Mobile’s Original Floral Parade, 1905

A blossoming 1905 photograph offers a glimpse into the history of Mobile's Floral Parade.

Women riding a carriage in the original floral parade
Photo courtesy William E. Wilson Photographic Collection, Minnie Mitchell Archives, Mobile Historic Preservation Society

Long before the floral parade became synonymous with children’s floats, Mobile boasted a different parade of flowers, one that included automobiles bedecked in blooms. Pictured here is one such car from the inaugural parade, 1905. That year, King Felix, Orville Cawthon, owner and proprietor of one of Mobile’s most luxurious hotels, and Queen Mary Morris Clark reigned over Carnival.

Over the next 12 years, revelry quickly blossomed, and 62 mystic societies were formed, most of which didn’t last long — Spirits of Darkness and Carnival Flirts, being two such examples. Also short-lived was the original floral parade, which lasted until 1917. But in 1928, the Mobile Carnival Association started the Children’s Flower Parade, mostly as an attempt to keep people in town the weekend before Fat Tuesday. Later changed to “Floral Parade,” it is one of the longest, most colorful — and youthful —parades of the season.

“In Mobile, Mardi Gras comes with the seasons, a natural phenomenon, an event to be anticipated and enjoyed, but not really to be considered anything very unusual. One simply grows up knowing that Mardi Gras will come with the spring.”

Caldwell Delaney, as quoted in “Mardi Gras in Mobile,” by L. Craig Roberts

Afternoon Events on Mardi Gras, 1905

Excerpt from the Montgomery Advertiser, February 17, 1905

“At 1:00 this evening, the Knights of Revelry entertained the thousands gathered in the Imperial City, with a magnificent parade. Emperor Felix, on his gorgeous throne float with his escort of mounted knights. 

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“When the K.O.R. concluded their parade, they proceeded to German Relief Hall where they held a reception, which was attended by an immense crowd. When the reception concluded, the members repaired to Elks’ Home.

“Here was another brilliant scene. The magnificent building was brilliantly illuminated and the Reception and Floor committees were on hand early to receive their guests. It is roughly estimated that 1,000 people were guests during the evening. As with all of their functions, this was a decided success, and Knights of Revelry and other fortunate persons so declared as they bade the Elks good night when the Holy Easter had arrived.”

Mardi Gras By the Numbers

95: Percentage of Mardi Gras parades that follow Route A, a 2.5-mile path through Downtown 

6: Number of venues in which Mardi Gras balls were held in the early 1900s: Admiral Semmes Hotel, Athelstan Club, Battle House Hotel, Cawthon Hotel, Fort Whiting Armory and German Relief Hall

1902: Year masks were prohibited from public use — at the time, crime was high, and bandits were known to wear masks.

$3: Amount of money the original Infant Mystics members paid in monthly dues — the initiation fee was $5.

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