Mardi Gras arrived in the United States in the late 1600s, thanks to the Le Moyne brothers, whom King Louis XIV sent to defend France’s right to the territory of Louisiane.
Traditionally, Fat Tuesday ushered in the last chance to eat fatty foods and party through the night before the self-denial season of Lent began for Christians.
But even after France decamped from the New World, their traditional spring hurrah stuck around. Check out these vintage photos of Mardi Gras from the early 20th century, which prove it’s always been America’s coolest party.
The royal chariot with Rex, the King of the Carnival, starts the Mardi Gras procession in downtown New Orleans, La., in 1906.
The Rex pageant began as a part of Mardi Gras in 1872.
This Mardi Gras parade took place between 1890 and 1910.
The procession winds down Canal Street in 1900.
Rex passes by Camp Street on its typical route through downtown New Orleans between 1900 and 1906.
This float is hoisted through the crowd of a 1907 Mardi Gras celebration.
Here’s a sign on a New Orleans storefront advertising what kind of costumes the masses should wear to a 1941 parade.
Rex receives the key to city hall at the finale of the Mardi Gras parade in 1906.
The night after the parade, downtown New Orleans is lit up for further celebration in 1903.
Source: Library of Congress
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