was a paradise for whores . Theyd take over the streets, go into the best neighborhoods in carriages and on foot, shouting obscenities and dresse d in the most daring costumes; behaving in the most brazen fashion.1 During the antebellum period of Carnival, prostitutes, both black and white, owned the streets as much as men. They dominat ed many areas of the public sphere, openly inviting, in Alecia Longs words, sex across the color line in bars and concert saloons across the city, from the most dangerous of neighborhoods to the most wealthy and refined. Social stigmas associated with pr omiscuous costuming and bawdy behavior only encouraged them to rebel more. Karen L eathem notes that since the mid-nineteenth century prostitutes commonly cross-dressed as men for Mardi Gras. To Leathem, cross1 Tallant, New Orleans . As It Was, 108.

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32 dressing represented a challenge to Vi ctorian ideas of ge nder immutability.2 Her position is in direct conflict with Mary Ryans a ssertion that Like th e sexual reversals of European Carnival . the cross-dressi ng of Mardi Gras did not challenge gender hierarchies.3 Given these contradict ory voices concerning the na ture of cross-dressing, why women chose to costume in th at fashion must be considered. It is likely that one reason prostitutes cross-dressed was to penetrate and undermine mens socially superior positi on over women. Costumes ofte n signified political ideals and social mores of the day, letting people pl ay with new information and find new ways to assimilate and express it, while simultane ously reflecting and challenging the world as the costumers knew it. For instance, women cross-dressing as men could thwart sexual double standards that men used to their advantage, such as the placage system, and costumes of inversion could be made into tools used by the oppressed to temporarily assume the privileges of their oppressors. Upper-class men regularly cross-dressed fo r Carnival, often playing the part of females in the organized postbellum parades, parades that women, al ong with the rest of the citys citizens, were excluded from. Role inversion was as much a part of the ancient Carnival customs that survived in New Orl eans as open sexuality and public debauchery. It served as a vital component in keeping the essential spirit of the Carnival alive. On Ash Wednesday, 1838, The New Orleans Daily Picayune relayed to their readers their Mardi Gras day experience, illustrating a gr and procession of Creole gentlemen of the first respectability. All of the men rode horses, and Many of them were dressed in 2 Leathem, A Carnival According to Their Own Desires 61-62. 3 Ryan, Women in Public 29.

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33 female attire, and acted the lady with no small degree of grace.4 Both men and women could and did masquerade as each other and explored the others social advantages, if only temporarily. If there existed some understanding among prostitutes that gender roles were decided upon through public ritu als and displays, as Karen Leathem and Mary Ryan both postulate, then perhaps the more clever wo rking women noticed the significance of crossdressing through awareness of fashion trends. Women such as Sarah Bernhardt stunned people by wearing pants in public and playing the roles of men in the theater, essentially eroticizing cross-dressing. Perhaps prostitu tes realized the power of male-impersonation when they saw men, year after year, cross-dr essing as women and behaving in ways that made it look fun for women to command the str eets in drunken revelr y. Tallant mentions that in 1871, Mary E. Walker, a physician, visi ted the Crescent City for Mardi Gras and costumed herself as a man, a role she likely identified with due to her occupation. She noted feeling out-heroed by the many prostitutes also donning male raiment.5 Interestingly, author Reid Mitchell found ev idence of Walkers a rrest for her act of donning mens attire, an uncommon response by th e police, even if they assumed her a prostitute. In fact, Mitchell later asserts th at the local newspapers routinely considered cross-dressing nothing more than Carnival gaiety.6 Most likely, prostitutes realized from the reactions they elicited, es pecially during Carnival, that they were already influential actors consciously creating the images they want ed the rest of the public to assimilate. 4 The New Orleans Daily Picayune February 28, 1838. 5 Tallant, Mardi Gras . As It Was, 127. 6 Mitchell, All on a Mardi Gras Day 136-137, 140.

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34 In other words, prostitutes cross-dressing as men served to both symbolize and lampoon their male patrons, who likely thought themselv es at the top of the gender hierarchy and in control of economics and government. In reality, the prostitutes controlled a lucrative profession that exercised influe nce over police, city officials, and merchants alike, and it was in the prostitutes best interest to make their claim as an important social force and major contributors to the city s economy, and demand attention and respect for who they were--a group of successful women in a city that had never been without their presence and their specialized offerings. Among prostitutes, as with any large group of people, there existed social stratifications as well, depending on which ne ighborhood they resided in or whether they worked alone or in a brothel under the pr otection of a madam. Pure, white-skinned Creole and European immigrant women of th e sex industry often lived in areas that suffered such high crime rates that a man of means looking for a good time would have been wise to look elsewhere. Robert Tallant recalled countle ss tales of rivalries between uptown and downtown gangs of prostitutes, lik ely American versus Creole, due to the way the citys neighborhoods gr ew. Americans developed the r eal estate above or uptown from Canal Street and immigrants usually resided within or below the French Quarter. The antagonistic women would ma rch into each others sect ions and instigate all-out brawls, that began with verbal blasting and ended with fists, sticks, and stones. He continued by writing that, Mardi Gras was a favorite time for this, when the heart was in high spirits and the inhibitions were released by alcohol a nd the gaiety of the season.7 7 Tallant, Mardi Gras . As It Was 109.

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35 Tallant claims that the police would not ve nture into the Gallatin Street district, even in broad daylight, and that murders in the area increased exponentially during the Carnival season. He relays that the crime was even worse uptown in the Swamp, the uptown area around Girod Street. Accordi ng to Tallant, women in the Swamp and Gallatin Street areas prostituted themselves for pennies, often possessed no home, and literally lived on the streets. Tallant described the women as terrible fighters, brawny and battle-scarred female savages, ready and w illing to gouge out a mans eyes or slit his belly or his testicles with a r azor or a knife. Since this t ype of behavior was supposedly an everyday occurrence for the women in the area, There was real ly little that the Swamp could do to provide additional exciteme nt [on Fat Tuesday], so on this day they would often wander in large numbers to Gallatin Street to exhibit their superior prowess, to tear the Gallatin Street dives to pieces, and to maim the inhabitants.8 In essence, these debased women represented one end of the spectrum of prostitution, and the women of the high-class brothels who hosted the men of means in the city represented the other. The 1840s heralded a new epoch in the Carn ival history of New Orleans. Between 1800 and 1840, the city-wide festival gave ev eryone the opportunity to intermingle without too much fear of soci al disapproval. Openly soci alizing across all demographics was customary behavior of the New Orleans na tives, as new arriva ls quickly learned. There indeed existed places and events wh ere certain groups normally gathered and others were generally unwelcome, but those restrictions were ofte n disregarded, and all but disappeared during Carnival. Until t hose final years before the Civil War, notoriously known as decades of disquiet a nd heightened animosity between the races 8 Tallant, Mardi Gras . As It Was, 109-110.

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36 and classes in New Orleans, lives were lived in the public sphere and the fabric of society seemed firm and in place. But as national ge rms of social unrest began to filter into the city, the fabric began to loosen and come apar t. Social restricti ons were imposed from the top down where none had been before and the people found themselves more and more separated and priv atized from each other.9 In fact, the 1842 tr avelogue of Louis Tasistro noted that the public began compar ing costumed women with prostitutes as the latter filled the streets during Carnival when other women would not, in fear of the street violence continually erupting as a precursor of the Civil War.10 The flour that mischievous young boys traditionally threw at innocent revelers was replaced with bricks and quicklime, causing the quality of the celebra tion to deteriorate, as reflected in the media of the time. Gradually the sensible citizens of the c ity began to disappear from the streets during Carnival as the local newspapers made pessimistic comments concerning the rising violence occurring during the trad itionally celebrato ry season. In 1848 The Bee commented that Mardi Gras a ltogether was a poor affair. Some few boys paraded on the streets on foot, in carriages, and on horseback and began throwing fl our in each others faces, when other boys standing by pelted them w ith mud and brickbats . So ended the ceremony which is now more honored in the breach than in observance, and which should be altogether done away with.11 Six years later, their assessment of the holiday 9 For further information about clas s and racial animosity affecting th e New Orleans Carnival season in the 1850s, see James Gill, Lords of Misrule: Mardi Gras and the Politics of race in New Orleans (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1997),; The Presbytere; Ryan, Women in Public 1990; Ryan, Civic Wars 1998; Tallant, Mardi Gras . As It Was 1990; Young, Carnival and Mardi Gras in New Orleans, 1939. 10 Louis Tasistro, Random Shots and Other Southern Breezes (New York: Harper Bros., 1842). 11 The Bee, March 8, 1848.

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37 had not improved. The Bee curtly stated, Boys with bags of flour paraded the streets and painted jezebels exhibited themselves in public carriages, and that is about all.12 The medias concerns were not unfounded, and in fear for the people, who they themselves were, they pushed for the privatization of th e seasons festivities by urging revelers to gather in places less public than the streets. Until 1857, Carnival events that took place in the private sphere, such as quadroon and invitation-only high society balls, still seemed semi-public, and the public sphere had few boundaries. It took transformational forces of enormous influence to change the egalitarian Creole Carnival style of celebrating, and those forces were the socially conservative Americans steering the ship of cultural change during times of inner-city discontent at the dawn of the Civil War. 12 The Bee, March 1, 1854.

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38 CHAPTER 5 AMERICANS VERSUS CREOLES: A BATTLE FOR PRIVATIZATION AND POWER Women in general had enjoyed a more de mocratic freedom of expression in New Orleans when the people still clung tightly to th eir French and Spanish colonial roots. As the city slowly began to assimilate Ameri can influences, womens freedoms, especially for those in the upper classes, deteriorated, falling to their lowest point between the periods of the Civil War and the end of R econstruction, then revi ving once again at the turn of the twentieth century. The early col onial cultural practices of easy inter-racial mingling and condoned miscegenation had endured to well into the nineteenth century until, in the 1850s, the politica lly self-empowered elite Amer ican population attempted to halt what they perceived as solecistic beha vior among the Creoles. In order to gain control of the citys social realm, the Ameri cans struck at the heart of Creole sociability, the Carnival. The rancor that persisted between Creo les and Americans began soon after the United States bought the Louisianan Terri tory from France in 1803. In the1808 travelogue of Thomas Ashe, he noted that there existed a difference in attitude and behavior between the Creole natives and th e newly arriving Americans flocking into the region. His observations descri bed a social wound that began with the appearance of the Americans and reopened anew every Carnival seas on. It is likely that the behavior of the Creole women aroused distress among the northern newcomers because the American men enjoyed less social freedom to play and express themselves than the Creole women

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39 did, and the unpredictable and chaotic behavi or associated with the Carnival only magnified the cultural chasm that existed be tween the vastly different groups, further aggravating American social sensibilities. Ashe wrote, The Americans, since their arrival here, have been so occupied by politic s and legislation that their minds have never been sufficiently unbent to form a course of pl easure for themselves. . It is not so with the French gentlemen: their pleasures are forever varied, and of a nature to be participated in by the most delicate of the female sex.1 Karl Postl, an ordained priest disappeared from his pa rish in Prague in 1823, reappearing in New Orleans later that same year calling himself Charles Sealsfield. During his travels across Ameri ca he kept journals and publis hed novels that reflected his interpretation of American and European cu lture. During his stay in Louisiana, he remarked on the nativist sentiments the newcomer Americans felt towards the French Creoles, providing a sense of the intractab ility between the two groups. He commented that the Americans knew nothing more about th e French than the proverb French Dog, that they would not deign to learn the French langua ge, which the whole Creole community and government communicated in, a nd, worse yet, they behaved toward the French as if their lands as well as the inhabitants could be seized without ceremony.2 Between the years 1836 and 1852, the rift between the French and the English escalated to such a point that the citizens of New Orleans forced the local government to separate the city into three distinct munici palities, the first being the original French Quarter neighborhood, the second, th e American settlement west of the French Quarter, 1 Ashe, Golden Petticoats qtd. in The World from Jackson Square ed. Basso, 87. 2 Karl Postl, (Charles Sealsfield, pseud.), qtd. in Fossier, New Orleans: The Glamour Period, 280.

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40 and the third, the area east of it. Animos ity remained between the groups until a common bond was created during the Civil War due to the new cause to rally behind, fighting for the preservation of the Confed eracy, and, perhaps more realis tically, for the continuance of slavery that would ideally keep labor cheap and white women safe from what was feared might be vengeful attacks by black men. During the years following the dissolution of the separate muni cipalities, the American elite in New Orleans deliberately planted seeds of change that blossomed during the post-Civil War Carnival season, changing the face of the festival in ways that are still seen today. With their hard-won political positions in place throughout the city, the Americans seized control of the Carnival from the inside out and made it a governmentally sanctioned holiday. They injected their own cultural criteria into the already tangled Creole-Catholic past of the city through law instead of custom, and through personal politics instead of natural cultural prog ression. The politically and economically empowered American men manifestly imposed th emselves at the top of the social ladder with the Creoles, to their chagrin, beneath them and they relegated free people of color to virtually the same social status as slaves. In a sense, the Anglo-American newcomers became a mock royalty and created a new priv ate realm for themselves within Carnival time, imposing stronger prejudices on other cl asses and races than ever before seen in New Orleans, expecting the women of their class to support them. An unprecedented and conspicuous us and them mentality arose that trumped other previous social prejudices harbored by the Creole population before the Am ericans arrived en force, and the original settlers of New Orleans faced the possibility that their democratic folk festival would

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41 collapse into a foreign controlled event de prived of its communa l nature and strong female presence. The Americans introduced the tradition of exclusivity of participation into the public sphere in a clever way that sought to deceive the people into playing the part of observers when previously they would invol ve themselves in whatever activities interested them. Private Ca rnival krewes, as they call themselves, appeared on the streets displaying spectacular, themed pa rades for the masses to ogle at, but not participate in. The Americans institutionalized their message-laden mobile theatrical presentations with the help of fellow city officials who belonged to the krewes. New bans on masking forced the public into less performative roles, making traditions of revelry, misrule, and masquerading unofficial styles of celebration when participated in by the masses, yet official if rendered by th e private krewes who utilized the art of masquerade to create anonymity for themselves. The freedoms that historically the elite Creole women and upper-class free women of colo r enjoyed were trunca ted as they were pushed into a more private social sphere of el ite, official, invitationonly Carnival parties, and to the sidelines of public parades. Privatization of Ca rnival events gained support among both the American and Creole elites as their fears multiplied as forced federal Reconstruction legislation transformed the city. American apprehension that they would lo se their newly won so cial and political control found a performative stag e for vocalization th rough the use of themes in parades and balls staged by the elite American men. Th e arrogant American attempt to organize the ancient folk festival is strikingly similar to the attempts made by the Catholic Church to eradicate the pagan core of the Carnival eleven hundred ye ars before. In both cases,

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42 the public disorder, decadence, hierarchical role inversions, a nd sexual promiscuity associated with Carnival offended the sensib ilities of the conservative minorities, and, either ironically or conveniently, their desire s to harness and contro l the wild celebration forced them to participate in it in order to effect change. To be sure, in both cases the celebration was changed, but in neither case could the cultural interceptors fully control it. Prophet-like in his comments, Sir Char les Lyell in 1846 wrote in his travelogue, There was a grand procession parading the st reets, almost everyone dressed in the most grotesque attire . in a variety of costumes . The strangeness of the scene was not a little heightened by the blendi ng of Negroes, quadroons, and mulattoes in the crowd; and we were amused by observ ing the ludicrous surprise, mixed with contempt, of several unmasked, stiff, gr ave Anglo-American from the North, who were witnessing for the first time what seemed to them so much mummery and tomfoolery. . This rude intrusion stru ck me as a kind of foreshadowing of coming events, emblematic of the violen t shock which the in vasion of the AngloAmericans is about to give the old regime of Louisiana.3 In 1856, The Bee was still reporting on the deterior ation of the Mardi Gras holiday, relaying to the public that in old times, this was the greatest holiday in the whole year round in the Crescent City, but of late years its observance ha s been gradually falling into desuetude before the march of new people, customs, and religion.4 The Bee was speaking of the Anglo-Americans and their we ll-known disenchantment with the Creole style of celebrating Carnival. For years, the Americans had expressed their discontent with the social customs of the city. Fina lly they took measures to reorganize the celebration they had always associated with licentiousness and chaos. 3 Sir Charles Lyell, qtd. in The World from Jackson Square ed. Basso, 139-140. 4 The Bee February 6, 1856.

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43 CHAPTER 6 THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE NE W ORLEANS CARNIVAL The year 1857 was definitive. It was in th at year that the Anglos changed the way the people of New Orleans celebrated the Ca rnival. Sir Lyell was correct in his 1846 premonitions of events to come. The old Creole regime was shocked as Carnival traditions transformed before their very eyes and assumed an air of bureaucratic control backed by Anglo-American city officials. Parades became consciously crafted, selectively participated in, and wrapped up in overriding themes meant to enlighten the masses to English customs and insult those considered too boorish to understand the social commentary contained in the props a nd costumes embellishing the procession. As a result, Carnival festivities became split be tween public and private affairs, between an unofficial folk festival celebrated spontane ously on the streets and in saloons, and a privatized, invitation-only set of events no longer open to the public. An upper-class cohort of influential Ameri can Protestant men formed a secret society for the purpose of taking over, improvi ng, and reviving the Carnival in innovative ways more suited to their tastes. What were their tastes? They would invite only their own class and race to join, excluding most Cr eoles, and all women, blacks, Italians, and Jews, insisting that membership be kept ab solutely secret, not know n to even their own families and friends. They would present to the public an organized parade with a theme lauding Puritan Protestantism intending to insult the Creoles and their lax and loose Mardi Gras reveling, and they woul d create a tableau, privately st aged at their ball held at the Gaiety Theatre, again intended to dishonor and slight the Fren ch by displaying a sign

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44 in flames that read, Vive la Danse. There is one particular name associated with the transformation that occurre d on Fat Tuesday, February 24, 1857, and that name is Comus.1 The elite krewe of Anglo men chose for th eir group the name Comus, necromancer son of Bacchus and Circe, and title charac ter of Puritan John Miltons masque, Comus a celebration, ironically, of chastity. Masque s, a stylized form of drama, were characterized by lavish spectacle. From the beginning, Comus exuded a Janus-like presence. Publicly they introduced their krewe as a benevolent organization with the intention of saving the people of New Orlean s from hell on earth. According to Comuss official history, published by the members of the Krewe themselves, the organization began as a charitable gift to the city inte nding to bring dignity a nd orderliness to the crude and vulgar manner in whic h the people tended to celebrate.2 But privately, Comus played the cunning part of the Lord of Misrule, doling out a mythical Orient Liquor that caused foul disfi gurement to those who ingested it. The krewe of Comus hoped that their new Mardi Gras performanc e and the message that it expressed would serve as an Orient Liquor for the Creoles to drink in an attempt to discredit their old Carnival regime, thereby allowing the Americans to rise to the top of th e social latter. Times Picayune columnist James Gill commented in his book about the politics of race during Carnival that Comuss real intent ion of starting a new Mardi Gras tradition had more to do with the nativist sentiments of the krewes founding members, rather than their displeasure over the Creole s social domination of the fe stivities. He suggests that 1 For further information on the history of the Krewe of Comus, see Perry Young, The Mistick Krewe: Chronicles of Comus and His Kin (New Orleans: Carn ival Press, 1931). 2 One Hundred Years of Comus (New Orleans Public Library, 1947), 5-6.

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45 Comuss concern over the rushes of German an d Irish immigrants pouring into the city persuaded them into co-opting the masked ball, which once entert ained all classes of Creoles, and [Comus] made it an emblem for an emerging elite determined to keep the rest of the population at one remove. Gill al so explains that Comu s was able to function outside the boundaries of the law. He relays that the City Council conveniently adopted an ordinance in 1857 making it illegal to abus e, provoke, or disturb any person; to make charivari [excessive noise], or to appear ma sked or disguised in the streets or in any public place.3 The ordinance was imposed on the public as a means of assisting Mardi Gras out of the state of decline it had fallen into over the past ten years, but in actuality, it was a way for Comus to demonstrate its cont rol over the entire popul ace by attempting to regulate the ways the public could cele brate. Mayor Charles Waterman, a founding Comus member, made sure that the krewe was exempt from these ordinances. He ordered the police to clear the streets fo r the parading maskers as they marched (thumbing their noses at the law), as well as the public who they hoped would be forced into idly watching the procession with no legal means of actively participating in it. At this defining moment, Comus and its entourag e, without saying a wo rd, exhibited its new ritual as the only official Carnival event, pos itioning this krewe as the sovereigns of the citywide celebration. This particular even t set a strong precedence for a dichotomy to thrive between the public audience and the private participants, the unmasked masses and the incognito Comus members. Privacy, in this case, became the luxury of the elite Anglos, and relegated to the public realm we re all those without the social standing, racial criteria, or gende r necessary to join the krewe. It represented an official attempt to 3 Gill, Lords of Misrule, 46.

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46 separate the citys elite men from the common cl asses. Contrary to the new official laws banning many traditional means of celebrating, primarily masking, the February 16, 1858, edition of The Bee advertised a series of grand costume balls for the Carnival season. On Ash Wednesday, 1859, a section of the same paper was devoted to illustrations of the street maskers whose co stumes, lacked in quality, not quantity, making it apparent that the public still entertained themselves on the streets and at other balls, a further testament to the laxity of city officials to enforce laws concerning Carnival.4 Many women in the city found themselves at the mercy of the restrictions imposed on their class or race. The high-society women fortunate enough to be affiliated with the members of Comus and receive a non-transfera ble invitation to the ball found new roles as audience, patiently waiting in the theater se ats to be called out in order to dance with the micromanaging members who allowed no one else the honor of enjoying a spin around the dance floor other than those women they chose to partner with. Men other than krewe members attended the fashionable balls, but none were granted the privilege of partaking in dance. Instead, they had to sit and watch as their ladies were chosen by unidentifiable men to be whirled around in wa ltzes. In fact, the exclusivity of the ball was so obsessive that a $2000 reward was public ly offered for the return of two stolen ball tickets.5 The effects of Comuss new traditio n had only begun to take shape in the years before the Civil War. Over the ne xt ten years, Carnival would go through a 4 The Bee February 16, 1858; The Bee March 9, 1859. 5 The New Orleans Daily Picayune February 28, 1877.

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47 metamorphosis that would change the ways in which people viewed the celebration and partook in it. When the Civil War came, the new official Mardi Gras celebration was temporarily suspended because the men who created it had now enlisted to fight for the Confederacy. When the soldiers returned, the half-century of distressing relations between the Anglos and Creoles began to fade due to cooperati on against a shared enemy, the Union. Elite Creoles gained entrance into the ranks of Comu s, and together the el ite whites of society joined in a dual effort to reorganize Carnival and to suppress the carpetbagging Reconstructionfueled government and the bl ack majority population of the city adjusting to their new-found freedom. Th e white population in general, and the krewemen in particular, were aggravated by the fact that blac ks were immediately enfranchised after emancipation, while Conf ederate troops returning to New Orleans remained disenfranchised until they held thei r noses and swallowed an oath of allegiance to the Union. Grace Kings descriptions of emancipated slaves boldly loitering on the banquettes, exhilarated by their freedom, and the outrage of white people being ordered around by Negro Union soldiers l eaves the impression of a city ready to erupt in passion over the sudden change in command.6 White women were arrested on the street s for laughing at federal troops, singing Confederate songs, refusing to walk down str eets flying Union flags, and for spitting on Union soldiers.7 In response, Union General Be njamin Butler issued the Woman Order in 1862. It stated, A s the officers and soldiers have been subject to repeated 6 King, New Orleans: The Place and the People, 300. 7 King, New Orleans: The Place and the People, 308.

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48 insults from the women (calling themselves ladi es) of New Orleans, in return for the most scrupulous non-interference and courtesy on our part, it is ordered th at here-after when any female shall, by word, gesture, or moveme nt, insult or show contempt for any officer or soldier of the U.S., she shall be regarded and held liable to be treated as a woman of the town plying her avocation. He conti nued by complaining that, We cannot walk the streets without being outraged and spit upon by green girls, possibly an allusion to the Irish women in the city.8 The Woman Order was issued only fifteen da ys after Butler arrived with his troops to take military control of New Orleans. Th e interactions between the Union soldiers and the women during those two weeks must have been intense and draining for such measures to be taken. Butler and his men we re not dealing with the common variety of delicate southern women, but exceptionally st rong and independent ones due to centuries of wars, disease, and Carnival-time experiences that allowed women to taste true freedom every year as they stepped outside of thei r social boundaries to explore other roles. Women of all races and classes in New Orleans were forced to deal with the absence of their husbands off fighting the war, as well as the enemy at their doorsteps, but the white women felt doubly spurned. Along with separa tion anxiety, they also had to contend with the manumitted slaves on the streets flaunting their new freedom. Butler walked into a city in turmoil and mi ght be considered lucky that he was only spat on, and not shot by the Confederate women. Most lik ely, in response to Butlers order, no respectable woman wished to be accused of a ppearing to ply a trade as a prostitute, but it 8 By Command of General Butler, General Order No. 28, Headquarters Department of the Gulf, New Orleans, May 15, 1862.

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49 is more likely that the order succeeded to the extent that it did because no New Orleans woman wanted to be thrown in the enemys jail. By 1866, Comus was back on the streets for Mardi Gras with a scaled-down parade and tableau ball. Bad years tend to inspir e good Carnivals. Even a city occupied by enemy forces could not suppress the people s need for a celebration of self-expression, and over the period of the R econstruction, the people made the most of the power of satire to psychologically assault their enemie s. White people dressed as freedmen dupes, Republicans, and minstrels, black people dresse d as hostile Indians, and everyone dressed as carpetbaggers.9 Edgar Degas visited the city in the winter of 1872-1873 and became well acquainted with the inte rnal affairs of Comus through his relative, Rene De Gas, member of both Comus and the newly formed Crescent Ci ty White League, a parallel to the KKK. The two organizations mixed methods, member s, and locales. Edgar Degas found the dual membership emblematic of the two-faced nature of the elites. Christopher Benfey, author of the book, Degas in New Orleans, tells how Degas noticed with disgust that one secret society plotted fe stivity while the other plotted terrorism. Benfey continues insightfully by saying, Mardi Gras was as much a rest from politics as a continuation of it by other means.10 Four new official krewes organized themed parades and private 9 For further information on Reconstruction Carnival costumes, see Gill, Lords of Misrule 1997; Young Carnival and Mardi Gras in New Orleans, 1939; The Presbytere, New Orleans. 10 Christopher Benfey, Degas in New Orleans: Encounters in the Creole World of Kate Chopin and George Washington Cable (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997). Also, James Gill devotes two chapters to events concerning the overlapping membership of men in Comus and the Crescent City White League, titled, The Krewes and the Klan, and Honoring the White League Martyrs. Fo r more information, see Stuart Landry, The Battle of Liberty Place (Gretna, LA: Pelican Press, 1955) ; Judith Schafer, The Battle of Liberty Place: A Matter of Historical Perception, transcript of a lecture given to the Louisiana Historical Society, New Orleans, October 13, 1992.

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50 balls between 1870 and 1882.11 For the purpose of unders tanding how Carnival in New Orleans went from a pagan ritual with Ca tholic overtones celebrated democratically throughout the city, to a watered-down vers ion of the past with a new emphasis on hierarchy, privatization, and monarchy all enacted by the new official Anglicized krewes, the Krewe of Rex, formed in 1872, was perhaps the most important representation of officialdom. Similar to Comus, the Krewe of Rex manife sted a dubious dual in tention. With the krewes motto, Pro Bono Publico, King Rex proc laimed that he was for the good of the people, and was literally given th e keys to the city and the au thority to shut down all city offices and businesses on Mardi Gras day. This edict, originally issued by mock royalty, became official New Orleans law. To this day, no government offices or schools are open on Fat Tuesday. On the other hand, th e Krewe of Rex insisted on the same membership restrictions as the rest of the new Carnival organizations. Gills comments about the earliest formations of krewes include, The clubmen and krewemen of New Orleans had come to regard membership in a white-supremacist organi zation as a mark of manhood and resistance to a northern governme nt that sustained Negro and carpetbag authority.12 It became a custom that every year the King of Rex would leave the company of his ball, make a grand entrance into Comuss exclusive affair, and shake hands with the other mock king in a s how of solidarity and camaraderie. According to The Presbytere, during Rec onstruction, general street masking came to be seen as solely the diversion of poor people and African-Americans. The street 11 The Presbytere, the Crescent Citys official Ma rdi Gras museum, considers Comus, Twelfth Night Revelers, Rex, Momus, and Proteus, among a few others, the official nine teenth-century krewes. 12 Gill, Lords of Misrule 107.

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51 maskers were the representatives of the unofficial Carnival in the eyes of the museum; they were what made the festivity a folk Carn ival, the living links back to the origins of the holiday. Karen Leathem, in her dissert ation highlighting the roles of elite women during nineteenth-century Carnival, explains that the unmasking of women began in the 1870s because the krewemen desired to be th e only ones with the power of a secret identity. She writes that the shift in wome ns Carnival ball attire from Carnivalesque masquerading to societal raiment sign aled an anxiety on the part of men.13 Included in the social disorientation that accompanied losing the war and the manumission of slaves was a strengthened desire among white men to protect their women from the perceived dangers of interacting with blacks, especia lly black men. Allowing women to masquerade during a period of such social unrest con ceivably could undermine the racial and class separation that white men had fought for and continued to fight to preserve. Anonymity not only meant that a person could become someone else for the purpose of archetypal exploration, but also that a person could commit crimes or licentious acts anonymously. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the old pict ures of the Krewe of Comuss costumes look remarkably similar to the white sheets worn by the KKK. After the Civil War, the official krewes enforced strict dress codes for their ball guests. Mandatory formal attire meant that not just the women had to retain their own identities, as Leathem supposes, but rather everyone in attendance except the krewe members. This double standard meant that all the mischievousness and freedom of expression that is implicit in a hidden identity became the private playgrou nd of the elitest of the elite. 13 Leathem, A Carnival According to Their Own Desires 40-42.

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52 There had always existed a tradition am ong the Creoles of holding society or private balls, but the manner in which they did this differed greatly from the post-war krewes. For instance, the ancient Carnival ritual of discovering and crowning Le Roi et la Reine de la Feve, or the King and Queen of the Bean, meant that a large donut of a cake with a bean hidden somewhere within it would be presented to the attendees of a ball. Pieces of the confecti on would be cut and randomly distributed. Whomever found the bean in their piece of cake gained the title of king or queen of that years or weeks celebration, and they were responsible for choos ing a mock royal mate to their liking, to rule the party in a fools fashion, and to host the next party that w ould set the ritual in motion once again, assuring parties throughout the season or for the next year.14 The Anglo krewes showed no such sense of ra ndomness or playfulness when choosing who among them would be King. The lucky Lord was appointed by the Captain of the Krewe, the latter a position that did not annually cha nge, and this tradition has existed in the oldline Krewes ever since.15 Queens were not part of the ritual equation of the official krewes until the turn of the twentieth century, and even then the woman selected to reign was chosen from among the high-society de butantes. Official krewe queens wielded no real power except to indirectly glorify the King they were attached to and serve as a proud representative of the family they belonged to. At around the turn of the twentieth ce ntury, Storyville prostitutes started to lampoon the elite institution of appointing ro yalty to reign over balls by choosing queens 14 Young, Carnival and Mardi Gras in New Orleans, 9; The Presbytere, New Orleans. 15 Encyclopaedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Tran sgender, and Queer Culture, Social Sciences, New Orleans Mardi Gras Krewes, http://glbtq.com/social-sciences/new_orleans_mgk.html (last accessed June 6, 2006).

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53 for their soirees from among the most popular of the leading girls of th e district. In his well documented book about Storyville, Al Rose includes an article from the Mardi Gras edition of the 1906 Sunday Sun that reported on The Fr ench Ball and the probable candidates for the Queen Title.16 French Ball was another name for a gala hosted by prostitutes, an event essentially representing everything that the elite krewemen wanted to shield their women from. The French Balls made a mockery of the conservative and structured official balls by choosing loose women to reign over the event as Queens of the Demi-Monde, in contrast to the carefully selected unsullied debutante queens of the upper classes, and by allowing everyone to w ildly dance and cavort in full costume and mask. Once again, the prostitutes aided in the preservation of the act of inverting social roles, an essential elem ent of Carnival magic. 16 Rose, Storyville, New Orleans 62.

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54 CHAPTER 7 REVISITING THE CREOLE PAST: WO MEN COLLECTIVELY RECLAIM THE STREETS Reconstruction ended in 1877 and, afte r fourteen years under a foreign government, New Orleanians regained control of their local politics in a changed city. Quadroon balls and the protective placage system they offered was fading fast, and interracial relationships histori cally condoned in the city ha d become frowned upon in the postbellum years. Evidence of the declining so cial position of blacks in New Orleans is reported in the work of Alecia Long in her carefully documented case of a mulatto former slave named Adeline Stringer and her long love affair with white merchant Joe Mathis. In 1885, after living with Adeline for several years in many different locations around the city, Mathis found himself in a personal quandar y. At once he felt like he could not live without Adeline, yet he also felt the societal pressure for whites to cease their centuriesold custom of living as life-partners with blacks. He wrote to Adeline, if we live together it must be outside of New Orleans. Long co mments that, Joes conundrum suggests that the informal demands and decisi ons made by individuals struggling to shape the citys postbellum sexual culture laid th e foundation for the le gal sanctions against such relationships that would follow.1 Free people of color likely suffered the mo st by the loss of the war by the South because that meant the loss of their unique social status somewhere between white and slave. As Jim Crow laws made their way into the city, in the eyes of the whites, the 1 Long, The Great Southern Babylon 40, 42.

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55 elegant quadroons and wealthy colored land-ow ners and former slave-owners became no different than any other black person. Co me the twentieth century, Carnival would become a performance stage for blacks prot esting the legalized discrimination whites forced on them. Numerous black marching krew es and Carnival clubs developed, starting at the beginning of the century, to function as a social release for racist standards and laws in the city. Black women dressed as baby dolls and Mardi Gras Indian queens to march through the streets, new black music be gan attracting even the most conservative of white ears, and strong black walking a nd parading krewes emerged onto the Carnival scene, the most notable and influential bei ng the Krewe of Zulu, w ho eventually staged yearly community elections to decide thei r kings and queens of the Zulu parade. Evidence of mounting anxiety among white men about white womens liberated behavior is found in parade themes of th e early 1880s. The Krewe of Momus, the younger relatives of the Krewe of Comus, constructed a whole parade, floats and all, around ruling women of the past. Each fa mous woman they chose to spotlight had somehow created her own downfall. Given that the purpose of Carnival parades began as vehicles for social commentar y, the underlying message depi cting women as inadequate leaders is telling at a time when women are collectively reaching for more respect, independence, and rights. Another official Krewe, the Phunny Phorty Phellows, also accosted womens growing independence with the parade theme, Ye Women Fair, a Farce. Women witnessed these insulting theatr ical presentations a nd finally took actions to subvert the hierarchical syst em of the private, official Ca rnival krewes that promoted elite white male superiority. They turned the tables on the men in both the public and private spheres of Carnival in the true spirit of the celebration. It di d not take eighty-plus

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56 years after the Civil War for women to appear alongside and equal to men in a few Mardi Gras clubs, as Ryan asserts, instea d it started happening be fore the end of the nineteenth century.2 Mary Ryan suggests that the few female figures behind the scenes of elite civic ceremonies in the late ninet eenth century did no t lead a female a ssault on the public sphere, instead she sees their roles as likely diverting women from demanding full citizenship in their own right . carrying intimations of priv acy and passivity that tended to disguise the interests speci fic to their gender position.3 Here Ryan neglects giving credit to the influential step s women did take towards tran sforming their social status from under-representation in government matters to consciously seeking to expand their roles in the public eye. She also disregar ds many contrary examples of elite womens explicit roles in the public ritual called Ca rnival. The Presbytere offers examples of several women employed in the late nineteenth century by the official krewes to design and build costumes and floats for the bewitc hingly themed parades, all of whom must have possessed a relatively clear vision of the theatrical metamorphosis that the men wished to create as evidenced by the parades yearly successes. If it is true that the majority of upper-class women of the time em bodied the Victorian gender stereotypes Ryan imagines women acquiesced to, then certainly Carnival would represent an opportunity for them to cast thei r everyday roles aside, allowing them to assume alternate personas in order to invoke the true sp irit of the celebration. Role inversion, transformation, transgression, and time tr anscendence are all readily available 2 Ryan, Civic Wars, 251. 3 Ryan, Civic Wars, 251.

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57 possibilities conjured through participation in the Carnival, and women often understood and seized the opportunity to remodel themselv es and project their desires and concerns onto the community through fantastic decorating and masquerading. In 1896, the first known all womens Carniv al organization, Les Mysterieuses, was born. These upper-class women had traditionally pa rticipated as attendants at the elite Carnival balls, and after many years of watc hing and waiting to dance in stuffy evening wear while the krewemen mischievously revele d in full costumes, they decided to invade the mens exclusive and secr etive sphere and invert it upon them. The concept of mystery implied in their name signified to th eir guests that they alone would claim the right to fully conceal their identities, wh ile all others in attendance would remain revealed. Les Mysterieuses did not parade ; however, they staged a lavish ball on two consecutive leap years that reversed the ge nder roles that had been imposed on female guests at mens balls since the time of the Ci vil War. In further imitation of the mens krewes, an incognito queen was internally sel ected to rule the ball and pick a king of her choosing while the other krewe wo men kept their identities we ll hidden in order to cavort and misbehave without consequence. These were conscious choices that conspicuously expressed exclusionary forms of representati on traditionally reserved for members of the mens krewes who were suddenly forced to dress in formal evening wear with no costume to hide behind, or el se they were refused entry.4 The revival of womens merrymaking through masquerading in the late nineteenthcentury represented a revitalization of the pa gan spirit at the heart of the Carnival celebration that elite Anglo men had been unr ealistically trying to possess and control 4 Arthur LaCour, New Orleans Masquerade 199; The Presbytere, New Orleans.

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58 since before the Civil War. Les Myster ieuses challenged mens zealously guarded hierarchy, exposed its weaknesses of unequal participation, and meta phorically sent it tumbling to the ground. The men did not abando n their elite yearly tableaux balls, but now the tradition was opened for women to simula te and fully participat e in as well. In general, the last decade of the nineteenth-century signaled a new era for women to participate in the Carnival celebration in ways similar to old Creole times, but also in ways more evolved. Les Mysterieuses only lasted until 1900, but their impression endured, evinced by the many other all women s krewes that followed in their wake including The Mittens and Les Inconnues in 1901, the Mystic Maids in 1906, the Krewe of Yami in 1911, and the Krewes of Iris and Les Marionettes in 1922, and in 1942, the Krewe of Venus was the first all womens pa rade to roll across th e city equipped with floats, a full twenty years before Ryan cl aims women appeared on the streets during Carnival in a position equal to men. Severa l groups of black women also formed their own krewes in the 1920s including the Re d Circle, Young Ladies 23, and the Mystic Krewe.5 Especially for whites during Carnival s eason, the end of the nineteenth century heralded a time that emphasized mirth rather than mourning the loss of the war. White women of all classes joined th e revelry on the streets and be gan reclaiming their right to freely express themselves in true Carnival sp irit, reviving a method of release that had not openly existed for them inclusively since th e antebellum era. The Merrie Bellions, a right and jolly set of Belles and Beaux they were, paraded the streets in full pagan regalia pulling behind them a single float title d, Ye Fantastic Lunatic s of the New Isms. 5 For a comprehensive listing of 100 year s of Mardi Gras Krewes, see LaCour, New Orleans Masquerade 1952.

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59 Suffragism, Aestheticism, Shakerism, Bl oomerism, a piece of social commentary intended to inform, or perhaps warn, the publ ic of the extreme isms many organized groups felt compelled to proselytize.6 After decades of physical and psychological detachment from the people on the streets, elite Creole and Anglo women no longer subscribed to the belief that concealing their identity through masquerade transmuted them into prostitutes and gens du commun. Women found courage and strength en masse from joining the public work force, a ugmenting urban and industrial growth, and partaking of slowly expanding educational oppor tunities. Prostitutes continued to march on the streets in no small numbers duri ng Carnival demanding public attention, consideration as an economic force, and cha nges in the laws concer ning taxation of their occupation. The Presbytere claims that, as of 1910, women of many st ripes were all over the streets at Carnival in full costume, tr aveling in groups, and of ten carrying whips to keep aggressive male revelers at a distance. By the turn of the twentieth-century, women of all classes and races had reclaimed the street s in full force, restoring in part the Creole Carnival past by liberating elite women from the private sphere of the celebration. This, in turn, liberated all women from the social reproach of the elite men aimed at the boisterous unofficial Carnival customs tr aditionally participated in by the whole community. 6 New Orleans Daily States, February 6, 1884.

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60 CHAPTER 8 CONCLUSION From its beginnings, the Carnival in New Orleans existed simultaneously as a public and a private affair celebrated by the di fferent classes and r aces in a variety of ways that changed and evolved over time. The celebratory roles available to women throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centu ries depended much more on their class and race than on their gender. In the hi storiography of New Orleanss Mardi Gras, Mikhail Bakhtins name is often found in academ ic bibliographies for his interpretations concerning the social meanings behind the Carnival celebration. To Bakhtin, The Carnivalesque crowd in the mark etplace or in the streets is no t merely a crowd. It is the people as a whole, but organized in their own way, the way of th e people. It is outside of and contrary to all existing forms of the coercive socioeconomic and political organization which is suspended for the time of the festivity.1 As Bakhtin did not figure in the reality of laws, political trends, and socio-cultural influences affecting peoples styles and parameters of cel ebration, Ryan, utilizing the same quote, failed to see how closely Bakhtins definition fit New Orlean ss unique population, more often than not allowing women to fully particip ate in the way of the people.2 Virtually all Carnival traditions develope d and transpired in the public sphere throughout the colonial and antebellum eras. It was not until the end of the Civil War 1 Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World trans. Helene Iswolsky, (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1984), 255. 2 Ryan, Women in Public 20.

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61 that elite women got their first taste of the private side of Carnival under the coercive direction of the newly establ ished official Anglo Carnival krewes. The original New Orleanians had openly supported Ca rnival reveling in all its glory since the earliest days of the colony, and it was not until after the Louisiana Purchase that a significant AngloAmerican population moved to the city and felt obliged to change the celebration to reflect their Puritan sensibilities. Elite white men, in fear of losing their newly-won powerful status in the citys society and gove rnment, took actions to change and control the lax Creolestyle Carnival celebration that promoted intermixing of all races, classes, and sexes. Following the tumultuous period in the city between the late 1840s and the 1850s, the conservative northern newcomers se ized the opportunity in 1857 to transform the face of Mardi Gras by util izing a performative and messag e-laden civic parading style commonly seen during other holidays in nine teenth-century New Orleans and in other parts of the nation. Since the majority of women in New Orleans, regardless of race or class, lived a public lifestyle that included promenading on the streets and the levees, and frequenting the taverns and coffeehouses on a daily basis, the mid to late nineteenthcentury social opprobrium associ ated with identity concealm ent and public revelry during Carnival did not create the same effect of privatization on them as it did on the elite upper-class minority of women. From the time that the ancient pagan Carnival celebrations commenced, full community partic ipation was integral. Women could not be omitted or the essential purpose of the ritual would be lost. Since festivals of inversion are ubiquitous throughout time and space among humanity, they serve as events that equalize. Women are necessary as Carnival participants and cannot escape integrating and transforming the meanings of the events around them.

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62 REFERENCES Primary Sources Books Anonymous. One Hundred Years of Comus New Orleans: New Or leans Public Library, 1947. Basso, Etolia S., ed. The World from Jackson Square: A New Orleans Reader. New York: Farrar, Straus, 1948. Cable, George W. The Grandissime: A Story of Creole Life New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1880. Carter, Hodding. ed. The Past as Prelude: New Orleans, 17181968. New Orleans: Tulane University Press, 1968. Creecy, James R. Scenes in the South and Other Miscellaneous Pieces Washington D.C.: T. McGill, 1860. DeLeon, T.C. Creole Carnivals, 1830 1890, 1881. A facsimile of the first edition. Mobile: Bienville Books, 2004. Fossier, Albert E. ed. New-Orleans: The Glamour Period, 18 00-1840: A History of the Conflicts of Nationalities, Languages, Religion, Morals, Cultures, Laws, Politics, and Economics during the Forma tive Period of New Orleans. New Orleans: Pelican Publishing House, 1957. Frazer, James, Sir. The Golden Bough. Romanian Cultural Foundation: Bucharest, 1994. Reprint, 1890. King, Grace. New Orleans: The Place and the People New York: The Macmillan Company, 1926. Reprint, 1895. Latrobe, John H.B. Southern Travels: Journal of John H.B. Latrobe, 1834 Ed. Samuel Wilson Jr. New Orleans: The Histor ic New Orleans Collection, 1986. Rose, Al. Storyville, New Orleans: Being an Authen tic Illustrated Account of the Notorious Red Light District Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1974. Tasistro, Louis. Random Shots and Other Southern Breezes New York: Harper Bros., 1842.

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63 Internet Resources African American Resource Center, Eman cipation Records, New Orleans Public Library Online. http://nutrias.org/~nopl/info/aarcinfo/guide/emancipations.htm. (last accessed June 6, 2006). Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. http://britannica.com/eb/article-11811. (last accessed June 6, 2006). Encyclopaedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture, Social Sciences, New Orleans Mardi Gras Krewes. http://glbtq.com/socialsciences/new_orleans_mgk.html. (last accessed June 6, 2006). Geospatial and Statistical Data Center, University of Virginia Library. http://fisher.lib.vi rginia.edu/cgi-local/censusb in/census/cen.pl?year=860. (last accessed June 6, 2006). Records of the Cabildo, http://lsm.crt.state.la.us/cabildo/cab6.htm. (last accessed June 6, 2006). University of Cincinnati Web Site Search. http://libraries.uc.edu/libraries/arb/ger_americana/. (last accessed June 6, 2006). Newspapers The Bee November 30, 1835. The Bee, March 8, 1848. The Bee, March 1, 1854. The Bee February 6, 1856. The Bee February 16, 1858 The Bee March 9, 1859. LAbeille, February 1828. Louisiana Courrier March 1-3, 1813. Louisiana Courrier, February 21-23, 1814. Louisiana Courrier February 6-8, 1815. Louisiana Courrier February 26-28, 1816. Louisiana Gazette February 9-11, 1807.

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64 Louisiana Gazette February 28, 1808. Louisiana Gazette March 1-2, 1808. Louisiana Gazette February 13-15, 1809. Louisiana Gazette March 5-7, 1810. Louisiana Gazette September 18, 1810. Louisiana Gazette February 25-27, 1811. Louisiana Gazette February 10-12, 1812. Louisiana Gazette March 1-3, 1813. Louisiana Gazette February 21-23, 1814. Louisiana Gazette February 6-8, 1815. Louisiana Gazette February 26-28, 1816. Louisiana Gazette February 17-19, 1817. Louisiana Gazette February 2-4, 1818. Louisiana Gazette February 22-24, 1819. Louisiana Gazette February 14-16, 1820. Louisiana Gazette March 5-7, 1821. Louisiana Gazette February 18-20, 1822. Louisiana Gazette February 10-12, 1823. The New Orleans Daily Picayune February 28, 1838. The New Orleans Daily Picayune, February 28, 1877. New Orleans Daily States, February 6, 1884. Public Records Digest of the Acts and Deliberations of the Cabildo. January, 1781, book 2, pg. 47. By Command of General Butler, General Or der No. 28. Headquarters Department of the Gulf. New Orleans. May 15, 1862.

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65 Museum The Presbytere. New Orleans, Louisiana. Secondary Sources Books and Articles Bakhtin, Mikhail. Rabelais and His World trans. Helene Iswolsky. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1984. Benfey, Christopher. Degas in New Orleans: Encounters in the Creole World of Kate Chopin and George Washington Cable New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997. Davis, Susan G. Parades and Power: Street Theatre in Nineteenth-Centu ry Philadelphia Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986. Gill, James. Lords of Misrule: Mardi Gras and the Politics of Race in New Orleans Jackson: University Pr ess of Mississippi, 1997. Hanger, Kimberly. Personas de Varias Clases y Colores: Free People of Color in Spanish New Orleans, 1769-1803. Doctoral dissertation, Un iversity of Florida, 1991, 243. Kinser, Samuel. Carnival, American Style: Mardi Gras at New Orleans and Mobile Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990. Koolsbergen, John William. A Study in Popular Culture: The New Orleans Mardi Gras: Formation of the Mystick Krewe of Comus and the Krewe of Rex Doctoral dissertation, City University of New York, 1989. LaCour, Arthur Burton. New Orleans Masquerade: Chronicles of Carnival In collaboration with Stuart Omer Landr y. New Orleans: Pelican Publishing Company, 1952. Landes, Joan. Women and the Public Sphere in the Age of the French Revolution Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988. Landry, Stuart. The Battle of Liberty Place. Gretna, LA: Pelican Press, 1955. Ladurie, Emmanuel Le Roy. Carnival in Romans New York: George Braziller, 1979. Leathem, Karen. A Carnival According to Their Ow n Desires: Gender and Mardi Gras in New Orleans, 1870-1940. Doctoral dissertation, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994. Long, Alecia P. The Great Southern Babylon: Sex, Race, and Respectability in New Orleans, 1865-1920. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2004.

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66 Longstreet, Stephen. Sportin House: A History of the New Orleans Sinners and the Birth of Jazz Los Angeles: Sherbourne Press, 1965. Mitchell, Reid. All on a Mardi Gras Day: Episodes in the History of New Orleans Carnival. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995. Orloff, Alexander. Carnival: Myth and Cult Worgl, Austria: Perlinger, 1980. Ryan, Mary. Civic Wars: Democracy and Public Life in the American City during the Nineteenth Century Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. Ryan, Mary. Women in Public: Between Banners and Ballots, 1825-1880 Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990. Schafer, Judith. The Battle of Liberty Pl ace: A Matter of Hist orical Perception, transcript of a lecture given to the Louisi ana Historical Society, New Orleans, Oct. 13, 1992. Schindler, Henri. Mardi Gras and New Orleans Paris: Flammarion, 1997. Stansell, Christine. City of Women: Sex and Cl ass in New York, 1789-1860 Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986. Tallant, Robert. Mardi Gras . As It Was. 4th ed. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, 1994. Varon, Elizabeth. Tippecanoe and the Ladies, Too: White Women and Party Politics in Antebellum Virginia. The Journal of American History Vol. 82, No. 2 (Sep., 1995): 494-521. Young, Perry. Carnival and Mardi Gras in New Orleans New Orleans: Harmansons, 1939. Young, Perry. The Mistick Krewe, Chronicles of Comus and His Kin New Orleans: Carnival Press, 1931.

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67 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH I began my undergraduate degree at the Univ ersity of Florida in 1992. Originally my goal was to attain a degree in psychol ogy to aid in the process of healing my community, myself included. Through my c oursework in the field of psychology it became obvious to me that many ideas and social constructs I had lear ned earlier in life and believed wholeheartedly were often false, misleading, or incomplete, and with that understanding came a desire to expand my consciousness and seek out the interconnectedness between seemingly unrelated disciplines. I wanted to figure out how to make my life more real, honest, and complete, and bring that knowledge into my work with the community. Studying the psyche wa s not answering my spiritual questions. In the winter of 1993, I attended my first Carnival in New Orleans. In those few days I learned more about myself than I had in all the years leading up to that experience. I suddenly knew that the intuitions I felt a bout the multifaceted nature of the individual and society were cornerstones in understand ing life. I suddenly knew that nothing is permanent and that we are not bound by the cl othes we wear, the ro les we play, or the thoughts we have. I have not missed a Carnival since then, and every year I am affirmed that I can become anyone that I want to be and that no one is truly bound by their pasts or their surroundings. I went on to earn not only a degree in psyc hology from the University of Florida, but also a minor in religion w ith an emphasis on esoteric knowledge. Over fourteen years I moved back and forth from Gainesville to New Orleans four times due to my

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68 fascination with the Southern Louisiana city, its people, a nd the unique cultural heritage of the region. In 2002, I moved back to Ga inesville once again to work on a masters degree, but this time in American history. I wanted to study New Orleans, but more specifically I wanted to study what makes New Orleans so unique and otherworldly. Among the many reasons I continue to find for the magic that lives in New Orleans, the Carnival is at the top of the list. The Carnival is now a c ontinuous part of my life and my thesis is simply a natural reflection of my l ove for and fascination with the ancient ritual that lives on in the Crescent City.


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Title: Nineteenth-Century New Orleans and A Carnival of Women
Physical Description: Mixed Material
Copyright Date: 2008

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NINETEENTH-CENTURY NEW ORLEANS AND A CARNIVAL OF WOMEN


By

RAGAN WICKER


















A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


2006
















TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

A B STR A C T ............... ............................................................................................ iii

CHAPTER

1 T H E O P E N IN G ................................................................................. .............. ... 1

2 AN OVERVIEW OF THE ORIGINS OF THE NEW ORLEANS CARNIVAL........9

3 RACE AND THE CARNIVAL IN NEW ORLEANS ..............................................18

4 PRO STITU TES ON PARAD E ........................................................ ...... 31

5 AMERICANS VERSUS CREOLES: A BATTLE FOR PRIVATIZATION AND
P O W E R ...............................................................................3 8

6 THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE NEW ORLEANS CARNIVAL.....................43

7 REVISITING THE CREOLE PAST: WOMEN COLLECTIVELY RECLAIM
THE STREETS ...................... ......... .. ... ....... .. ............54

8 C O N C L U SIO N ......... ........................................................................ ........... ..... .. 60

REFERENCES ................... ......... .. ...... ... ..................62

B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E TCH ..................................................................... ..................67















Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts

NINETEENTH-CENTURY NEW ORLEANS AND A CARNIVAL OF WOMEN

By

Ragan Wicker

August 2006

Chair: Matt Gallman
Major Department: History

The Carnival in New Orleans is historically the largest and longest annual public

ritual in the country. Celebrated often for months at a time throughout the city since the

eighteenth century, the Carnival serves as an essential part of New Orleans's cultural

heritage. Unlike other civic rituals celebrated around the United States, the traditions at

the heart of the Carnival historically provided an atmosphere to explore normally off-

limit behaviors, such as easy social and sexual mixing between races and classes, and a

"topsy-turvy" inversion of social roles, ultimately providing a leveling tool among the

people that had lasting effects well after the celebration ended. During the city's colonial

and antebellum periods, all women benefited from the loosened social restrictions and

role inversions experienced through masquerading by their active participation in social

events on an equal footing with men.

When analyzing the Carnival through the paradigmatic lens of the public versus

private distinction often associated with gender studies, it becomes clear that gender had

less to do with a person's social parameters than did class and race. While it is often









asserted by modern scholars that nineteenth-century women were passive spectators

during public events, this paper argues the opposite in the case of the New Orleans

Carnival. Not only did women participate in the many activities transpiring over the long

Carnival season, they were essential to their success. Until 1857, the year that officially

transformed the Carnival into what it is today, a woman was never forbidden to attend a

parade, fete, or casual gathering because of her sex; it was only because of her class or

race. The same was true for men. Legally sanctioned privatization of Carnival groups

and events did not occur until after the Civil War, and even then, the restrictions did not

affect the masses, but rather the elites of society whose men privately wanted to control

the social currents of the city by controlling the influential Carnival.














CHAPTER 1
THE OPENING

All the mischief of the city is alive and wide awake in active operation ... Men,
boys, women, and girls, bond and free, white and black, yellow and brown, exert
themselves to invent and appear in grotesque, quizzical, diabolical, horrible, strange
masks and disguises. --Major James Creecy, 18351

Throughout the history of New Orleans, women always have openly participated in

the customs associated with the Carnival season. Due to the unique colonial history of the

city which was ruled under French and Spanish crowns for over one hundred years before

the Louisiana Purchase, the involvement of its citizens in cultural and socio-political

matters naturally differed greatly from the rest of the nation. The women of New Orleans

have always played direct and integral roles in maintaining the true essence of the

celebratory Carnival festivities. The popular and historic public ritual, still much alive in

New Orleans today, would not be possible without women's direct contributions.

The one hundred years of history that this paper is based on provides a compelling

argument that the public versus private distinction often utilized in academic gender

studies applies more to race and class, rather than gender, in the analysis of New Orleans

Carnival rituals. In other words, participatory options available to women during the

long Carnival season had much more to do with their race and socio-cultural status than

their gender. A man could find himself as easily included in or ostracized from any





1 James R. Creecy, Scenes In the South and Other Miscellaneous Pieces (Washington, D.C.: T. McGill,
1860), 43.









particular event as a woman. Gender counted for much less than class and race when

accounting for an individual's, or often a group's, social calendar.

Historian Mary Ryan attempts to draw parallels between San Francisco, New York

City, and New Orleans during the nineteenth century in order to explore the roles

available to women in the creation of public culture. Contrary to her assertion that

women's public involvement in nineteenth century civic rituals was nominal and

peripheral, direct public involvement in New Orleans Carnival was inclusive of all social

groups, more or less, depending on the social and political atmosphere of the time period

in question.2 Given that New Orleans at the time of its founding in 1718 began with a tri-

racial population consisting of French, African, and Native American peoples, further

diversifying as 550,000 immigrants poured through the port between 1820 and 1860, it

becomes apparent that all local women cannot be examined as one inclusive body of

people.3 Similarly, the public versus private distinction often applied to gender studies

cannot be applied as ontological categories directly correlating with male and female

experiences. As race and class divisions continued to grow and diversify throughout the

1800s, women found themselves in a wider variety of public roles and contexts than may

be expected, and these roles depended far more on their social status than their gender.



2 Mary Ryan, Women in Public: Between Banners and Ballots, 1825-1880 (Baltimore: The Johns
Hopkins University Press, 1990). Ryan explains women's roles in antebellum public rituals "not as
participants, but as audience and symbol," (Ryan, 31). She claims that "Prior to the 1840s, celebrations
were either rowdy male encounters or the manufactured products of the city fathers," (Ryan, 23). Ryan
cites New Years Eve visits as the one exception to her rule of men dominating antebellum ceremonial life
in New Orleans. The longer and more broadly celebrated Carnival season is not mentioned. (Ryan, 29-30).
For more historiographic examples of modern historians viewing women as audience, rather than
participants in antebellum public rituals, see Susan G. Davis, Parades and Power: Street Theatre in
Nineteenth-Century Philadelphia (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986); Joan Landes, Women
and the Public Sphere in the Age of the French Revolution (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988).

3 Records of the Cabildo, http://lsm.crt.state.la.us/cabildo/cab6.htm (last accessed June 6, 2006).









Mary Ryan states that women in nineteenth-century public rituals were

acknowledged to be mostly bystanders and audience, rarely participants, and were

occasionally publicly displayed in idealized forms representing upper-class men's

imagined role they played as such civic archetypes as justice, liberty, and peace. If Ryan

is correct that "public ceremonies provide the occasion to ferret out the cultural meaning

attributed to sexual difference in the course of widely attended and festive conventions of

the public," adding that, thishs is the site where public meaning is created and

displayed," then an analysis of nineteenth-century New Orleans's Carnival will send an

academic reeling with its mixed messages.4 In reality, Carnival in New Orleans

functioned as a safety valve, a pressure release for a person to escape daily routines and

societal expectations and become someone wholly different within the time boundaries of

the celebration. Women of all stations took advantage of this opportunity by reveling on

the streets, fully changing their identities through costumes, and engaging in

debaucherous behavior and impromptu parades. Elizabeth Varon takes issue with Ryan

for suggesting passivity among women, imagining them as "audience and symbol," rather

than "political actors." Varon thinks "that to characterize women's partisanship as

passive is to obscure the transformation in women's civic roles."5 The main theme in

Varon's article is to try to recover the extent and degree to which white women

participated in antebellum political history, but her observation aimed at Ryan is

applicable to all female participation in nineteenth-century civic rituals, regardless of the

woman's class or color. In other words, the activity of women on the streets in New


4 Ryan, Women in Public, 16.

5 Elizabeth Varon, "Tippecanoe and the Ladies, Too: White Women and Party Politics in Antebellum
Virginia," The Journal ofAmerican History, Vol. 82, No.2 (Sep., 1995).









Orleans should not be discounted as mere ambulation or promenading in pretty dresses

along the banquettes and levees. Women had places to go, people to see, opinions to

offer, and business to take care of, all in the public sphere, just like the men. They

participated in the manifold ways available to them, and all the more during the Carnival

season.

There are two main problems with the traditional academic analysis of women in

nineteenth-century public rituals. First, when considering nineteenth-century America,

there is too often no clear designation between the "ladies" that are often referred to in

scholarly writings and the many other women that deserve their own paradigms of

analysis. In Alecia Long's recent book focusing on the mixing of sex and race in New

Orleans, she suggests that the term "southern lady" was not applicable to non-white

women.6 In the case of New Orleans, the women who would then not be considered

southern ladies comprised the numerical majority of females in the city. These other

women were responsible for introducing myriad social etiquettes and customs that greatly

contributed to the renowned heterogeneous nature of the area. The legitimate social

differences among all women were generally less well documented and often denigrated

by the elite's of the period, and therefore are less accessible in their true form to the

modern scholar. For example, "public women" is often used in connection with

prostitutes, yet the term does not differentiate between the real "streetwalkers" and the

many other women that lived the majority of their lives on the public streets. This is

exactly what Christine Stansell's work on the lower-class women of New York City

attempts to shed light on; many respectable women who were not prostitutes lived a

6 Alecia P. Long, The Great Southern Babylon: Sex, Race, and Respectability in New Orleans, 1865-1920
(Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2004), 14.









public life, yet would never attain the elite "lady" status of the upper classes. Instead,

they represented social categories all their own.7 The majority of public market and street

vendors in New Orleans were women, yet historians too often overlook them as the

important contributors to the city's culture and economy that they were.8

Second, there exists a tendency amongst historians to focus their analyses of

nineteenth-century public ceremonies on parades. Especially in the case of urban centers,

it is unrealistic to think that civic rituals or ceremonies began and ended in

synchronization with the timing of parades. Since city-wide celebrations often meant a

break from work, the ceremony arguably began with the anticipation of the people and

did not end until the crowds dispersed and ceased to collectively process what the event

offered in terms of social messages and signals. Public gathering places, saloons, and

parties likely functioned as spaces where the people continued to communicate and

assimilate the meanings conveyed by the holiday, and the presence of women at these

places was assured.

Prior to 1857, because organized parades did not exist as part of New Orleans's

Carnival traditions, they cannot serve as a gauge for the social undercurrents being

processed by the community, a performative function often attributed to organized

processions. One must look into other modes of celebration in order to find how the

public was contextualizing and transferring the information offered by the event. A

typical antebellum Carnival procession in New Orleans often consisted of an impromptu

gathering of mixed company, including makers and revelers of all types, colors, classes,


7 Christine Stansell, City of Women: Sex and Class in New York, 1789-1860 (Urbana: University of
Illinois Press, 1986).

8Records of the Cabildo, http://lsm.crt.state.la.us/cabildo/cab6.htm (last accessed June 5, 2006).









of both men and women of all ages, marching through the streets accompanied by a

musical racket. Imagining the main public thoroughfares as arteries clogged with

multitudes of people all dressed up in costumes, talking, yelling, throwing bon-bons and

flour, and heading in the same direction may provide a more accurate picture of

antebellum Carnival parades. In postbellum New Orleans, parades became more

organized and thematic, but they accounted for far less than ten percent of the Carnival

season's activities, thereby hardly serving as a true mirror for the variety of social signals

that the long, participatory festival conveyed, such as gender norms, political and national

affiliations, and social prejudices. In most other cities, class, race, and gender separation

between performers and audience characterized organized processions. In New Orleans,

however, isolation between participants and observers could not be guaranteed, especially

during Carnival.

Consistent with the rest of the nation, women in postbellum New Orleans did not

typically march in the organized Carnival crews, or krewes, as they are referred to in the

local parlance, but it is equally true that the majority of women did not sit as complacent

bystanders blankly watching the parade pass beneath their balcony perches. Women in

New Orleans reveled on the ground with the rest of the heterogeneous crowd that

gathered to cheer on the rolling theatrical presentations, essentially crossing the line that

historians often imagine existed between active participants and passive audience.9

Professor and author Marie-Helene Huet points out that there always exists the possibility

of the audience members reenacting a performance, as opposed to simply observing it.

To her, the content of the message is not as important as the transmissibility of it.

9 Ryan, Civic Wars: Democracy and Public Life in the American City during the Nineteenth Century
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998).









Transmission of words or symbols generates interpretations in the audience, causing them

to react and affect the meaning of the original message and how they remember and

utilize it later. She explains that a woman's subsequent portrayal of what she has seen

may transmute into feelings and actions that could be justified as her own theatrics.10

Customarily, in the case of Carnival festivities, mimicry, mockery, and theatrical

representations are pervading aspects of the experience.

It is difficult to draw parallels between Carnival in New Orleans and public

ceremonies in other American cities during the nineteenth-century due to the unique and

deeply performative nature of the Carnival and the long-lasting democratizing effects it

has on the social interactions between the people. The Carnival traditions of role

inversion and publicly sanctioned exploration of taboos and otherwise illegal behaviors

tend to serve as a lesson in the contingent nature of social positions. For instance, in the

case of New Orleans, slaves could be freed and buy slaves of their own, a woman could

shift from a life of dependence on her husbands to a life of financial and social

independence if she made successful business decisions or if her spouse died and left her

assets, and politically important men could be deposed anytime the colony changed

hands. Although this is true, more or less, in any society, the people of New Orleans

ritually acted out a society of contrariety every Carnival season, ensuring that everyone

remembered that life is fraught with precariousness.

In her work on nineteenth-century public life, which includes a detailed treatment

of New Orleans, Mary Ryan describes the public in terms of people openly interacting in

places of natural social gathering, such as the well used streets, taverns, theaters, markets,

10 Marie-Helene Huet, qtd. in Joan B. Landes, Women and the Public Sphere in the Age of the French
Revolution (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988), 166.









and promenades. "The first marker of the public is within the domain of everyday

sociability, face-to-face or shoulder-to-shoulder encounters between city residents."11

The Carnival celebration, when considered in its broader unabridged form, provided an

atmosphere that fostered a sense of public belonging, discourse, and meaning, and at the

same time served as a venue to perpetuate social prejudices between groups, ultimately

offering the people far more opportunity for pursuing public relations and engaging in

demonstrations than any ordinary passing parade. Interactions between people during

Carnival at once revealed social boundaries and challenged them.

Since the focus of this study revolves around women's roles in nineteenth century

Carnival festivities, it is necessary to present a historical summary of the origins of New

Orleans's Carnival. An understanding of the history of New Orleans' early settlers and

their relationship to the celebration will undoubtedly shed light on the ancient and

ongoing Carnival customs annually celebrated since the time of the city's colonial birth.

At the core of these customs is a tradition of pushing social limits, inverting social roles,

and the paradox of exclusivity in a situation of inclusiveness. If there exists a tendency

among scholars to envision men as the public actors during nineteenth-century civic

rituals and women as the passive audience, then there exists a failure to consider New

Orleans Carnival time.


11 Ryan, Civic Wars, 14.














CHAPTER 2
AN OVERVIEW OF THE ORIGINS OF THE NEW ORLEANS CARNIVAL

The Presbytere is a historic building located in the French Quarter. It was

constructed in the late 1700s during the Spanish colonial period to house an order of

Capuchin monks. Today, The Presbytere functions as the city's official Mardi Gras

museum. In the opinion of today's curators of The Presbytere, the exact origins of the

Carnival celebrated in New Orleans are unknown. They surmise that the ancient Roman

Saturnalia, a yearly ritual marking the winter solstice, is the most direct connection to the

nearly 300 year-old custom of celebrating Carnival in New Orleans. Their permanent

exhibit on Carnival's origins explains that the Saturnalia served as a time to halt all

commerce, for people to masquerade and feast, for masters to wait on servants, and for

couples to be designated mock kings and queens. Historian and photographer

Alexander Orloff also traces the origins of modern Carnival to the pre-Christian

Saturnalia, a holiday honoring Saturnus, the beneficent King of Latinum, considered the

civilizer of man and law-giver to the people of Italy. The festival of the Saturnalia was a

ritual re-enactment of an idyllic time when nature was bountiful, work was unnecessary,

and equality existed among people. In order to evoke a true sense of parity during the

holiday, role inversion was necessary. The metaphoric coin was flipped and the world

was tuned upside down. Slaves were set free in their master's clothes for the time of the

festival and servants were waited on by their masters. Mock kings were elected from



1 Courtesy of The Presbytere, New Orleans, Louisiana.









among the commoners, issuing ridiculous rules to the host of reveling masqueraders,

pranksters, and dancing, drunken fools.2

In contrast, a number of New Orleans historians including James Gill, John

William Koolsbergen, and Henri Schindler, hypothesize that the origins of Carnival go

back to the ancient Roman Lupercalia, a fertility ritual celebrated during the month of

February.3 Orloff explains that it is historically understood that, in ancient times, naked

youths, both girls and boys, ran around wrapped in the skins of sacrificed animals, with

the women receiving lashes from the februa, or long strips of hide cut from skins of the

sacrificed creatures, indicating that women had always been involved in this ancient

celebration as ceremonial participants.4

As centuries passed, the Christian Church found pagan celebrations offensive, yet

could not eradicate them, so slowly began infusing them with Christian symbolism and

overtones. In approximately 600 C.E., Pope Gregory the Great transformed the

seemingly ineradicable pagan holiday into Mardi Gras, an official Catholic holiday, and a

movable feast, immediately preceding the Lenten period of fasting and abstinence before

Easter, in what would appear to be an act to mitigate the celebration's pagan



2 Alexander Orloff, Carnival: Myth and Cult (Worgl, Austria: Perlinger, 1980), 26-27.

3 For further information about the Roman Lupercalia, see T.C. DeLeon, Creole Carnivals, 1830-1890
(1881; repr., Mobile: Bienville Books, 2004); John Williams Koolsbergen, A Study in Popular Culture, The
New Orleans Mardi Gras: Formation of the Mystick Krewe of Comus and the Krewe ofRex. Doctoral
dissertation, City University of New York, 1989; Robert Tallant, Mardi Gras... As It Was, 4t ed. (Tallant:
New Orleans, 1947; Gretna: Pelican Publishing Company, 1994); Henri Schindler, Mardi Gras and New
Orleans (Paris: Flammarion, 1997).

4 Orloff, Carnival: Myth and Cult, 25.









associations.5 Each year since the seventh century, the holiday period commences on the

twelfth night of Christmas, the sixth of January, and lasts until the eve of Ash

Wednesday, ending anywhere from February third through March eighth. However,

throughout at least the first half of the nineteenth century, the French settlers in New

Orleans mimicked the Venetian Carnival calendar that lasted six months a year, with

masked balls commencing in November and lasting until May.

Regardless of how hard the church tried, no matter that it made the dates of

Carnival conform to the Christian calendar, it could not rid the celebration of its pagan

core; however, it did manage to Christianize it to the point that few people know that it is

not a holiday initiated by the Catholic Church, as can be assumed from the words

Carnavale, or Carnelevamen, a Latin translation of a farewell or a consolation to the

flesh, respectively. Catholic doctrine asserts that eating meat during the forty-day Lenten

period is considered a sin, so this is something to indulge in before the period of

abstinence, hence the time of overindulgence associated with Carnival.

The celebrations with roots in Saturnalia and Lupercalia were not all fun and

games. Often the people displayed more than just debaucherous behavior, including the

settling of vendettas, holding public hangings, and committing general violence. Most

crimes were not punished, especially during the climax of the festivities, because it was

common knowledge that all rules, laws, and taboos were suspended for the holiday. In

1890, James Frazer wrote of the darker side of the Saturnalia in his master work, The

Golden Bough. He found proof in ancient texts that Roman citizens or soldiers would

choose a man among them, usually the least capable, to rule throughout the week's

5 University of Cincinnati Web Site Search,
http://libraries.uc.edu/libraries/arb/geramericana/traditions.html (last accessed June 6, 2006).









festivities, and when the last day ended, the temporary king was put to death as a sacrifice

for the betterment of the people. Frazer spoke of the Saturnalia as a period of license

where the moral degeneration of the people led to "wild orgies of lust and crime."6 As

the Church gained more control of the festival, criminals suffered consequences for their

transgressions. Death by hanging was often performed in the midst of the festival in the

public squares. Even with the Church, or later the police, monitoring and chaperoning

the festival, observing the laws ultimately rested with the people. A law is only as

effective as an authority's ability to enforce it, and during the Carnival season in New

Orleans, laws were often not enforced. Instead, unruly revelry, inversion of social roles,

and half-mock, half-real usurpation of authority ran wild, and still do, although to a much

lesser degree today. Violence, as well as elated celebration, has always found a venue

during the New Orleans Carnival.7

Henri Schindler explains that the Bourbon King of France embraced the Carnival

styles of Venice and Rome to such a point that "entire courts of allegorical aristocracy

were created, and under Louis XIV Mardi Gras itself became a symbolic prince."8 The

last day of the festival, known as Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, was often

characterized by parties and burial rituals enacted in the day's honor. Louisiana was

claimed as a colony of France under the legendarily decadent Sun King, Louis XIV.



6 Sir James Frazer, The Golden Bough (1890; Bucharest: Romanian Cultural Foundation, 1994), chap. 58,
pg. 1.

7 For further information regarding violence associated with Carnival festivities, see Samuel Kinser,
Carnival, American Style: Mardi Gras at New Orleans and Mobile (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1990); Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Carnival in Romans (New York: George Braziller, 1979); Reid
Mitchell, All on a Mardi Gras Day: Episodes in the History oJ ... i Orleans Carnival (Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 1995).

8 Schindler, Mardi Gras and New Orleans, 14.









When French explorers Iberville and Bienville found the mouth of the Mississippi River

on Mardi Gras day in 1699, the coincidence did not escape them. The campsite was

immediately christened "Point du Mardi Gras," heralding the first celebration of the

festival in the newest French colony.

Subsequently, the first settlers in New Orleans were a mixture of Canadian

frontiersmen, company militiamen, slaves, and a variety of indigents, prostitutes, and

convicts forced to relocate from France to the New World. The 1721 census counted 470

people in the three-year-old city.9 Storyville historian Al Rose asserts that the first

shipment of people from France consisted of not only "women of bad repute, but thieves,

vagabonds, gypsies, and other social unwanteds."10 The interests of Rose, as well as

author Stephen Longstreet, lie mainly in the history of New Orleans prostitution, and the

latter believes that with the first shipment of people from France the "Sporting House

history of the town begins."11 Longstreet makes the point that a love of danger and

debauchery have characterized the citizens of New Orleans since the moment of its

founding and that women played full participatory roles in creating the culture of the city,

from carrying muskets and axes, to growing crops, to openly displaying their sexuality in

public, and it is from this first batch of degenerate people that the subsequent Creoles and

their colonial customs were born. 12



9 Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, http://britannica.com/eb/article-11811 (last accessed June 6, 2006).

10 Al Rose, Storyville, New Orleans: Being an Authentic Illustrated Account of the Notorious Red Light
District (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1974), 5.

1 Stephen Longstreet, Sportin' House: A History of the New Orleans Sinners and the Birth ofJazz, (Los
Angeles: Sherbourne Press, 1965).
12 The term Creole throughout this paper designates people of pure foreign blood born on Louisiana's
soil, referring in this case to the original French or Spanish settlers. Throughout the nineteenth century,
rarely were locally born Africans or Anglo-Americans considered Creole in New Orleans, although they









No extant records speak of New Orleans's Carnival celebrations under French rule.

Even so, there is a long-standing legend that says Mardi Gras was first celebrated by

Bienville's successor as governor, the Marquis De Vaudreuil, who threw elegant and elite

society balls in the spirit of the French Carnival tradition practiced by Louis XIV. Grace

King, a renowned late nineteenth-century New Orleans writer, called herself "a southern

woman of letters." She wrote several personal and historically based accounts of New

Orleans life resounding with early notes of feminism. She tells of the legend of the

Marquis De Vaudreuil and reminisces on hearing about his Carnival society balls from

the old women in the city. In a book published in 1895, she refers to the women of the

city as "enthusiastic converts to the higher standard of the newer and more fascinating

gay world," introduced by the Marquis, and makes a point of women's participation in

the city's earliest Carnival celebrations.13

When the Spanish assumed ownership of the colony in 1763, it took them six years

to assert any control over the French Creoles. In fact, the rowdy French exiled the first

Spanish governor, Don Antonio de Ulloa. It was not until the next governor, Alejandro

O'Reilly, executed six French men responsible for the coup to keep the Spanish out of

French New Orleans that Spain gained any say in New Orleans's local affairs. It is at that

point, after the Spanish wrested control of the colony from the French Creoles, that the

historical records begin to tell the tale of Carnival celebrations and the problems

associated with them.


technically would inherit the same designation. This is the most common use of the word in virtually all
Louisiana history books.

13 Grace King, New Orleans: The Place and the People (1895; New York: The Macmillan Company,
1926), 79. For further information on the legend of the Marquis, see George W. Cable, The Grandissimes:
A Story of Creole Life (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1880), 31.









The first tangible piece of historic evidence related to New Orleans Carnival is a

decree issued in 1781 and recorded in the Acts and Deliberations of the Cabildo, the

meeting place of the City Council. Governor Francisco Luis Carondolet is quoted as

saying "Because of the great multitude of troops and crews from the ships, (due to the

state of war between Spain and England), and the great number of free Negroes and

slaves in the city, the Attorney General recommends that all kinds of masking and public

dancing by the Negroes be prohibited during the Carnival Season."14 The Spanish

prohibition on masking began in 1781 and lasted through the first two decades of the new

American government, officially ending in 1823. The laws apparently were never

enforced with any consistency, because in 1792 the La Salle Conde Theatre was built to

house the growing numbers of masquerade balls. It was the first public ballroom recorded

in the city and within fifty years there were over 80 locations devoted to dancing.

Carnival historian Perry Young referred to the ban on masking between the years

1806-1821 as "soft-pedaled." He notes finding advertisements for masquerade balls

between those years, yet the newspaper records available from that time do not support

Young's claim.15 Between the years 1807 and 1823 The Louisiana Gazette carried

advertisements for "Grand Balls" at the Orleans Ball Room, the Jefferson Ball Room, and

the Conde Ball Room during the final days of the Carnival seasons, and on only one

occasion is anything mentioned about a dress code. The Orleans Ball Room hosted a

public ball on Mardi Gras Day in 1820 and felt obliged to mention in the paper that no

boots, surtouts, or canes would be admitted into the dance. In over seventeen years of


14 Digest of the Acts and Deliberations of the Cabildo, (Jan., 1781), book 2, pg. 47.

15 Perry Young, Carnival andMardi Gras in New Orleans (New Orleans: Harmanson's, 1939), 15.









publications, during a time of official prohibition on masking, not once was a cautionary

word mentioned by The Louisiana Gazette about arriving in disguise. The same is true

for the advertisements in the Louisiana Courrier between 1813 and 1816.16 Did the

people know that masking was prohibited and act according to the law, or did they

disregard the law and mask anyway, not fearing penalty and connoting that the law was

indeed as soft-pedaled after the Louisiana Purchase as it was when the La Salle Conde

Ball Room was built in 1792?

When the Duke of Saxe-Weimar Eisenach visited the city in 1822, the final year of

the official ban, he mentioned that the French Theatre hosted a great masked gala, and

that all of the ladies in attendance donned a costume, "and intrigued as well as they were

able."17 Historians John Koolsbergen and Karen Leathem both speculate that fear of

sexual promiscuity between the races lay at the bottom of the legal decrees against inter-

racial mixing at balls and prohibitions on masking that surfaced from time to time during

nineteenth-century Carnival seasons. 18 Regardless of what particular class or race a ball

was billed for, masquerading was always a pleasure and a concern. A popular New

Orleans newspaper, L 'Abeille, the French edition of The Bee, ran an advertisement during

the 1828 Carnival season for a costume store owned by Mlle. Lise Douvillier, enticing

customers to find a costume and dress in the privacy of her facilities without "curious


16 Advertisements, Louisiana Gazette, 1807-1823; Louisiana Courrier, 1813-1816.

17 Duke of Saxe-Weimar Eisenach, Travels ;hi,. hi North America, During the Years 1825 and 1826
(Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Carey, 1828): qtd. in Albert E. Fossier, New-Orleans: The Glamour Period,
1800-1840: A History of the (.C tl,. i, ofNationalities, Languages, Religion, Morals, Cultures, Laws,
Politics, and Economics during the Formative Period of .... 0 Orleans (New Orleans: Pelican Publishing
House, 1957), 459.

18 Koolsbergen, A Study in Popular Culture, 42; Karen Leathem, A Carnival According to Their Own
Desires: Gender and Mardi Gras in New Orleans, 1870-1941. (Doctoral dissertation, University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1994), 200.









eyes penetrating."19 Once people were covered from head to toe, they could pass for

virtually anyone, and all races, classes, and genders tended to dress in fully disguising

costumes, adding an element of equality, as well as mystery, to the already chaotic

celebration.


19 Advertisement, L 'Abeille, February 1828.














CHAPTER 3
RACE AND THE CARNIVAL IN NEW ORLEANS

From the founding of New Orleans until after the Civil War, in the minds of the

Creoles, the free people of color were potential social agitators and a threat to the slave-

holder mentality and power, yet the Creoles could not help but interact with them in

intimate ways. There had always been free blacks in New Orleans due to the favorable

French and Spanish laws concerning the rights of slaves. According to the African

American Resource Center, part of the New Orleans Public Library, during the Spanish

period, "slaves could buy their freedom, be loaned money to purchase their freedom,

have their freedom purchased by a relative or friend or be given their freedom,"

regardless of their master's disapproval, allowing the free black population to grow in

size and importance, often holding positions as skilled laborers, merchants, land owners,

and even slave owners themselves.1 Free people of color existed as a class of their own;

too free and often too socially significant to be grouped together with the slaves, but

unable to vote or find a niche in white society. Their strong presence, combined with

their monetary and business success, made their middling existence a threat to the

southern slave ideology that clung to the concept that all blacks should be subjugated to

whites. Miscegenation was a common occurrence in New Orleans, as evidenced by the

large number of mulattos born each year, adding to the already numerically significant


1 African American Resource Center, Emancipation Records, New Orleans Public Library Online,
http://nutrias.org/-nopl/info/aarcinfo/guide/emancipations.htm (last accessed June 6, 2006).









class of people more free than slaves, yet less free than whites, with internal social

stratifications all their own. The census records for Louisiana in the nineteenth century

do not distinguish between whites and free people of color in the category of births.

However, in 1850, free people of color in Orleans Parish made up ten percent of the

overall population. There were approximately twice as many free women of color than

men, and twice as many white men as women.2

Karen Leathem posits that, in the 1850s, "gender became the overarching rubric for

unofficial masking regulations."3 More likely, all previous masking regulations, whether

official or not, had existed for the same white, fear-based reasons. Ease of association

among all races of residents, combined with an unequal ratio of men to women, ironically

made room for and implicitly encouraged the generally frowned-upon practice of inter-

racial sexual intercourse. Late historian Kimberly Hanger wrote in her 1991 PhD

dissertation concerning free people of color in Spanish New Orleans that "with few

exceptions persons of all colors and classes worked and played together by choice

and necessity." She continued by stating, "New Orleans refused to function in accord

with any strict social stratifications based on race, class, or legal status."4 Alecia Long

relates several historical cases of "sex across the color line," using them as aids to explain

how the city went from having a dubious reputation for decadence and racial diversity

before the Civil War to exploiting that decadence by creating a tourist market around the

sex trade that encouraged indulgence in prostitution, including miscegenation, for

2 Geospatial and Statistical Data Center, University of Virginia Library, http://fisher.lib.virginia.edu/cgi-
local/censusbin/census/cen.pl?year=860 (last accessed June 6, 2006).

3 Leathem, A CarnivalAccording to Their Own Desires, 38.

4 Kimberly Hanger, Personas de Varias Clasesy Colores: Free People of Color in Spanish New Orleans,
1769-1803 (Doctoral dissertation, University of Florida, 1991), 243.









government profit after the war. In 1898, the notorious Storyville district was born,

composed of several city blocks set aside by local officials for the sole purpose of

enticing tourists to luxuriate in a sanctioned erotic environment of sex and, later, local

jazz music.5

The free people of color in New Orleans were not subjected to the same social

etiquette that the French and Spanish Creole elites enforced. The free colored people had

their own set of social standards and, for those women deemed quadroons and octoroons,

persons one-fourth and one-eighth black respectively, they had standards that both

seduced and appalled Creole men and incensed many Creole women. To illustrate, in

1810 a woman named Lucinda Sparkle published a letter addressed to the City Council in

the Louisiana Gazette. Her concern clearly shows just how important the Carnival

season was for women of her era, and just what a threat the Creole women considered the

female quadroons. She petitioned for the following:

[that a] suitable genteel, tree-shaded promenade be established to foster "the best
female society" who were losing out to the quadroons who promenaded the levees
and ensnared the eligible gentlemen of the city. During the Carnival, when our
young gentlemen from custom and the pleasures of dancing are frequently in the
company with our belles, feelings of the most pure and tender nature are often
excited; but, time passes, the Carnival ends, and the period of female seclusion
again returns, and there remains nothing to counteract the baneful voices
complained of by your petitioner. [She envisioned that a proper public promenade
would be a place where] the favorable and honorable impressions made during the
Carnival might be renewed and new conquests might be made.6

Historically, in New Orleans quadroon women were distinguished for their

exemplary educations and financial solvency, qualities often thought of as unusual for



5 Alecia P. Long, The Great Southern Babylon: Sex, Race, and Respectability in New Orleans 1865-1920
(Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2004).
6 Lucinda Sparkle, letter to City Council, Louisiana Gazette, Sep. 18, 1810.









women of their time. Due to the promise of limited legal rights extended to free people

of color, the quadroon women benefited as legal landowners and merchants, and were

often socially independent. Grace King left behind her a wealth of information about

New Orleans and its distinctive local culture in the many books she wrote, including a

reproduction of an unpublished manuscript written in the mid-nineteenth century by

Charles Gayarre, the grandson of Etienne de Borre, New Orleans's first mayor, and a

lawyer and fellow-writer friend of King. Gayarre's manuscript resounds with respect for

the free colored women. He pleasantly reminisces about the comfortable living quadroon

women afforded white men by catering to their every need, their affability, and their

"proverbial" honesty, yet in the same breath he complains that the women "monopolized

the renting, at high prices, of furnished rooms to white gentlemen," sounding more like

he had a personal gripe than was stating an absolute fact. In contrast, King's opinions are

much more severe than Gayarre's. In regard to family peace and purity, she considers the

women "the most insidious and the deadliest of foes a community ever possessed."7

Given the contents of this quote, it is tempting to imagine the name Lucinda Sparkle

serving as a pen name for King if the latter had been alive in 1810. The respective

contrasting opinions of Gayarre and King echo the stereotypical responses held by white

men and white women, respectively, in response to the unusual social position quadroon

women occupied. After all, white men tended to benefit from the unusual social position

of the quadroon women, while white women did not. More importantly, however, the

opinions of King and Gayarre reflect the quandary in which the free women of color

found themselves and dealt with daily, living in a reality somewhere between freedom


SKing, New Orleans: The Place and the People, 347; Charles Gayarre, unpublished manuscript, qtd. in
King, New Orleans: The Place and the People, 347.









and servitude, and in a world between the white and black cultures, a world often fraught

with hostility.

One of the most noted reasons for the quadroon women's independence, financial

solvency, and resented position in society sprang from the peculiar, yet common placage

system, borrowed from the French West Indies. In the placage system, the mother of a

free young quadroon woman would offer her as the mistress of a socially desirable young

and unmarried white man. When a suitable match was made, the women became known

as a placeee" The legendary quadroon Carnival balls that occurred in New Orleans from

some time in the 1700s until the Civil War, documented in the countless travelogues left

by North American and European travelers, involved more than just dancing the French

quadrille until dawn.8 First and foremost, for the love of music and Carnival, free

colored people held balls where technically no whites were allowed to attend. However,

the quadroon balls represented a glaring double standard. Quadroon mothers, acting as

brokers and often places themselves, would accompany their daughter to the quadroon

balls in attempt to strike a bargain with an interested white man in attendance in order to

place their daughter in that man's care for life. These balls were well known and in

operation specifically for the purpose of inter-racial relations. They served as the

courting ground of young white men of means looking for exotic darker skinned

mistresses.




8 For further information on quadroon balls in travelogues, see Thomas Ashe, Golden Petticoats: Travels
in America (London: printed for R. Phillips, 1808), qtd. in The World from Jackson Square: A New Orleans
Reader, ed. Etolia S. Basso (New York: Farrar, Straus, 1948), 87-91; Isidore Lowenstern, (1837), Harriet
Martineau, (1830), The Duke of Saxe-Weimar Eisenach, (1825), James Stuart, (1829), Mrs. Trollope
(1827), qtd. in Albert E. Fossier, New-Orleans The Glamour Period, 1957; John H.B. Latrobe, Southern
Travels: Journal ofJohn H.B. Latrobe, 1834, ed. Samuel Wilson Jr. (New Orleans: The Historic New
Orleans Collection, 1986).









Thomas Ashe, in his 1808 travels to New Orleans from London, took a great

interest in the placage system and the quadroon women it involved. As one of the men

captivated by the beautiful mixed-race ladies, he considered the women of color socially

equal, if only in grace and elegance, to the white society women. He noted that, "The

mothers regulate the terms and make the bargain generally fifty dollars a month;

during which time the lover has the exclusive right to the house, where fruit, coffee, and

refreshments may at any time be had, or where he may entirely live with the utmost

safety and tranquility."9 In a similar vein, in 1859, Fredrick Law Olmstead, the noted

landscape architect and designer of New York's Central Park, mused that living under the

placage arrangement cost less money than renting hotel rooms that did not come with the

cooking and laundry services that the quadroon places provided. Olmstead guessed that

a man could live a better life for less money in New Orleans with a quadroon mistress

than a man with a salary could in New York City. 10 If a white man of means desired to

take part in the placage system to secure himself the services mentioned above, the place

to institute the relationship would have been the famous quadroon balls.

Similar to all Carnival galas, the quadroon balls varied in quality, depending on the

class of people in attendance, something likely determined by the elegance and entrance

fee of the particular ballroom. In 1834, John Latrobe visited New Orleans from

Baltimore. The son of the New Orleans architect and commentator Benjamin Latrobe is

notable in having spearheaded the African recolonization movement, an effort to send

manumitted slaves back to a newly established African colony, Liberia, named by the



9 Ashe, Golden Petticoats, qtd. in The World from Jackson Square, ed. Basso, 91.

10 Fredrick Law Olmstead, Men and Manners, qtd. in The World from Jackson Square, ed. Basso, 160.









American Colonization Society to imply liberation. On the night of his arrival, he was

escorted by his host to a quadroon ball. This first ball Latrobe attended was at the

Washington Ball Room and required guests to come masked. He paid a one dollar

entrance fee into the "gorgeous building," commenting that, "it far exceeds anything of

the sort that we have in the North." Not surprisingly, Latrobe left his wife Charlotte in

their temporary quarters while he enjoyed an event she socially could not attend.

Latrobe's writings reveal inconsistencies in his opinions regarding people of color. On

the one hand, he worked for the abolition of slavery, desiring to rid the nation of its racial

problems by shipping all blacks back to Africa, yet on the other hand, he notes several

times his fixation with the feet and ankles of unescorted colored women around Jackson

Square, inquiring about their identities in an effort to make their acquaintance. It is likely

that the same women he saw in the square during the day starred in the quadroon balls at

night. He commented with repugnance that the quadroon belles pass their lives in

prostitution, only made worse by the fact that New Orleans citizens, more or less,

condone their behavior. Disgusted from the heat and smell of sweat, Latrobe left the first

quadroon ball around midnight, yet he apparently could not fight the temptation to attend

another ball of lesser quality that he coincidently stumbled upon moments later. The

second quadroon ball he attended was advertised in the November nineteenth issue of

The Bee. There he found colored women and "white women of the lowest order, and

nearly all of the women in the same sort of costume." Once again offended by the odor

and the lack of lighting, he left the ball, but what is of importance are the descriptions of


1 Latrobe, Southern Travels, 2.









the evening Latrobe left behind, demonstrating that societal rules of the time concerning

the mixing of races were inconsistently adhered to, at best. 12

The elite white society women, often the victims of cheating husbands, often

enough used the quadroon Carnival balls to gain proof of their partners' affairs and to

aggravate the event's other attendees. For instance, in 1835, yet another debate ensued

over masquerading, because many white women were donning masks and entering the

quadroon balls. The public spotlight cast upon the elite white women from the Cabildo

most likely served to warn them that their social status could be undermined, especially if

they were accused of acting improperly at a ball by committing an act of adultery with

any man, or worse, miscegenation with black men who easily could have gained entry as

well under cover of a costume.

Historian Laurraine Goreau cites Alderman Allard in an 1835 debate defending

married white women caught accessing a realm customarily prohibited to them. The

Alderman supported their incognito passage into the balls suspecting that their intentions

were solely to surprise their adulterous husbands openly consorting with their quadroon

mistresses.13 Historian and author Albert Emile Fossier, in his early twentieth century

book, New Orleans, the Glamour Period, 1800-1840, quotes an unnamed "prominent"

English author from the nineteenth century who further attests to white women

infiltrating the quadroon balls of their own volition, but he suspects that their reasons

varied more than Alderman Allard assumed.




12 Latrobe, Southern Travels, 76-81; The Bee, November 19, 1834.

13 Alderman Allard, City Council Debate, November 20, 1835, qtd. by Laurraine Goreau, The Past as
Prelude: New Orleans, 1718-1968, ed. Hodding Carter (New Orleans: Tulane University Press, 1968), 346.









In the twenties and even in the early thirties, these balls were strictly limited to
quadroonn] women and their white admirers. No white women would risk the
opprobrium for attending them, even disguised with a mask. The fear of
apprehension was too great, but in the marvelous thirties when the population both
males and females, grew to tremendous proportions, white women, either because
of curiosity, for amusement, or to confirm their suspicions as to the whereabouts of
their husbands, would attend these balls, where they were not welcome, in
incredible numbers ... at first carefully disguised, then flaunting all conventions by
not attempting to hide their identity.14

The acting mayor, Culbertson, in a letter to the same City Council meeting in 1835,

showed great concern that white ladies were attending these balls, events that he

considered an ongoing custom promoting infidelity. Mixed feelings in the white male

population between wanting their freedom to live a dual sexual life with a socially

downcast, though desirable, race, and not wanting their wives to know, confront them, or,

especially, take revenge by committing the same act with willing black males, was

common. Culbertson complained of the white women attending the quadroon balls,

explaining that, "the spectacle of their abominations is constantly offered to the public

gaze." In a seemingly offended tone, Culbertson continued that these white women in

attendance, often married, felt comfortable enough to bring with them as escorts,

"unprincipled men who have been expelled from other sates, and who find here, in

consequence of the disguise they are allowed to assume, and the protection of these

females, every opportunity to follow their swindling career."15 Ten days later, The Bee

commented in an editorial that "however disposed we may be to esteem ladies and to

gratify their curiosity, etc., we did not like to see them disguised in liquor or dress. What

they may be permitted to do at a fancy ball respectably 'got up' can scarcely afford a

14 A "Prominent English Author" qtd. in Fossier, New Orleans: The Glamour Period, 362.

15 Mayor Culbertson, City Council November 20, 1835, qtd. in Fossier, New Orleans: The Glamour
Period, 362-363.









precedent to unrestrained freedom at masked balls for colored people two or three times a

week."16 All of this implies nothing less than women, even ones considered high

society, fully participating in the rituals associated with the Carnival season, and they did

so with much less compunction than many historians suspect.

In 1834, Englishmen Charles Augustus Murray commented on the gaiety and ease

of the Creole women at their Carnival balls. He fondly remembered that he "was

privileged to address and to dance with any young lady in company without going

through the ceremonial ordeal of introduction." He continued by saying, "it is impossible

to conceive an assembly with more agreement and with less restraint, than this Creole

coterie."17 He likely found himself in the company of well behaved Creole citizens at an

extravagant fete, a privilege not extended to all whites, or even all Creoles in the city.

There is no doubt that there existed palpable qualitative differences among Carnival balls

and their attendees.

It is important to note that Creole society had its class stratifications, as well. Not

all Creoles had access to money, resources, or even homes. The Creole balls ran the

gamut from decadent and very socially restrictive "subscription" or "society balls," where

the Duke of Saxe-Weimar Eisenach claims, "none but good society were admitted,"

likely prohibited to most by their entrance fee, to the inexpensive and easily accessible

"public balls," advertised in every newspaper, with women often admitted for free. 18

Women were not only conspicuously present at all of these parties both in costume and



16 The Bee, November 30, 1835.

17 Charles Augustus Murray, qtd. in Fossier, New Orleans: The Glamour Period, 455.

18 Duke of Saxe-Weimar Eisenach, qtd. in King, New Orleans: The Place and the People, 266.









spirit, they were absolutely necessary to their success, especially if the male attendants

desired dancing until dawn. Class and race determined admittance to the balls, especially

admittance to the elite private sphere of the invitation-only galas, gender did not, yet

there existed the promise of a good fete for everyone, usually six months out of the year

and several times a week. All classes and colors of society had their bacchanals and the

women were ever-present, participating in the celebrations.

In the atmosphere of New Orleans's antebellum Carnival, white southern

womanhood and its reputation for delicacy and sacred virtue deserves reconsideration. It

is apparent that New Orleans challenges the perspective of a monolithic Southern culture

as evidenced by the social complexities of the city, which at Carnival time were brought

to the surface in full public force. In theory, among the upper classes, there existed a

stigma associated with the public balls due to the balls' socially heterogeneous attendees,

which offered no guarantee of whose company in which people might find themselves.

Under the guise of masking, social trespass occurred regularly. John Williams

Koolsbergen comments that, "In a broader sense the inversion of status is at the core of

Mardi Gras because the central theme of New Orleans Carnival is the fantasy of

becoming anything one desires for a day."19 People often disguised themselves as other

races, classes, and genders in order to gain access, if only psychologically, into social

spheres with which they were less well acquainted.

In 1952, Mardi Gras historian, Arthur Burton LaCour, commented that the public

balls of the nineteenth century created an atmosphere of offensiveness and immorality.

Using women as the measuring stick for determining immoral behavior, he wrote, "Self-


19 Koolsbergen, A Study in Popular Culture, 26.









styled ladies wore masks but all other parts of their bodies were delineated. Hostility

towards masking was renewed and the laxity of the public balls were severely criticized

as Bacchanalian revelries."20 It seems LaCour assumed that the women would not have

dressed so promiscuously were they not masked, and the fact that they did display

themselves in a sexually provocative way led him to conclude that masking was the cause

of, or excuse for female transgression, as opposed to the overall lax nature of Carnival

sociability.

In a similar vein to LaCour, local New Orleans author Robert Tallant felt that the

public balls of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries possessed "varying degrees of

respectability [and] which were open to everyone who could purchase a ticket, and some

of these were helping to give New Orleans a reputation as a city as evil and as dangerous

as Marseille, a city which was in time to earn the appellation of 'hell on earth."'21

Tallant blames the reputation of the city on the debauched persons who attended Carnival

balls, but, in reality, New Orleans gained its hellacious reputation for a variety of reasons,

many having nothing to do with the Carnival. Historically, the city was no stranger to

widespread bouts of epidemics, warring with local Amerindians, slave insurrections,

pirate attacks, annual flooding of the city streets, hurricanes, delinquents, dueling, gang

fights, and prostitution.

In truth, there existed no specific limits to open female sexuality and provocative

behavior and this seemed to bother men much more than the majority of women who

used Carnival as an excuse to display their bodies, act coquettishly, and behave in ways

20 Arthur Burton LaCour, New Orleans Masquerade: (C i ... i.. I,. of Carnival, in collaboration with Stuart
Omer Landry (New Orleans: Pelican Publishing Company, 1952), 10.
21 Tallant, New Orleans... As It Was, 97.






30


often not normally accessible to them, challenging men's perceptions of their

virtuousness. Since the social guidelines people publicly adhered to greatly depended on

their class, the anonymity of Carnival offered everyone an opportunity to explore other

social realms. Even the upper-class women who frowned on the quadroon balls, with all

the implicit and illicit sexuality associated with them, still attended disguised enough to

hide their personal identity, perhaps even their class, but not their gender.














CHAPTER 4
PROSTITUTES ON PARADE

Among the common people, or gens du commun, it can be inferred that the

prostitutes so commonly referred to in New Orleans history were often the lower-class

white Creole women, although they were not alone in this profession. Many immigrant

women arriving in the city with no resources or family support also turned to the illicit

sex trade for money. In fact, Al Rose, an expert on Storyville, New Orleans's red light

district, uncovered much evidence of women traveling from different cities to New

Orleans to make quick earnings by engaging in prostitution, and all the more during the

Carnival season. Robert Tallant claimed, "Mardi Gras was a paradise for whores ...

They'd take over the streets, go into the best neighborhoods in carriages and on foot,

shouting obscenities and dressed in the most daring costumes; behaving in the most

brazen fashion."1

During the antebellum period of Carnival, prostitutes, both black and white, owned

the streets as much as men. They dominated many areas of the public sphere, openly

inviting, in Alecia Long's words, "sex across the color line" in bars and concert saloons

across the city, from the most dangerous of neighborhoods to the most wealthy and

refined. Social stigmas associated with promiscuous costuming and bawdy behavior only

encouraged them to rebel more. Karen Leathem notes that since the mid-nineteenth

century prostitutes commonly cross-dressed as men for Mardi Gras. To Leathem, cross-



1 Tallant, New Orleans... As It Was, 108.









dressing represented a challenge to Victorian ideas of gender immutability.2 Her position

is in direct conflict with Mary Ryan's assertion that "Like the sexual reversals of

European Carnival... the cross-dressing of Mardi Gras did not challenge gender

hierarchies."3 Given these contradictory voices concerning the nature of cross-dressing,

why women chose to costume in that fashion must be considered.

It is likely that one reason prostitutes cross-dressed was to penetrate and undermine

men's socially superior position over women. Costumes often signified political ideals

and social mores of the day, letting people play with new information and find new ways

to assimilate and express it, while simultaneously reflecting and challenging the world as

the costumers knew it. For instance, women cross-dressing as men could thwart sexual

double standards that men used to their advantage, such as the placage system, and

costumes of inversion could be made into tools used by the oppressed to temporarily

assume the privileges of their oppressors.

Upper-class men regularly cross-dressed for Carnival, often playing the part of

females in the organized postbellum parades, parades that women, along with the rest of

the city's citizens, were excluded from. Role inversion was as much a part of the ancient

Carnival customs that survived in New Orleans as open sexuality and public debauchery.

It served as a vital component in keeping the essential spirit of the Carnival alive. On

Ash Wednesday, 1838, The New Orleans Daily Picayune relayed to their readers their

Mardi Gras day experience, illustrating a grand procession of Creole gentlemen of the

"first respectability." All of the men rode horses, and "Many of them were dressed in


2 Leathem, A Carnival According to Their Own Desires, 61-62.

3Ryan, Women in Public, 29.









female attire, and acted the lady with no small degree of grace."4 Both men and women

could and did masquerade as each other and explored the other's social advantages, if

only temporarily.

If there existed some understanding among prostitutes that gender roles were

decided upon through public rituals and displays, as Karen Leathem and Mary Ryan both

postulate, then perhaps the more clever working women noticed the significance of cross-

dressing through awareness of fashion trends. Women such as Sarah Bernhardt stunned

people by wearing pants in public and playing the roles of men in the theater, essentially

eroticizing cross-dressing. Perhaps prostitutes realized the power of male-impersonation

when they saw men, year after year, cross-dressing as women and behaving in ways that

made it look fun for women to command the streets in drunken revelry. Tallant mentions

that in 1871, Mary E. Walker, a physician, visited the Crescent City for Mardi Gras and

costumed herself as a man, a role she likely identified with due to her occupation. She

noted feeling "out-heroed" by the many prostitutes also donning male raiment.5

Interestingly, author Reid Mitchell found evidence of Walker's arrest for her act of

donning men's attire, an uncommon response by the police, even if they assumed her a

prostitute. In fact, Mitchell later asserts that the local newspapers routinely considered

cross-dressing nothing more than Carnival gaiety.6 Most likely, prostitutes realized from

the reactions they elicited, especially during Carnival, that they were already influential

actors consciously creating the images they wanted the rest of the public to assimilate.



4 The New Orleans Daily Picayune, February 28, 1838.

5 Tallant, Mardi Gras... As It Was, 127.

6 Mitchell, All on a Mardi Gras Day, 136-137, 140.









In other words, prostitutes cross-dressing as men served to both symbolize and lampoon

their male patrons, who likely thought themselves at the top of the gender hierarchy and

in control of economics and government. In reality, the prostitutes controlled a lucrative

profession that exercised influence over police, city officials, and merchants alike, and it

was in the prostitutes' best interest to make their claim as an important social force and

major contributors to the city's economy, and demand attention and respect for who they

were--a group of successful women in a city that had never been without their presence

and their specialized offerings.

Among prostitutes, as with any large group of people, there existed social

stratifications as well, depending on which neighborhood they resided in or whether they

worked alone or in a brothel under the protection of a madam. Pure, white-skinned

Creole and European immigrant women of the sex industry often lived in areas that

suffered such high crime rates that a man of means looking for a good time would have

been wise to look elsewhere. Robert Tallant recalled countless tales of rivalries between

uptown and downtown gangs of prostitutes, likely American versus Creole, due to the

way the city's neighborhoods grew. Americans developed the real estate above or uptown

from Canal Street and immigrants usually resided within or below the French Quarter.

The antagonistic women would march into each other's sections and instigate all-out

brawls, "that began with verbal blasting and ended with fists, sticks, and stones." He

continued by writing that, "Mardi Gras was a favorite time for this, when the heart was in

high spirits and the inhibitions were released by alcohol and the gaiety of the season."7


Tallant, Mardi Gras ... As It Was, 109.









Tallant claims that the police would not venture into the Gallatin Street district,

even in broad daylight, and that murders in the area increased exponentially during the

Carnival season. He relays that the crime was even worse uptown in the "Swamp," the

uptown area around Girod Street. According to Tallant, women in the Swamp and

Gallatin Street areas prostituted themselves for pennies, often possessed no home, and

literally lived on the streets. Tallant described the women as terrible fighters, "brawny

and battle-scarred female savages, ready and willing to gouge out a man's eyes or slit his

belly or his testicles with a razor or a knife." Since this type of behavior was supposedly

an everyday occurrence for the women in the area, "There was really little that the

Swamp could do to provide additional excitement [on Fat Tuesday], so on this day they

would often wander in large numbers to Gallatin Street to exhibit their superior prowess,

to tear the Gallatin Street dives to pieces, and to maim the inhabitants."8 In essence,

these debased women represented one end of the spectrum of prostitution, and the women

of the high-class brothels who hosted the men of means in the city represented the other.

The 1840s heralded a new epoch in the Carnival history of New Orleans. Between

1800 and 1840, the city-wide festival gave everyone the opportunity to intermingle

without too much fear of social disapproval. Openly socializing across all demographics

was customary behavior of the New Orleans natives, as new arrivals quickly learned.

There indeed existed places and events where certain groups normally gathered and

others were generally unwelcome, but those restrictions were often disregarded, and all

but disappeared during Carnival. Until those final years before the Civil War,

notoriously known as decades of disquiet and heightened animosity between the races


8 Tallant, Mardi Gras... As It Was, 109-110.









and classes in New Orleans, lives were lived in the public sphere and the fabric of society

seemed firm and in place. But as national germs of social unrest began to filter into the

city, the fabric began to loosen and come apart. Social restrictions were imposed from

the top down where none had been before and the people found themselves more and

more separated and privatized from each other.9 In fact, the 1842 travelogue of Louis

Tasistro noted that the public began comparing costumed women with prostitutes as the

latter filled the streets during Carnival when other women would not, in fear of the street

violence continually erupting as a precursor of the Civil War.10 The flour that

mischievous young boys traditionally threw at innocent revelers was replaced with bricks

and quicklime, causing the quality of the celebration to deteriorate, as reflected in the

media of the time.

Gradually the sensible citizens of the city began to disappear from the streets

during Carnival as the local newspapers made pessimistic comments concerning the

rising violence occurring during the traditionally celebratory season. In 1848 The Bee

commented that "Mardi Gras altogether was a poor affair. Some few boys paraded on the

streets on foot, in carriages, and on horseback and began throwing flour in each other's

faces, when other boys standing by pelted them with mud and brickbats ... So ended the

ceremony which is now more honored in the breach than in observance, and which

should be altogether done away with."11 Six years later, their assessment of the holiday


9 For further information about class and racial animosity affecting the New Orleans Carnival season in
the 1850s, see James Gill, Lords ofMisrule: Mardi Gras and the Politics of race in New Orleans (Jackson:
University Press of Mississippi, 1997),; The Presbytere; Ryan, Women in Public, 1990; Ryan, Civic Wars,
1998; Tallant, Mardi Gras ... As It Was, 1990; Young, Carnival and Mardi Gras in New Orleans, 1939.

10 Louis Tasistro, Random Shots and Other Southern Breezes (New York: Harper Bros., 1842).

1 The Bee, March 8, 1848.









had not improved. The Bee curtly stated, "Boys with bags of flour paraded the streets and

painted jezebels exhibited themselves in public carriages, and that is about all."12 The

media's concerns were not unfounded, and in fear for the people, who they themselves

were, they pushed for the privatization of the season's festivities by urging revelers to

gather in places less public than the streets.

Until 1857, Carnival events that took place in the private sphere, such as quadroon

and invitation-only high society balls, still seemed semi-public, and the public sphere had

few boundaries. It took transformational forces of enormous influence to change the

egalitarian Creole Carnival style of celebrating, and those forces were the socially

conservative Americans steering the ship of cultural change during times of inner-city

discontent at the dawn of the Civil War.


12 The Bee, March 1, 1854.














CHAPTER 5
AMERICANS VERSUS CREOLES: A BATTLE FOR PRIVATIZATION AND
POWER

Women in general had enjoyed a more democratic freedom of expression in New

Orleans when the people still clung tightly to their French and Spanish colonial roots. As

the city slowly began to assimilate American influences, women's freedoms, especially

for those in the upper classes, deteriorated, falling to their lowest point between the

periods of the Civil War and the end of Reconstruction, then reviving once again at the

turn of the twentieth century. The early colonial cultural practices of easy inter-racial

mingling and condoned miscegenation had endured to well into the nineteenth century

until, in the 1850s, the politically self-empowered elite American population attempted to

halt what they perceived as solecistic behavior among the Creoles. In order to gain

control of the city's social realm, the Americans struck at the heart of Creole sociability,

the Carnival.

The rancor that persisted between Creoles and Americans began soon after the

United States bought the Louisianan Territory from France in 1803. In thel808

travelogue of Thomas Ashe, he noted that there existed a difference in attitude and

behavior between the Creole natives and the newly arriving Americans flocking into the

region. His observations described a social wound that began with the appearance of the

Americans and reopened anew every Carnival season. It is likely that the behavior of the

Creole women aroused distress among the northern newcomers because the American

men enjoyed less social freedom to play and express themselves than the Creole women









did, and the unpredictable and chaotic behavior associated with the Carnival only

magnified the cultural chasm that existed between the vastly different groups, further

aggravating American social sensibilities. Ashe wrote, "The Americans, since their

arrival here, have been so occupied by politics and legislation that their minds have never

been sufficiently unbent to form a course of pleasure for themselves. ... It is not so with

the French gentlemen: their pleasures are forever varied, and of a nature to be

participated in by the most delicate of the female sex." 1

Karl Postl, an ordained priest, disappeared from his parish in Prague in 1823,

reappearing in New Orleans later that same year calling himself Charles Sealsfield.

During his travels across America he kept journals and published novels that reflected his

interpretation of American and European culture. During his stay in Louisiana, he

remarked on the nativist sentiments the newcomer Americans felt towards the French

Creoles, providing a sense of the intractability between the two groups. He commented

that the Americans knew nothing more about the French than the proverb "French Dog,"

that they would not deign to learn the French language, which the whole Creole

community and government communicated in, and, worse yet, they behaved toward the

French "as if their lands as well as the inhabitants could be seized without ceremony."2

Between the years 1836 and 1852, the rift between the French and the English

escalated to such a point that the citizens of New Orleans forced the local government to

separate the city into three distinct municipalities, the first being the original French

Quarter neighborhood, the second, the American settlement west of the French Quarter,



1 Ashe, Golden Petticoats, qtd. in The World from Jackson Square, ed. Basso, 87.
2 Karl Postl, (Charles Sealsfield, pseud.), qtd. in Fossier, New Orleans: The Glamour Period, 280.









and the third, the area east of it. Animosity remained between the groups until a common

bond was created during the Civil War due to the new cause to rally behind, fighting for

the preservation of the Confederacy, and, perhaps more realistically, for the continuance

of slavery that would ideally keep labor cheap and white women safe from what was

feared might be vengeful attacks by black men. During the years following the

dissolution of the separate municipalities, the American elite in New Orleans deliberately

planted seeds of change that blossomed during the post-Civil War Carnival season,

changing the face of the festival in ways that are still seen today.

With their hard-won political positions in place throughout the city, the Americans

seized control of the Carnival from the inside out and made it a governmentally

sanctioned holiday. They injected their own cultural criteria into the already tangled

Creole-Catholic past of the city through law instead of custom, and through personal

politics instead of natural cultural progression. The politically and economically

empowered American men manifestly imposed themselves at the top of the social ladder

with the Creoles, to their chagrin, beneath them, and they relegated free people of color to

virtually the same social status as slaves. In a sense, the Anglo-American newcomers

became a mock royalty and created a new private realm for themselves within Carnival

time, imposing stronger prejudices on other classes and races than ever before seen in

New Orleans, expecting the women of their class to support them. An unprecedented and

conspicuous "us and them" mentality arose that trumped other previous social prejudices

harbored by the Creole population before the Americans arrived en force, and the original

settlers of New Orleans faced the possibility that their democratic folk festival would









collapse into a foreign controlled event deprived of its communal nature and strong

female presence.

The Americans introduced the tradition of exclusivity of participation into the

public sphere in a clever way that sought to deceive the people into playing the part of

observers when previously they would involve themselves in whatever activities

interested them. Private Carnival "krewes," as they call themselves, appeared on the

streets displaying spectacular, themed parades for the masses to ogle at, but not

participate in. The Americans institutionalized their message-laden mobile theatrical

presentations with the help of fellow city officials who belonged to the krewes. New

bans on masking forced the public into less performative roles, making traditions of

revelry, misrule, and masquerading unofficial styles of celebration when participated in

by the masses, yet official if rendered by the private krewes who utilized the art of

masquerade to create anonymity for themselves. The freedoms that historically the elite

Creole women and upper-class free women of color enjoyed were truncated as they were

pushed into a more private social sphere of elite, official, invitation-only Carnival parties,

and to the sidelines of public parades. Privatization of Carnival events gained support

among both the American and Creole elites as their fears multiplied as forced federal

Reconstruction legislation transformed the city.

American apprehension that they would lose their newly won social and political

control found a performative stage for vocalization through the use of themes in parades

and balls staged by the elite American men. The arrogant American attempt to organize

the ancient folk festival is strikingly similar to the attempts made by the Catholic Church

to eradicate the pagan core of the Carnival eleven hundred years before. In both cases,









the public disorder, decadence, hierarchical role inversions, and sexual promiscuity

associated with Carnival offended the sensibilities of the conservative minorities, and,

either ironically or conveniently, their desires to harness and control the wild celebration

forced them to participate in it in order to effect change. To be sure, in both cases the

celebration was changed, but in neither case could the cultural interceptors fully control

it. Prophet-like in his comments, Sir Charles Lyell in 1846 wrote in his travelogue,

There was a grand procession parading the streets, almost everyone dressed in the
most grotesque attire ... in a variety of costumes The strangeness of the scene
was not a little heightened by the blending of Negroes, quadroons, and mulattoes in
the crowd; and we were amused by observing the ludicrous surprise, mixed with
contempt, of several unmasked, stiff, grave Anglo-American from the North, who
were witnessing for the first time what seemed to them so much mummery and
tomfoolery .... This rude intrusion struck me as a kind of foreshadowing of
coming events, emblematic of the violent shock which the invasion of the Anglo-
Americans is about to give the old regime of Louisiana.3

In 1856, The Bee was still reporting on the deterioration of the Mardi Gras holiday,

relaying to the public that "in old times, this was the greatest holiday in the whole year

round in the Crescent City, but of late years its observance has been gradually falling into

desuetude before the march of new people, customs, and religion."4 The Bee was

speaking of the Anglo-Americans and their well-known disenchantment with the Creole

style of celebrating Carnival. For years, the Americans had expressed their discontent

with the social customs of the city. Finally they took measures to reorganize the

celebration they had always associated with licentiousness and chaos.







3 Sir Charles Lyell, qtd. in The Worldfrom Jackson Square, ed. Basso, 139-140.

4 The Bee, February 6, 1856.














CHAPTER 6
THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE NEW ORLEANS CARNIVAL

The year 1857 was definitive. It was in that year that the Anglos changed the way

the people of New Orleans celebrated the Carnival. Sir Lyell was correct in his 1846

premonitions of events to come. The old Creole regime was shocked as Carnival

traditions transformed before their very eyes and assumed an air of bureaucratic control

backed by Anglo-American city officials. Parades became consciously crafted,

selectively participated in, and wrapped up in overriding themes meant to enlighten the

masses to English customs and insult those considered too boorish to understand the

social commentary contained in the props and costumes embellishing the procession. As

a result, Carnival festivities became split between public and private affairs, between an

unofficial folk festival celebrated spontaneously on the streets and in saloons, and a

privatized, invitation-only set of events no longer open to the public.

An upper-class cohort of influential American Protestant men formed a secret

society for the purpose of taking over, improving, and reviving the Carnival in innovative

ways more suited to their tastes. What were their tastes? They would invite only their

own class and race to join, excluding most Creoles, and all women, blacks, Italians, and

Jews, insisting that membership be kept absolutely secret, not known to even their own

families and friends. They would present to the public an organized parade with a theme

lauding Puritan Protestantism intending to insult the Creoles and their lax and loose

Mardi Gras reveling, and they would create a tableau, privately staged at their ball held at

the Gaiety Theatre, again intended to dishonor and slight the French by displaying a sign









in flames that read, "Vive la Danse." There is one particular name associated with the

transformation that occurred on Fat Tuesday, February 24, 1857, and that name is

Comus.1

The elite krewe of Anglo men chose for their group the name Comus, necromancer

son of Bacchus and Circe, and title character of Puritan John Milton's masque, Comus, a

celebration, ironically, of chastity. Masques, a stylized form of drama, were

characterized by lavish spectacle. From the beginning, Comus exuded a Janus-like

presence. Publicly they introduced their krewe as a benevolent organization with the

intention of saving the people of New Orleans from hell on earth. According to Comus's

official history, published by the members of the Krewe themselves, the organization

began as a charitable gift to the city intending to bring dignity and orderliness to the

"crude and vulgar" manner in which the people tended to celebrate.2 But privately,

Comus played the cunning part of the Lord of Misrule, doling out a mythical "Orient

Liquor" that caused "foul disfigurement to those who ingested it." The krewe of Comus

hoped that their new Mardi Gras performance and the message that it expressed would

serve as an "Orient Liquor" for the Creoles to drink in an attempt to discredit their old

Carnival regime, thereby allowing the Americans to rise to the top of the social latter.

Times Picayune columnist James Gill commented in his book about the politics of

race during Carnival that Comus's real intention of starting a new Mardi Gras tradition

had more to do with the nativist sentiments of the krewe's founding members, rather than

their displeasure over the Creole's social domination of the festivities. He suggests that


1 For further information on the history of the Krewe of Comus, see Perry Young, The Mistick Krewe:
( i .. i,, of Comus and His Kin (New Orleans: Carnival Press, 1931).

2 One Hundred Years of Comus (New Orleans Public Library, 1947), 5-6.









Comus's concern over the rushes of German and Irish immigrants pouring into the city

persuaded them into "co-opting the masked ball, which once entertained all classes of

Creoles, and [Comus] made it an emblem for an emerging elite determined to keep the

rest of the population at one remove." Gill also explains that Comus was able to function

outside the boundaries of the law. He relays that the City Council conveniently adopted

an ordinance in 1857 making it illegal "to abuse, provoke, or disturb any person; to make

charivari [excessive noise], or to appear masked or disguised in the streets or in any

public place."3 The ordinance was imposed on the public as a means of assisting Mardi

Gras out of the state of decline it had fallen into over the past ten years, but in actuality, it

was a way for Comus to demonstrate its control over the entire populace by attempting to

regulate the ways the public could celebrate. Mayor Charles Waterman, a founding

Comus member, made sure that the krewe was exempt from these ordinances. He

ordered the police to clear the streets for the parading makers as they marched

(thumbing their noses at the law), as well as the public who they hoped would be forced

into idly watching the procession with no legal means of actively participating in it. At

this defining moment, Comus and its entourage, without saying a word, exhibited its new

ritual as the only "official" Carnival event, positioning this krewe as the sovereigns of the

citywide celebration. This particular event set a strong precedence for a dichotomy to

thrive between the public audience and the private participants, the unmasked masses and

the incognito Comus members. Privacy, in this case, became the luxury of the elite

Anglos, and relegated to the public realm were all those without the social standing,

racial criteria, or gender necessary to join the krewe. It represented an official attempt to


3 Gill, Lords ofMisrule, 46.









separate the city's elite men from the common classes. Contrary to the new official laws

banning many traditional means of celebrating, primarily masking, the February 16,

1858, edition of The Bee advertised a series of grand costume balls for the Carnival

season. On Ash Wednesday, 1859, a section of the same paper was devoted to

illustrations of the street makers whose costumes, "lacked in quality, not quantity,"

making it apparent that the public still entertained themselves on the streets and at other

balls, a further testament to the laxity of city officials to enforce laws concerning

Carnival.4

Many women in the city found themselves at the mercy of the restrictions imposed

on their class or race. The high-society women fortunate enough to be affiliated with the

members of Comus and receive a non-transferable invitation to the ball found new roles

as audience, patiently waiting in the theater seats to be "called out" in order to dance with

the micromanaging members who allowed no one else the honor of enjoying a spin

around the dance floor other than those women they chose to partner with. Men other

than krewe members attended the fashionable balls, but none were granted the privilege

of partaking in dance. Instead, they had to sit and watch as their ladies were chosen by

unidentifiable men to be whirled around in waltzes. In fact, the exclusivity of the ball

was so obsessive that a $2000 reward was publicly offered for the return of two stolen

ball tickets.5 The effects of Comus's new tradition had only begun to take shape in the

years before the Civil War. Over the next ten years, Carnival would go through a





4 The Bee, February 16, 1858; The Bee, March 9, 1859.

5 The New Orleans Daily Picayune, February 28, 1877.









metamorphosis that would change the ways in which people viewed the celebration and

partook in it.

When the Civil War came, the new official Mardi Gras celebration was temporarily

suspended because the men who created it had now enlisted to fight for the Confederacy.

When the soldiers returned, the half-century of distressing relations between the Anglos

and Creoles began to fade due to cooperation against a shared enemy, the Union. Elite

Creoles gained entrance into the ranks of Comus, and together the elite whites of society

joined in a dual effort to reorganize Carnival and to suppress the carpetbagging

Reconstruction-fueled government and the black majority population of the city

adjusting to their new-found freedom. The white population in general, and the

krewemen in particular, were aggravated by the fact that blacks were immediately

enfranchised after emancipation, while Confederate troops returning to New Orleans

remained disenfranchised until they held their noses and swallowed an oath of allegiance

to the Union. Grace King's descriptions of emancipated slaves boldly loitering on the

banquettes, exhilarated by their freedom, and the outrage of white people being ordered

around by Negro Union soldiers leaves the impression of a city ready to erupt in passion

over the sudden change in command.6

White women were arrested on the streets for laughing at federal troops, singing

Confederate songs, refusing to walk down streets flying Union flags, and for spitting on

Union soldiers.7 In response, Union General Benjamin Butler issued the "Woman

Order" in 1862. It stated, "As the officers and soldiers have been subject to repeated


6 King, New Orleans: The Place and the People, 300.

SKing, New Orleans: The Place and the People, 308.









insults from the women (calling themselves ladies) of New Orleans, in return for the most

scrupulous non-interference and courtesy on our part, it is ordered that here-after when

any female shall, by word, gesture, or movement, insult or show contempt for any officer

or soldier of the U.S., she shall be regarded and held liable to be treated as a woman of

the town plying her avocation." He continued by complaining that, "We cannot walk the

streets without being outraged and spit upon by green girls," possibly an allusion to the

Irish women in the city.8

The Woman Order was issued only fifteen days after Butler arrived with his troops

to take military control of New Orleans. The interactions between the Union soldiers and

the women during those two weeks must have been intense and draining for such

measures to be taken. Butler and his men were not dealing with the common variety of

delicate southern women, but exceptionally strong and independent ones due to centuries

of wars, disease, and Carnival-time experiences that allowed women to taste true freedom

every year as they stepped outside of their social boundaries to explore other roles.

Women of all races and classes in New Orleans were forced to deal with the absence of

their husbands off fighting the war, as well as the enemy at their doorsteps, but the white

women felt doubly spurned. Along with separation anxiety, they also had to contend

with the manumitted slaves on the streets flaunting their new freedom. Butler walked

into a city in turmoil and might be considered lucky that he was only spat on, and not

shot by the Confederate women. Most likely, in response to Butler's order, no

respectable woman wished to be accused of appearing to ply a trade as a prostitute, but it



8 By Command of General Butler, General Order No. 28, Headquarters Department of the Gulf, New
Orleans, May 15, 1862.









is more likely that the order succeeded to the extent that it did because no New Orleans

woman wanted to be thrown in the enemy's jail.

By 1866, Comus was back on the streets for Mardi Gras with a scaled-down parade

and tableau ball. Bad years tend to inspire good Carnivals. Even a city occupied by

enemy forces could not suppress the people's need for a celebration of self-expression,

and over the period of the Reconstruction, the people made the most of the power of

satire to psychologically assault their enemies. White people dressed as freedmen dupes,

Republicans, and minstrels, black people dressed as hostile Indians, and everyone dressed

as carpetbaggers.9

Edgar Degas visited the city in the winter of 1872-1873 and became well

acquainted with the internal affairs of Comus through his relative, Rene De Gas, member

of both Comus and the newly formed Crescent City White League, a parallel to the KKK.

The two organizations mixed methods, members, and locales. Edgar Degas found the

dual membership emblematic of the two-faced nature of the elites. Christopher Benfey,

author of the book, Degas in New Orleans, tells how Degas noticed with disgust that

"one secret society plotted festivity while the other plotted terrorism." Benfey continues

insightfully by saying, "Mardi Gras was as much a rest from politics as a continuation of

it by other means."10 Four new "official" krewes organized themed parades and private



9 For further information on Reconstruction Carnival costumes, see Gill, Lords of Misrule, 1997; Young
Carnival and Mardi Gras in New Orleans, 1939; The Presbytere, New Orleans.

10 Christopher Benfey, Degas in New Orleans: Encounters in the Creole World of Kate Chopin and
George Washington Cable (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997). Also, James Gill devotes two chapters to
events concerning the overlapping membership of men in Comus and the Crescent City White League,
titled, "The Krewes and the Klan," and "Honoring the White League Martyrs." For more information, see
Stuart Landry, The Battle ofLiberty Place (Gretna, LA: Pelican Press, 1955); Judith Schafer, "The Battle of
Liberty Place: A Matter of Historical Perception," transcript of a lecture given to the Louisiana Historical
Society, New Orleans, October 13, 1992.









balls between 1870 and 1882.11 For the purpose of understanding how Carnival in New

Orleans went from a pagan ritual with Catholic overtones celebrated democratically

throughout the city, to a watered-down version of the past with a new emphasis on

hierarchy, privatization, and monarchy all enacted by the new "official" Anglicized

krewes, the Krewe of Rex, formed in 1872, was perhaps the most important

representation of officialdom.

Similar to Comus, the Krewe of Rex manifested a dubious dual intention. With the

krewe's motto, Pro Bono Publico, King Rex proclaimed that he was for the good of the

people, and was literally given the keys to the city and the authority to shut down all city

offices and businesses on Mardi Gras day. This edict, originally issued by mock royalty,

became official New Orleans law. To this day, no government offices or schools are

open on Fat Tuesday. On the other hand, the Krewe of Rex insisted on the same

membership restrictions as the rest of the new Carnival organizations. Gill's comments

about the earliest formations of krewes include, "The clubmen and krewemen of New

Orleans had come to regard membership in a white-supremacist organization as a mark of

manhood and resistance to a northern government that sustained Negro and carpetbag

authority."12 It became a custom that every year the King of Rex would leave the

company of his ball, make a grand entrance into Comus's exclusive affair, and shake

hands with the other mock king in a show of solidarity and camaraderie.

According to The Presbytere, during Reconstruction, "general street masking came

to be seen as solely the diversion of poor people and African-Americans." The street


1 The Presbytere, the Crescent City's official Mardi Gras museum, considers Comus, Twelfth Night
Revelers, Rex, Momus, and Proteus, among a few others, the "official" nineteenth-century krewes.
12 Gill, Lords ofMisrule, 107.









makers were the representatives of the "unofficial" Carnival in the eyes of the museum;

they were what made the festivity a folk Carnival, the living links back to the origins of

the holiday. Karen Leathem, in her dissertation highlighting the roles of elite women

during nineteenth-century Carnival, explains that the unmasking of women began in the

1870s because the krewemen desired to be the only ones with the power of a secret

identity. She writes that the shift in women's Carnival ball attire from Carnivalesque

masquerading to societal raiment signaled an anxiety on the part of men. 13 Included in

the social disorientation that accompanied losing the war and the manumission of slaves

was a strengthened desire among white men to protect their women from the perceived

dangers of interacting with blacks, especially black men. Allowing women to masquerade

during a period of such social unrest conceivably could undermine the racial and class

separation that white men had fought for and continued to fight to preserve. Anonymity

not only meant that a person could become someone else for the purpose of archetypal

exploration, but also that a person could commit crimes or licentious acts anonymously.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that the old pictures of the Krewe of Comus's costumes look

remarkably similar to the white sheets worn by the KKK. After the Civil War, the

official krewes enforced strict dress codes for their ball guests. Mandatory formal attire

meant that not just the women had to retain their own identities, as Leathem supposes,

but rather everyone in attendance except the krewe members. This double standard

meant that all the mischievousness and freedom of expression that is implicit in a hidden

identity became the private playground of the elitest of the elite.


13 Leathem, A Carnival According to Their Own Desires, 40-42.









There had always existed a tradition among the Creoles of holding "society" or

private balls, but the manner in which they did this differed greatly from the post-war

krewes. For instance, the ancient Carnival ritual of discovering and crowning Le Roi et

la Reine de la Feve, or the King and Queen of the Bean, meant that a large donut of a

cake with a bean hidden somewhere within it would be presented to the attendees of a

ball. Pieces of the confection would be cut and randomly distributed. Whomever found

the bean in their piece of cake gained the title of king or queen of that year's or week's

celebration, and they were responsible for choosing a mock royal mate to their liking, to

rule the party in a fool's fashion, and to host the next party that would set the ritual in

motion once again, assuring parties throughout the season or for the next year.14 The

Anglo krewes showed no such sense of randomness or playfulness when choosing who

among them would be King. The lucky Lord was appointed by the Captain of the Krewe,

the latter a position that did not annually change, and this tradition has existed in the old-

line Krewes ever since.15 Queens were not part of the ritual equation of the official

krewes until the turn of the twentieth century, and even then the woman selected to reign

was chosen from among the high-society debutantes. Official krewe queens wielded no

real power except to indirectly glorify the King they were attached to and serve as a

proud representative of the family they belonged to.

At around the turn of the twentieth century, Storyville prostitutes started to

lampoon the elite institution of appointing royalty to reign over balls by choosing queens



14 Young, Carnival andMardi Gras in New Orleans, 9; The Presbytere, New Orleans.

15 Encyclopaedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture, Social Sciences, New
Orleans Mardi Gras Krewes, http://glbtq.com/social-sciences/new_orleans_mgk.html (last accessed June 6,
2006).









for their soirees from among the most popular of the leading girls of the district. In his

well documented book about Storyville, Al Rose includes an article from the Mardi Gras

edition of the 1906 Sunday Sun that reported on "The French Ball and the probable

candidates for the Queen Title."16 "French Ball" was another name for a gala hosted by

prostitutes, an event essentially representing everything that the elite krewemen wanted to

shield their women from. The French Balls made a mockery of the conservative and

structured official balls by choosing loose women to reign over the event as Queens of

the Demi-Monde, in contrast to the carefully selected unsullied debutante queens of the

upper classes, and by allowing everyone to wildly dance and cavort in full costume and

mask. Once again, the prostitutes aided in the preservation of the act of inverting social

roles, an essential element of Carnival magic.


16 Rose, Storyville, New Orleans, 62.














CHAPTER 7
REVISITING THE CREOLE PAST: WOMEN COLLECTIVELY RECLAIM THE
STREETS

Reconstruction ended in 1877 and, after fourteen years under a "foreign"

government, New Orleanians regained control of their local politics in a changed city.

Quadroon balls and the protective placage system they offered was fading fast, and inter-

racial relationships historically condoned in the city had become frowned upon in the

postbellum years. Evidence of the declining social position of blacks in New Orleans is

reported in the work of Alecia Long in her carefully documented case of a mulatto former

slave named Adeline Stringer and her long love affair with white merchant Joe Mathis.

In 1885, after living with Adeline for several years in many different locations around the

city, Mathis found himself in a personal quandary. At once he felt like he could not live

without Adeline, yet he also felt the societal pressure for whites to cease their centuries-

old custom of living as life-partners with blacks. He wrote to Adeline, "if we live

together it must be outside of New Orleans." Long comments that, "Joe's conundrum

suggests that the informal demands and decisions made by individuals struggling to shape

the city's postbellum sexual culture laid the foundation for the legal sanctions against

such relationships that would follow."1

Free people of color likely suffered the most by the loss of the war by the South

because that meant the loss of their unique social status somewhere between white and

slave. As Jim Crow laws made their way into the city, in the eyes of the whites, the


1 Long, The Great Southern Babylon, 40, 42.









elegant quadroons and wealthy colored land-owners and former slave-owners became no

different than any other black person. Come the twentieth century, Carnival would

become a performance stage for blacks protesting the legalized discrimination whites

forced on them. Numerous black marching krewes and Carnival clubs developed, starting

at the beginning of the century, to function as a social release for racist standards and

laws in the city. Black women dressed as baby dolls and Mardi Gras Indian queens to

march through the streets, new black music began attracting even the most conservative

of white ears, and strong black walking and parading krewes emerged onto the Carnival

scene, the most notable and influential being the Krewe of Zulu, who eventually staged

yearly community elections to decide their kings and queens of the Zulu parade.

Evidence of mounting anxiety among white men about white women's liberated

behavior is found in parade themes of the early 1880s. The Krewe of Momus, the

younger relatives of the Krewe of Comus, constructed a whole parade, floats and all,

around ruling women of the past. Each famous woman they chose to spotlight had

somehow created her own downfall. Given that the purpose of Carnival parades began as

vehicles for social commentary, the underlying message depicting women as inadequate

leaders is telling at a time when women are collectively reaching for more respect,

independence, and rights. Another official Krewe, the Phunny Phorty Phellows, also

accosted women's growing independence with the parade theme, "Ye Women Fair, a

Farce." Women witnessed these insulting theatrical presentations and finally took actions

to subvert the hierarchical system of the private, "official" Carnival krewes that promoted

elite white male superiority. They turned the tables on the men in both the public and

private spheres of Carnival in the true spirit of the celebration. It did not take eighty-plus









years after the Civil War for women to "appear alongside and equal to men in a few

Mardi Gras clubs," as Ryan asserts, instead it started happening before the end of the

nineteenth century.2

Mary Ryan suggests that the few female figures behind the scenes of elite civic

ceremonies in the late nineteenth century did not "lead a female assault on the public

sphere," instead she sees their roles as likely "diverting women from demanding full

citizenship in their own right .. carrying intimations of privacy and passivity that tended

to disguise the interests specific to their gender position."3 Here Ryan neglects giving

credit to the influential steps women did take towards transforming their social status

from under-representation in government matters to consciously seeking to expand their

roles in the public eye. She also disregards many contrary examples of elite women's

explicit roles in the public ritual called Carnival. The Presbytere offers examples of

several women employed in the late nineteenth century by the official krewes to design

and build costumes and floats for the bewitchingly themed parades, all of whom must

have possessed a relatively clear vision of the theatrical metamorphosis that the men

wished to create as evidenced by the parades' yearly successes. If it is true that the

majority of upper-class women of the time embodied the Victorian gender stereotypes

Ryan imagines women acquiesced to, then certainly Carnival would represent an

opportunity for them to cast their everyday roles aside, allowing them to assume alternate

personas in order to invoke the true spirit of the celebration. Role inversion,

transformation, transgression, and time transcendence are all readily available


2 Ryan, Civic Wars, 251.

3 Ryan, Civic Wars, 251.









possibilities conjured through participation in the Carnival, and women often understood

and seized the opportunity to remodel themselves and project their desires and concerns

onto the community through fantastic decorating and masquerading.

In 1896, the first known all women's Carnival organization, Les Mysterieuses, was

born. These upper-class women had traditionally participated as attendants at the elite

Carnival balls, and after many years of watching and waiting to dance in stuffy evening

wear while the krewemen mischievously reveled in full costumes, they decided to invade

the men's exclusive and secretive sphere and invert it upon them. The concept of

mystery implied in their name signified to their guests that they alone would claim the

right to fully conceal their identities, while all others in attendance would remain

revealed. Les Mysterieuses did not parade; however, they staged a lavish ball on two

consecutive leap years that reversed the gender roles that had been imposed on female

guests at men's balls since the time of the Civil War. In further imitation of the men's

krewes, an incognito queen was internally selected to rule the ball and pick a king of her

choosing while the other krewe women kept their identities well hidden in order to cavort

and misbehave without consequence. These were conscious choices that conspicuously

expressed exclusionary forms of representation traditionally reserved for members of the

men's krewes who were suddenly forced to dress in formal evening wear with no

costume to hide behind, or else they were refused entry.4

The revival of women's merrymaking through masquerading in the late nineteenth-

century represented a revitalization of the pagan spirit at the heart of the Carnival

celebration that elite Anglo men had been unrealistically trying to possess and control


4 Arthur LaCour, New Orleans Masquerade, 199; The Presbytere, New Orleans.









since before the Civil War. Les Mysterieuses challenged men's zealously guarded

hierarchy, exposed its weaknesses of unequal participation, and metaphorically sent it

tumbling to the ground. The men did not abandon their elite yearly tableaux balls, but

now the tradition was opened for women to simulate and fully participate in as well. In

general, the last decade of the nineteenth-century signaled a new era for women to

participate in the Carnival celebration in ways similar to old Creole times, but also in

ways more evolved. Les Mysterieuses only lasted until 1900, but their impression

endured, evinced by the many other all women's krewes that followed in their wake

including The Mittens and Les Inconnues in 1901, the Mystic Maids in 1906, the Krewe

of Yami in 1911, and the Krewes of Iris and Les Marionettes in 1922, and in 1942, the

Krewe of Venus was the first all women's parade to roll across the city equipped with

floats, a full twenty years before Ryan claims women appeared on the streets during

Carnival in a position equal to men. Several groups of black women also formed their

own krewes in the 1920s including the Red Circle, Young Ladies 23, and the Mystic

Krewe.5

Especially for whites during Carnival season, the end of the nineteenth century

heralded a time that emphasized mirth rather than mourning the loss of the war. White

women of all classes joined the revelry on the streets and began reclaiming their right to

freely express themselves in true Carnival spirit, reviving a method of release that had not

openly existed for them inclusively since the antebellum era. The Merrie Bellions, "a

right and jolly set of Belles and Beaux they were," paraded the streets in full pagan

regalia pulling behind them a single float titled, "Ye Fantastic Lunatics of the New Isms. .

5 For a comprehensive listing of 100 years of Mardi Gras Krewes, see LaCour, New Orleans
Masquerade, 1952.









. Suffragism, Aestheticism, Shakerism, Bloomerism," a piece of social commentary

intended to inform, or perhaps warn, the public of the extreme "isms" many organized

groups felt compelled to proselytize.6 After decades of physical and psychological

detachment from the people on the streets, elite Creole and Anglo women no longer

subscribed to the belief that concealing their identity through masquerade transmuted

them into prostitutes and gens du commun. Women found courage and strength en masse

from joining the public work force, augmenting urban and industrial growth, and

partaking of slowly expanding educational opportunities. Prostitutes continued to march

on the streets in no small numbers during Carnival demanding public attention,

consideration as an economic force, and changes in the laws concerning taxation of their

occupation. The Presbytere claims that, as of 1910, women of many stripes were all over

the streets at Carnival in full costume, traveling in groups, and often carrying whips to

keep aggressive male revelers at a distance. By the turn of the twentieth-century, women

of all classes and races had reclaimed the streets in full force, restoring in part the Creole

Carnival past by liberating elite women from the private sphere of the celebration. This,

in turn, liberated all women from the social reproach of the elite men aimed at the

boisterous "unofficial" Carnival customs traditionally participated in by the whole

community.


6 New Orleans Daily States, February 6, 1884.















CHAPTER 8
CONCLUSION

From its beginnings, the Carnival in New Orleans existed simultaneously as a

public and a private affair celebrated by the different classes and races in a variety of

ways that changed and evolved over time. The celebratory roles available to women

throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries depended much more on their class

and race than on their gender. In the historiography of New Orleans's Mardi Gras,

Mikhail Bakhtin's name is often found in academic bibliographies for his interpretations

concerning the social meanings behind the Carnival celebration. To Bakhtin, "The

Carnivalesque crowd in the marketplace or in the streets is not merely a crowd. It is the

people as a whole, but organized in their own way, the way of the people. It is outside of

and contrary to all existing forms of the coercive socioeconomic and political

organization which is suspended for the time of the festivity."1 As Bakhtin did not figure

in the reality of laws, political trends, and socio-cultural influences affecting people's

styles and parameters of celebration, Ryan, utilizing the same quote, failed to see how

closely Bakhtin's definition fit New Orleans's unique population, more often than not

allowing women to fully participate "in the way of the people."2

Virtually all Carnival traditions developed and transpired in the public sphere

throughout the colonial and antebellum eras. It was not until the end of the Civil War


1 Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, trans. Helene Iswolsky, (Bloomington: University of Indiana
Press, 1984), 255.

2 Ryan, Women in Public, 20.









that elite women got their first taste of the private side of Carnival under the coercive

direction of the newly established official Anglo Carnival krewes. The original New

Orleanians had openly supported Carnival reveling in all its glory since the earliest days

of the colony, and it was not until after the Louisiana Purchase that a significant Anglo-

American population moved to the city and felt obliged to change the celebration to

reflect their Puritan sensibilities. Elite white men, in fear of losing their newly-won

powerful status in the city's society and government, took actions to change and control

the lax Creole- style Carnival celebration that promoted intermixing of all races, classes,

and sexes. Following the tumultuous period in the city between the late 1840s and the

1850s, the conservative northern newcomers seized the opportunity in 1857 to transform

the face of Mardi Gras by utilizing a performative and message-laden civic parading style

commonly seen during other holidays in nineteenth-century New Orleans and in other

parts of the nation. Since the majority of women in New Orleans, regardless of race or

class, lived a public lifestyle that included promenading on the streets and the levees, and

frequenting the taverns and coffeehouses on a daily basis, the mid to late nineteenth-

century social opprobrium associated with identity concealment and public revelry during

Carnival did not create the same effect of privatization on them as it did on the elite

upper-class minority of women. From the time that the ancient pagan Carnival

celebrations commenced, full community participation was integral. Women could not be

omitted or the essential purpose of the ritual would be lost. Since festivals of inversion

are ubiquitous throughout time and space among humanity, they serve as events that

equalize. Women are necessary as Carnival participants and cannot escape integrating

and transforming the meanings of the events around them.
















REFERENCES

Primary Sources

Books

Anonymous. One Hundred Years of Comus. New Orleans: New Orleans Public Library,
1947.

Basso, Etolia S., ed. The World from Jackson Square: A New Orleans Reader. New
York: Farrar, Straus, 1948.

Cable, George W. The Grandissime: A Story of Creole Life. New York: Charles
Scribner's Sons, 1880.

Carter, Hodding. ed. The Past as Prelude: New Orleans, 1718-1968. New Orleans:
Tulane University Press, 1968.

Creecy, James R. Scenes in the .Snuh and Other Miscellaneous Pieces. Washington D.C.:
T. McGill, 1860.

DeLeon, T.C. Creole Carnivals, 1830-1890, 1881. A facsimile of the first edition.
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Fossier, Albert E. ed. New-Orleans: The Glamour Period, 1800-1840: A History of the
Conflicts ofNationalities, Languages, Religion, Morals, Cultures, Laws, Politics,
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Frazer, James, Sir. The Golden Bough. Romanian Cultural Foundation: Bucharest, 1994.
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King, Grace. New Orleans: The Place and the People. New York: The Macmillan
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Latrobe, John H.B. .Sninhi I Travels: Journal of John H.B. Latrobe, 1834. Ed. Samuel
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Rose, Al. Storyville, New Orleans: Being an Authentic Illustrated Account of the
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Tasistro, Louis. Random Shots and Other .S,linhel I Breezes. New York: Harper Bros.,
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Geospatial and Statistical Data Center, University of Virginia Library.
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Hanger, Kimberly. Personas de Varias Clases y Colores: Free People of Color in
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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

I began my undergraduate degree at the University of Florida in 1992. Originally

my goal was to attain a degree in psychology to aid in the process of healing my

community, myself included. Through my coursework in the field of psychology it

became obvious to me that many ideas and social constructs I had learned earlier in life

and believed wholeheartedly were often false, misleading, or incomplete, and with that

understanding came a desire to expand my consciousness and seek out the

interconnectedness between seemingly unrelated disciplines. I wanted to figure out how

to make my life more real, honest, and complete, and bring that knowledge into my work

with the community. Studying the psyche was not answering my spiritual questions.

In the winter of 1993, I attended my first Carnival in New Orleans. In those few

days I learned more about myself than I had in all the years leading up to that experience.

I suddenly knew that the intuitions I felt about the multifaceted nature of the individual

and society were cornerstones in understanding life. I suddenly knew that nothing is

permanent and that we are not bound by the clothes we wear, the roles we play, or the

thoughts we have. I have not missed a Carnival since then, and every year I am affirmed

that I can become anyone that I want to be and that no one is truly bound by their pasts or

their surroundings.

I went on to earn not only a degree in psychology from the University of Florida,

but also a minor in religion with an emphasis on esoteric knowledge. Over fourteen years

I moved back and forth from Gainesville to New Orleans four times due to my









fascination with the Southern Louisiana city, its people, and the unique cultural heritage

of the region. In 2002, I moved back to Gainesville once again to work on a master's

degree, but this time in American history. I wanted to study New Orleans, but more

specifically I wanted to study what makes New Orleans so unique and otherworldly.

Among the many reasons I continue to find for the magic that lives in New Orleans, the

Carnival is at the top of the list. The Carnival is now a continuous part of my life and my

thesis is simply a natural reflection of my love for and fascination with the ancient ritual

that lives on in the Crescent City.