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A. S. Williams III Americana Manuscript Collections

Guide to the Cowbellion de Rakin Society initiation ceremony script W.0035

ASSET VIEWER
Publication:

University Libraries Division of Special Collections, The University of Alabama

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 35487-0266
205.348.0500
archives@ua.edu

October 2013

Creation:

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit 2013-11-15T15:53-0600

Language Usage:

English

Description Rules:

Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Collection Title:

Cowbellion de Rakin Society initiation ceremony script

Unit ID:

W.0035

Repository:

University Libraries Division of Special Collections, The University of Alabama

Quantity:

0.1 Linear feet

Dates:

1847

Location:

The A. S. Williams III Americana Collection, Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library, the University of Alabama

Abstract:

Handwritten script outlining an 1847 initiation ceremony conducted by Mobile, Alabama's earliest mystic society, the Cowbellian de Rakin Society.

creator

Williams, A. S., III

Preferred Citation:

Cowbellion de Rakin Society initiation ceremony script, The A. S. Williams III Americana Collection, University Libraries Division of Special Collections, The University of Alabama

Acquisition Information:

Gift of A. S. Williams III, 2010

Access Restrictions:

None

Scope and Contents note

The Cowbellion de Rakin Society initiation ceremony is in a small notebook with a paper wrap. The handwritten script provides details and directions for the initiation ceremony, which was in three parts, most likely for the different tiers of membership. Handwritten notes list ceremonial rituals, readings, and songs.

General note

Title on phase box spine: Mardi Gras Mobile Ceremony - 1847

Processing Information:

Processed by

Haley Aaron and Martha Bace, 2013

Biographical/Historical note

Mobile, Alabama, is home to the oldest annual Mardi Gras celebrations in the United States. The earliest celebrations in Mobile were held by French explorers and settlers in 1699 and 1703.

The parades that became a Mardi Gras tradition originally began as New Year's Eve celebrations. In 1830, Michael Krafft and a group of revelers paraded through the streets of the city, carrying cowbells and rakes. This celebration marked the foundation of the Cowbellion de Rakin Society, thought to be one of the nation's first carnival societies. The society continued their annual parades and by 1837, the group was throwing small gifts to the crowds. In 1840, the first themed parade was held and horse-drawn floats were introduced. Men who were unable to join the exclusive Cowbellions began founding new societies. The Strikers Independent Society was founded in 1843, followed by the Tea Drinker's Society in 1850.

In 1850, Cowbellion Joseph Ellison moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, and was instrumental in forming The Mystic Krewe of Comus there.

With the foundation of the Order of Myths in Mobile in 1867, a split between Mardi Gras societies and the earlier new year's revelers occurred. In 1888, the Cowbellions discontinued the New Year's Eve parade, while the Mardi Gras celebrations continued.

Sources: Museum of Mobile website, Carnival/Mobile Mardi Gras Timeline; "Mobile's Mardi Gras," Encyclopedia of Alabama

Related Archival Materials note

There are other materials relating to Mardi Gras in the A. S. Williams III Americana Collection and in the W. S. Hoole Special Collections Library. See staff for assistance.

Source(s)

Williams, A. S., III (local)

Mardi Gras (lcsh)

Mobile (Ala.) (lcsh)

Popular Culture (localbroad)

Initiation ceremony script Box W0035.01