Little Rock Look Back: Mardi Gras in the Rock–1870s edition

In the post-Civil War era, Mardi Gras was a major event in Little Rock.  By the 1870s, newspapers would have stories for several days about preparations for parties and parades which would be followed by coverage summarizing the events.

For instance, the Ash Wednesday 1877 edition of the Arkansas Gazette carried a front page story that discussed Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Memphis.  Inside the paper there were a series of stories about the downtown Little Rock Mardi Gras parade.  It started at Markham and Rock Streets.  Because of the crowd assembled for it, organizers had to reroute the parade that afternoon.  Among the entries were the Fat Men’s Club, Butchers’ Benevolent Association (which rode on horses), the Mystic Krewe, and several trade groups.  In addition there were many people who marched along in masks.  The unnamed writer bemoaned the fact that the masked revelers’ clothing had no theme.

On Thursday, February 15, 1877, there were stories about some of the Mardi Gras balls which had taken place two nights earlier.  The paper’s deadline probably was earlier than the parties ended, which is why they were not in the paper until two days later.  Among the various events were the Knights of Pythian Ball at the Grand Opera House, the aforementioned Fat Men at a special pavilion set up in the Main Street Cotton Shed, the Mystic Krewe at O’Haras Hall, and the Cosmopolitans at Concordia Hall.  There were other events that the writer was not able to attend due to lack of time.

Some of the venues also played host to balls in advance of Mardi Gras.  The February 10 Gazette previews some events set for Friday and Saturday night.

By the start of the 20th Century, Mardi Gras was no longer a major social event in Little Rock.  But while it lasted, it was quite the production.  It appealed to all classes and races of Little Rock’s citizenry. Though most of the events were segregated, the parade did allow for African Americans to participate as well as the white revelers.