Tulane University’s LOUISiana Digital Library hosts a vast collection of imagery related to the Mistick Krewe of Comus, a Louisiana Carnival krewe which helped to popularize the ornate pageantry now associated with Mardi Gras. Part of their collection is an entire catalog of designs by Charles Briton, 101 in all, described thus:
This collection is the complete set of costume design drawings for the 1873 Mistick Krewe of Comus “Missing Links” parade. It was an important event in New Orleans’ Mardi Gras history, becoming one of the first major parades to use satire and political commentary. Many of the images depict figures related to the Civil War and Reconstruction, such as Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Butler, and Louisiana Governor Henry Warmoth. Also depicted are notable figures such as Charles Darwin, and Algernon Badger (head of the Metropolitan Police).
Their blog also points out that the 1873 parade — the full title of which was “The Missing Links to Darwin’s Origin of Species” — featured no floats as well as a distinct lack of crowd control on the part of a uncooperative, and apparently, unpopular police force.
It’s a menagerie worthy of Bosch himself, a creative and colorful collection of depictions, many of which bring with them just a bit of period appropriate racial bias, shall we say (take a look at, say, the Snail, the Leech, or the African Elephant after the jump). Regardless, they are a wildly imaginative piece of history and worthy of a look. Just keep in mind that some of them may leave you feeling a little uncomfortable.