Soon after Alabama gained statehood in 1819, Mobile  grew quickly from a small European settlement into a  major American port. With the growing demand for cotton, Mobile found itself at the center of international commerce, greeting ships from the industrial northeast and all around the world.

As young American businessmen traveled down to Mobile to take part in the lucrative cotton trade, they encountered a French and Spanish Creole population with customs and traditions much different from their own.  It was the unique blending of cultures on the Gulf Coast that created America's unique Mardi Gras traditions. 



The Landing 
at the foot of Government St.
On the river, between the Convention Center and Cooper Park. 

This location was once  a rugged strip of warehouses, barrooms and supply stores, suited for commerce and the needs of the transient merchants. But it was here that the festive holiday antics of an ambitious cotton broker named Michael Krafft turned into an annual New Year's Eve celebration, renowned across the country for its excitement and extravagance. These were the first "mystic parades," the first public parades organized by mysterious, masked revelers. 

The  Cowbellion de Rakin Society, was the humorous name that Michael Krafft and his friends gave to the association they created around the year 1830. Although named after the cowbell and rake they first carried as noisemakers, from these humble beginnings the Cowbellion de Rakin Society matured as the city prospered. Their "mystic" New Year's Eve parades became elaborate, theatrical presentations. Together with the balls and tableaux following each parade, the revelry that originated on this spot gave birth to the American Mardi Gras tradition. 

   This map of the settlement from its inception in 1711 shows the Fort constructed by the French and one pier, which was at approximately this location, just north of the fort, at the foot of Government Street.​ 

On April 3, 1838, the Republican newspaper of Springfield, Illinois  copied this report from Montgomery describing Mobile and her  unprecedented growth in the 1830's 

Reports about the thriving economy on the Gulf Coast, as well as interesting tidbits about the lifestyle of the remaining Creole population, were of constant interest in the north.  Here is another example from the Cleveland Ledger, printed on April 9, 1856. 

Private Journals included Similar Reports 

 Paul Ravesies Scenes and Settlers of Alabama, 37. 

Tyrone Powers, Impressions o f America During the Years 1833, 1834, and 1835, 12. 

The city was quickly filled with young merchants, accumulating a lot of money. Generally they caroused while in the city but dedicated little to the city's infrastructure, their wealth taken back to the urban northeast. On February 4, 1840, the Portland Advertiser of Portland, Maine described their common revelry, particularly during the holiday season. 

Founded in approximately 1830, The Cowbellion de Rakin Society was the first Mystic Parading Society. The concept of combining an uproarous procession with a secretive and ritual-oriented fraternity began with the "Cowbellions," as they were known. 

The Cowbellion parade of New Year's Eve, 1837, was unique in many ways.  This description ( also from the Republican in 1838) provides some detail. 

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Moving to the next site :
Walk down toward the West, across Water Street, one more block down Government St. to the Corner of Government and Royal Streets. 


On the way to the next site, look down Water Street toward the north.

Just beyond the Renaissance Marriott once stood the great Southern Hotel, built in 1838. Although it opened a few years after the Cowbellions initially organized, it was the location of many social functions, where later members of the Cowbellions
dined and entertained inside at La Tourrette's Cafe. 

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