Mardi Gras 1886
Mardi Gras 1886 was the first organized celebration of Mardi Gras in Birmingham. It was marked by a parade and masked ball held on Monday March 8, 1886, both presented by the German Society. Crowds of revelers were reported to have come into the city by train for the spectacle and to have filled every available space along the parade route.
The parade started on the south end of the 22nd Street Viaduct at 2:00 in the afternoon and processed from the bridge to 1st Avenue North, where it turned to the west and continued to 16th Street, a distance of about one mile. An advertisment for the upcoming parade indicated that the route would continue up 16th Street to 2nd Avenue North, where it would return to 22nd Street, then up to 4th Avenue North for a return to 16th Street, then back to 2nd Avenue to 20th Street and south to 6th Avenue South on Southside, where it would turn back to 22nd Street to complete the circuit. The The procession was described in detail by the Birmingham Age:
- City Marshal Frank Gafford marched at the head of the procession as Grand Marshal.
- Captain Pickard and Officers Nix, Hunter, McGee, Minges and McDonald of the Birmingham Police Department followed, mounted on horseback.
- The Birmingham Fire Department's fleet followed, dressed in white shirts with black pants.
- The "new steamer", drawn by two gray horses driven by W. M. Carney with Engineer Raplee manning the rear.
- The No. 3 reel wagon, driven by Thomas Hart with S. I. Davis at the brake, was decorated with a large American flag.
- The "old steamer" was drawn by two heavy iron-gray horses driven by Glenn Scogin with George Schmend at the brake.
- The No. 1 reel wagon was driven by C. M. Watson.
- Two hook and ladder trucks, driven by George Hay and James Bergen.
- Arthur Riley's Birmingham Excelsior Brass Band followed, comprising 13 musicians on a wagon drawn by two cream-colored and two black horses.
- The royal landau carrying King of Carnival Louis Schwartz, crowned and robed in purple, with his attendants Christian Rambow and Augustus Dunker and royal guards A. Lesser and Charles Weiss. Marshals L. Lichtenstadter, Louis Gelders, Theodore Boeker, William Schaffer, Jacob Schmidt and Herman Knebl followed on horseback, with a number of costumed and masked riders behind.
- Birmingham Brewery float, with the "King of Beer" enthroned and toasting the crowd while a cart of beer kegs trailed. Phil Schillinger drove the team of four horses pulling the float.
- "First German Settlement in Birmingham", a log cabin with a family engaged in housework on a float driven by Henry Behren and John Lentz.
- An elaborate float representing the Birmingham ticket office of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad presided over by M. B. Throckmorton and designed by Louis Braun.
- The Birmingham Ice Works entered a float with ice blocks being sawn.
- The next float featured a coal stove surrounded by piles of coal.
- A float displaying the art of the butcher was entered by Henry Siegel. Over the butchers at work cutting beef was a floral canopy garlanded with sausage and festooned with flags.
- The Birmingham Bottling Works brought a display of a large bottle surrounded by workers filling smaller bottles and a string ensemble.
- The Birmingham Steam Laundry float featured a large reclining figure "fanning away opposition."
- Smith & Montgomery Stationery Company entered a lengthy and elaborate scene featuring Mr Giles surrounded by young girls.
- A banner representing the work of Finley & Hogan, sign painters, followed.
- A float shaped like a Chinese junk was driven by a Chinese man to represent the Southern Pacific Tea Company.
- A pyramid of whisky barrels and champagne casks represented I. R. Hochstadter.
- The Excelsior Steam Laundry parodied the float of the Birmingham Steam Laundry.
- A comical scene of a man being shaved with a huge razor was presented by Buhl's Barber Shop.
- A display of cider and ale was entered by Alfred Hochstadter.
- A display of paper fixtures mounted on black velvet represented R. Knauff & Company.
- Another shaving scene, along with barbers cutting hair, was presented by Walker & Robinson's Barber Shop
- The Magic City Bakery brought two wagons staffed by bakers clad in white tossing fresh-made pretzels and cakes to the crowds.
- The Jones Colored String Band rode the float representing B. B. Hayes & Company.
- Harry Mercer, jeweler, presented a tall float featuring a large panel with an oil painting that depicted him in gladatorial garb and standing over his defeated competitors in the jewelry business.
- Zinzer's Furniture Store paraded a display of furniture.
- Behl's Bakery brought more fresh cakes and breads which were tossed from the float by children.
- Boxes and barrels of drugs and remedies, surmounted by an oil cask decorated the float of Nabers & Morrow. A second wagon full of blackface boys representing the "Nabers & Morrow Base Ball Nine" followed the main float.
- E. C. Mackey decorated his delivery wagon with pictures drawn by R. A. Sedwick and J. D. Bell.
- Hale's oil wagon followed, bedecked with lamps.
- A parody of the Mobile Life Insurance Company was presented next.
- The next float was provided by New Orleans Clothing
- A hay bale dominated the float of Chairsel's Feed Store
- Lumberman Will Hill provided an advertising cart.
- A mock saddle shop processed on a float provided by Reckling the saddler.
- A group of tailors busily fitted a man's suit on the float entered by Louis Saks
- The Last Chance Bar provided a painted canvas showing a crowd vying for a last glass of beer while the figure of death laughed on the sidelines.
- Shaffer & Brother paraded a steam-powered sausage grinder.
- Two bicyclists displayed the newest models
- A cart pulled by a calf driven by four boys in clown costumes brought up the rear.
The German Society's Sublett Hall on 2nd Avenue North hosted the grand masquerade ball on the same evening. The King reclined under a canopy on the stage. A large cake baked with a bean inside it was carved and distributed to the young ladies of the court. Ada Solomon found the bean and was crowned Queen and escorted to the throne where she received a ring from the monarch. Music and dancing continued well into the night.
- President of the German Society: A. Lesser
- Arrangements: E. L. Lesser, S. Dunker, L. Schwarz, Jno. Shaefer, Gus Schillinger
- Receptions: Chris Rambow, W. J. Zimmerman, L. Gelders
- Floor: J. W. Pender, J. P. Lynch, J. J. Hochstadter
- "German Mardi Gras" (March 9, 1886) Birmingham Age.