In the 1830's, the Cowbellion de Rakin Society formed in Mobile. It was organized by a group of young men, mostly educated and ambitious merchants who had recently come to the undeveloped Gulf Coast from large industrialized cities in the northeast. They had experienced the holidays at home as a time of street revelry and public celebrations. 

In urban America, men's clubs, or fraternal societies, were very common. Masonic Lodges were the most popular but men formed private associations for almost any purpose or function in the early nineteenth century. 

When the Cowbellion de Rakin Society formed, it was the first to combine the secrecy and rituals pattern after the Masons together with the revelry of a street parade. 

An 1872 article in New York's Commercial Advertiser provided an apt description: 

In 1840, the addition of an organized theme and tableau performance turned their parades into a visual and performing art, a presentation for the public that was careflly designed with a plan and purpose.  This artistic elebment became more elaborate and more popular each year.

Costumes and props illustrated themes that were taken from literature or Classical history, creating a presentation that reflected the educated elite status these young men sought for themselves in the competitive business environment of the ninteenth century cotton port. 

The concept that we call Mobile's mystic parades was generally in place by the early 1840's and still continues in Mobile today. It was a concept  for which Mobile became well known around the country before the end of that decade.

Mobile's mystic parades took place on New Year's Eve. The first celebration of Mardi Gras, or "Fat Tuesday," in Mobile was three years after the Civil War ended but the New Year's Eve parades continued until the end of the century. So, for approximately 30 years the mystic parading tradition continued in Mobile on both New Year's Eve and Mardi Gras.

Mobile: Mother of Mystics
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