Pass Christian has a long Mardi Gras tradition, probably stretching as far back as the late 1800s, when carnival balls were held in the city’s majestic hotels. A Pass Christian Carnival Association was formed in around 1913. The association built a hall at the corner of Fleitas and Scenic; according to a Mardi Gras history written by Adele Bielenberg in 1995, the building “became the Carnival den, where the parade floats were built and where the Ball was held on Mardi Gras night.”
The first parade appears to have been held in 1915, with King Louis Martin and Queen Ellen Courtenay presiding. (See photo at right)
The parade was still being held three years later, as evidenced in this Times Picayune article from February 1917. However, the association disbanded sometime thereafter, and the den was torn down.
In 1930, another carnival association was formed to hold a ball in support of St. Joseph’s School, which was run by the Sisters of Mercy. The association was called Mercy Carnival and the first king was Bernard Knost. The queen was Marie Bertrand.
“The 1930 Ball was a success so it was decided to continue the Carnival Balls each year for the benefit of the school,” Ms. Bieleberg wrote. “After a few years, the Mercy Carnival Association became the St. Joseph Carnival Association and when the name of the school was changed it became the St. Paul Carnival Association.”
The St. Paul Carnival Association has continued to have a ball since 1930 — parades began sometime during the 1950s — except for in 1942-1945, when “Mars Ruled” due to World War II, and in 1951 due to the Korean War. The 2012 festivities are the 82nd annual, and the 60th consecutive, for St. Paul Carnival Association.
One of the most interesting histories of early Mardi Gras celebrations in Pass Christian was written by local educator Adele Bielenberg in 1995. You can read it in full on Dan Ellis’ historical website here: MARDI GRAS IN PASS CHRISTIAN, by Adele Bielenberg, 1995
From the Times-Picayune, March 8, 1916: “King Arthur III Pays Visit to the Pass.” (Thank you to Robin Rafferty for providing these historical news stories)
“Pass Christian, March 7. The triumphant visit of King Arthur II in Pass Christian today is pronounced the most magnificent and elaborate Mardi Gras pageant ever witnessed on the coast. The Grand Marshall of the Parade was Jack Robinson. The floats consisted of the New England states, the Middle states, Dixie and Western States.”
The 1916 Court is pictured at right. At left is Miss Forrest Lee Spring, Queen of the Pass Christian, Miss., Carnival. In the center, from top, Miss Mildred Spring, Maid; Julius Hayden, King Arthur II; Miss Gasparine Chapotel, Maid. At right, Miss Jeanie Farrell, “who presented the keys of Pass Christian to King Arthur II.”
Times Picayune, 1917
“Gorgeous Pageant When King Arthur Visits Pass Christian”
“Pass Christian, Miss., Feb. 20—King Arthur III visited his loyal city today, and with a gorgeous pageant paraded the principal streets, bringing joy and mirth to his happy subjects here. Seated on a highly elevated throne, richly decorated, his majesty appeared at the head of a magnificent exhibition of the industrial and educational growth of the state of Mississippi … the various floats representing the different stages of progress.
“At 1:30 the start was made from the Den, when the parade proceeded to the city hall, where Mayor J. H. Spence extended a cordial welcome to King Arthur III and his royal attendants, and where the keys to the city were presented (to) his majesty by little May, the pretty daughter of Mr. and Mrs. R.V. Abbley. The parade traversed over eight miles of streets to the inspiring strains of martial music. The queen, her maids and attendants, viewed the procession from the gallery of the Woodman building, where she received the greetings from the king.
“King Arthur III was impersonated by Albert Andresen, a popular young man of this city, who bore the heavy honors well, and made a most joyful ruler. He was attended by Martin Farrell, Jr., and W. E. Champlin, dukes.
“Miss Thelma Hanson, the beautiful daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. Ed Hanson, was queen, and no prettier or more popular one ever reigned here at a court of revelry. She ruled at the side of the king at the carnival ball, the adored queen of the immense throng that gathered there in the evening to pay homage to his majesty. Miss Hanson is a member of the graduating class of this year at the local high school. Her maids were Miss Louise Andresen, a pretty daughter of Supervisor F. Andresen, and Miss Hazel Kirke Adam, daughter of Postmaster E. J. Adam.
“All the costumes of those taking part in the parade were rich, especially those of the mounted royal guards, at the head of which rode W. E. Robinson, the designer and builder of the floats, and C. B. Adam, president of the Carnival Association.”
Times Picayune, January 16, 1939: “CARNIVAL PLANNED AT PASS CHRISTIAN”
“Pass Christian, Miss., January 15. Mrs. William G. Simpson, president of the St. Joseph’s Alumni Association, has announced that the annual king and queen ball of the Pass Christian Carnival Association will be held February 11. This benefit dance is a climax to the Carnival gayeties of the year at Pass Christian.
“Sunday, January 29, has been set as the date of the second annual carnival ball of the Pass Christian St. Joseph’s Junior Carnival Association. (The) identity of the rulers will not be known until the day of the parade, as is the usual custom. The junior Carnival parade will be Sunday afternoon, January 29, at 3 p.m. Following the parade that night the association will hold a dance.”
Historical Mardi Gras Photos
Click on the photo to see a larger image. If you have historical Mardi Gras photos you can share with us, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Our goal is to one day have a photo of every Court!