Mardi Gras History


The greatest claim to fame for Mobile is that we are the City where Mardi Gras began in the New World. Weeks of merriment and revelry take over before Ash Wednesday when the Lenten Season begins.Mobile is known as the “Mother of Mystics”. 
The legend is that the early settlers in Mobile or Maubilla, began the first celebration back in 1703 when the Societe’ de Saint Louise was founded. Originally called Boeuf Gras or Fatted Ox the celebration was one of feasting and revelry on Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras Day.  In 1783, the Spaniards arrived in Mobile bringing their version of Mardi Gras with parades held on the Twelfth Night, January 6th. The parades were enlightened with torches.
In 1857, members of the Cowbellian de Rakin Society traveled to New Orleans and assisted with the formation of the Mystic Krewe of Comus. From these roots, the Mobile Bay area grew into a wonderful and colorful Mardi Gras. 
The stress of the Civil War (known as the War of Northern Agression) brought an end to the festivities for a time. The Union occupation was a time of disillusionment and discouragement.

Then on Mardi Gras Day in 1866, Joseph Stillwell Cain set out to raise the spirits of Mobile. He doned Chickasaw Indian regalia, climbed aboard a decorated coal wagon, hitched up his mule and held a one float parade through the streets of Mobile. And Mardi Gras was reborn!

Joe Cain founded many mystic societies and built a tradition of Mardi Gras parades which continue today. 

The Mardi Gras celebration held every Sunday before Mardi Gras day is known as the Joe Cain Parade or the Peoples Parade with individual groups parading the streets of Mobile.

Dozens of mystic societies build colorful floats and parade in the cities enveloping Mobile Bay. The masked members throw doubloons, candies, beads, moon pies and trinkets to an excited crowd. Many high school bands and majorettes perform between the floats.

Mobile’s celebration is safe and fun, a perfect family event.