Site #2
Duncan Place​​
Government Street
from Water to Royal

Mobile’s mystic parades all passed this location. Beginning with the Cowbellions in the 1830's and Strikers in the 1840's.

The building to the south was constructed in the 1850’s to house the Southern Market, where goods came directly from the ships at port to be sold each day. Joe Cain, who led the “Lost Cause Minstrel Band” in the late 1860’s through the 1870’s, was "clerk" of the market, overseeing all of its daily operations during and after the Civil War. On the second floor was the Armory, a spacious hall and very popular venue for Mardi Gras balls.

The Mobile County Courthouse was located on the southwestern side of this corner, where the mythical "Emperor Felix" of Mobile’s Carnival Association traditionally received the official key to the city, allowing revelry to rule for Mardi Gras, the last day of Carnival. 

The block extending to the east was once known as Duncan Place, for Col. William Butler Duncan, instrumental in the success of the Mobile & Ohio Railroad. In the early twentieth century, public concerts were held there on the days before Mardi Gras.

For many years, the workshop of artist Gus Hines was also located here. Hines and his son Emile created the earliest floats to be seen in Mobile on Mardi Gras. Hines designed the first parades of the Order of Myths and the Infant Mystics.


The short, early route of Mobile's Antebellum parades included only the blocks on Royal from St. Francis to Government Street, shown here on a map of Mobile from 1888. 


For the first 20 years of their existence, the Cowbellions, and then the "Strikers" as well, simply marched up and down Royal Street, between St. Francis and Government, always passing Duncan Place at the corner of Royal and Government.  This descripton from 1839 was published in a New Orelans newspaper on the morning after the parade. 

Sketch of Cowbellions printed in 1891 

    Before, during and after parades, the Cowbellions, and the "Strikers" performed or visited hotels and other venues such as the Mansion House, the Waverly, the Theater, the Armory and the Alhambra. But all were located in the three  blocks  between Government and St. Francis Streets. 


to read more about the Alhambra,   where the first mystic tableau was performed in 1841

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Southern Market 
c. 1857 

After over two years of struggles to erect the monument, the Semmes statue was finally unveiled at the intersection of Government and Royal Streets in the summer of 1900. 

Age Herald (Birmingham), June 28, 1900

Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, Virginia), June 28, 1900. 

  "Illuminations" for the Carnival Season
in Duncan Place
in the early twentieth-century

to learn more about the artistry of GUS and EMILE HINES, the parade designers 
who at one time had a workshop at Duncan Place.  

Cannons Erected
in 1906
       from the Vicksburg American, May 18, 1906 

Cannon in Duncan Place c. 1913
described and illustrated in Hamilton's 1913
Mobile of the Five Flags. 

Duncan Place after the "Great Flood of 1906"

Following the flood of 1906, the St. Louis DIspatch newspaper created this map showing the areas of downtown Mobile affected by the flood. Damaging floods apparently extended from the river to the west side of Bienville Square, including the new (misspelled) Cawthon Hotel.


Duncan visits New Orleans, from Picayune, November 29, 1896.
"Duncan Place," was first given its name in 1897, as outgoing mayor Lavretta thanked Col. Duncan for all he had done to beautify the area and his work in bringing the Mobile and Ohio Railroad to completion. 

Just to the South on Royal Street was
The Armory 

The open space now called "Mardi Gras Park was once the site of the Mobile County Courthouse. In the late 1800's, when the Mobile Carnival Association established their own royal "court" to take over the city for carnival, their "Emperor Felix" often made his entry into the city at the foot of Government Street on the day before Mardi Gras and was then followed by his royal entourage to the courthouse steps, where the mayor turned over the key to the city to him for 24 hours of fun. For a couple of years, that ceremony was carried out in Bienville Square and today it is still reinacted on the day before Mardi Gras at the river. 

Mobile Courthouse c. 1900

Leaving the corner of Government and Royal Streets,
 walk toward the north on Royal Street.

For information about what you'll see on your way to the next site,

Times Democrat, February 18, 1896

  Still want more information?  ​​