On January 5, 1850, the New Orleans Daily Crescent described the sights, smells and excitement of witnessing  Mobile's New Year's Eve parade in 
DECEMBER 31, 1849: 


New Year’s Eve was greeted by the gallants of this city on Monday... who made Mobile, on that occasion, the pleasant place of all festivity, the revel of the earth and mask of chilvalry.

At ten o’clock the Cowbellions took up the time of march on Dauphin Street, turned into Royal, and after saluting old Thespis, the counter marched, and exhibited their oriental array at the Mansion House and the Waverly Fair.

The costume of this band was so completely Chinese, that it appeared as if the contemplated annexation of Asia had been consummated…”

  But, alas... the flowery land, and the sun-bright palaces and the orange groves, and the perfumed breeze stealing through the mist of alabaster lamps, vanished like the baseless fabric of a vision,


... We turned to the distant music that came softly stealing on the breeze that gently floated down St. Francis street and as the Cowbellions disappeared ... the “Strkers” ...came down upon the town. They could be seen far away, in the distance, moving forward by the light of torches. On they came, like a triumphal procession of old Rome. This band represented the Elements in accordance with the opinion of the ancient philosophers, who resolved all things into Air, Earth, Fire, and Water.
  


Dramatic illumination and the sight & smell of the flambeaux created the excitement of the original mystic parades 

MOBILE'S MYSTIC PARADES DESCRIBED by a NEW ORLEANS REPORTER in 1903:

...scenic tableaux of the most striking events in history, romance and poetry presented by groups of living characters costumed according the the most rigorous demands of the periods embraced in the presentations and the whole decorated and illuminated with all the splendor that light and coloring can add make up the grand displays. 

​These processions...unroll before the vast crods of spectators, successions of artistic and beautiful scenes that delight and instruct without giving the slightest hint or suggestion of who are the providers of these magic spectacles and without disclosing any commercial motive or design in the enterprise. 

Times Picayune, February 22, 1903
Y Order of Myths Parade described in
Mobile Register
March 2, 1870 

It is a matter of doubt if a better lighted procession was ever seen anywhere. Each of the cars in the line was provided with four burners so arranged as to reflect their full glare upon the character theron, and in addition as we learned from a gentleman who had the curiosity to count them, there were eleven transparencies...and upwards of five hundred lamps borne along the line...

A TABLEAU
is defined as
a silent or motionless group arranged to represent a scene or incident. This was a popular theatrical tool and also a popular entertainment within nineteenth century elite society. 

The mystic parades of the nineteenth century were viewed as "moving tableaux," as one group after the next, either standing on a flat-bed wheeled vehicle, walking or riding in unison.

The concept began with the Cowbellions, who followed their 1841 parade with the presentation of a tableau in the theater. Soon after, the Strikers adopted the custom and the pattern of opening each ball by presenting a tableau continues in Mobile even today. 
  
Sometimes floats were simply referred to as "tableaux," on parade.

Early in the afternoon the streets were filled with spectators, while the galleries and windows were occupied all along the route announced for the carnival pageant. The feature of the display in the evening was twenty tableaux representing beautiful scenes from Scott’s romance of ‘Ivanhoe.’ … The Knights of Momus this evening gave the handsomest tableaux of the present carnival season. The subject illustrated was ‘The Legends Beautiful.’


“Mardi Gras Celebrations Carnival Festivities at New Orleans and Mobile,” Sun (Baltimore), February 18, 1885.
   
The success of each parade was measured by the historical accuracy of the costumes, the quality of materials, the unity of the overall presentation and the clarity of its theme. 

 
The Knights of Revelry made a beautiful parade. "Man and Material" was illustrated on Seventeen handsome floats, seeming to move by themselves, no horses being seen in the parade. 

New York Herald, February 18, 1885

Click Here
to learn more about Gus and Emile Hines,
the creative minds behind Mobile's first Mardi Gras parades. 


l...That [the Cowbellions] comprehend the genius of their people and cater to their love for rich color and poetic spectacle, by the marvelous fact of a respect and love that, in all these long years, has never produced one harsh nor one lewd word; and beyond this we only know they are The Mystics.

                                   Commercial Advertiser (New York), January 15, 1872, 1