Year
1827
Month Day
February 27

New Orleanians take to the streets for Mardi Gras

On February 27, 1827, a group of masked and costumed students dance through the streets of New Orleans, Louisiana, marking the beginning of the city’s famous Mardi Gras celebrations.

The celebration of Carnival–or the weeks between Twelfth Night on January 6 and Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Christian period of Lent–spread from Rome across Europe and later to the Americas. Nowhere in the United States is Carnival celebrated as grandly as in New Orleans, famous for its over-the-top parades and parties for Mardi Gras (or Fat Tuesday), the last day of the Carnival season.

Early French settlers brought the tradition of Mardi Gras to the U.S. Gulf Coast at the end of the 17th century. In fact, Mobile, Alabama celebrated its first carnival in 1703. However, Spanish governors later banned the celebrations. After Louisiana Territory became part of the United States in 1803, New Orleanians managed to convince the city council to lift the ban on wearing masks and partying in the streets. The city’s new Mardi Gras tradition began in 1827 when the group of students, inspired by their experiences studying in Paris, donned masks and jester costumes and staged their own Fat Tuesday festivities.

READ MORE: Where Was the First Mardi Gras?

The parties grew more and more popular, and in 1833 a rich plantation owner named Bernard Xavier de Marigny de Mandeville raised money to fund an official Mardi Gras celebration. After rowdy revelers began to get violent during the 1850s, a secret society called the Mistick Krewe of Comus staged the first large-scale, well-organized Mardi Gras parade in 1857.

Over time, hundreds of krewes formed, building elaborate and colorful floats for parades held over the two weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday. Riders on the floats are usually local citizens who toss “throws” at passersby, including metal coins, stuffed toys or those now-infamous strands of beads. Though many tourists mistakenly believe Bourbon Street and the historic French Quarter are the heart of Mardi Gras festivities, none of the major parades have been allowed to enter the area since 1979 because of its narrow streets.

In February 2006, New Orleans held its Mardi Gras celebrations despite the fact that Hurricane Katrina had devastated much of the city with massive flooding the previous August. Attendance was at only 60-70 percent of the 300,000-400,000 visitors who usually attend Mardi Gras, but the celebration marked an important step in the recovery of the city, which counts on hospitality and tourism as its single largest industry.

READ MORE: 9 Things You May Not Know About Mardi Gras

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Dominican Republic declares independence as a sovereign state

On February 27, 1844, revolutionary fervor boiled over on the eastern side of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. Finally coming into the open after years of covert planning, a group known as La Trinitaria seized the fortress of Puerta del Conde in the city of Santo Domingo, and ...read more

Union inmates begin arriving at deadly Andersonville prison

On this day in 1864, the first Union inmates begin arriving at Andersonville prison, which was still under construction in southern Georgia. Andersonville became synonymous with death as nearly a quarter of its inmates died in captivity. Henry Wirz, who ran Andersonville, was ...read more

Shirley Temple receives $50,000 per film

On February 27, 1936, Shirley Temple receives a new contract from 20th Century Fox that will pay the seven-year-old star $50,000 per film. Temple was born in 1928 in Santa Monica, California, and started appearing in a series of short films spoofing current movies, called Baby ...read more

Supreme Court defends women’s voting rights

In Washington, D.C., the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, providing for female suffrage, is unanimously declared constitutional by the eight members of the U.S. Supreme Court. The 19th Amendment, which stated that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall ...read more

“I Will Survive” wins the first—and last—Grammy ever awarded for Best Disco Recording

After watching it utterly dominate the musical landscape of the late 1970s, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences gave disco their stamp of approval, deciding to give a Grammy award for Best Disco Recording, just as the musical style was preparing to die. The first ...read more

Italian government asks for suggestions for how to fix Leaning Tower of Pisa

On February 27, 1964, the Italian government announces that it is accepting suggestions on how to save the renowned Leaning Tower of Pisa from collapse. The top of the 180-foot tower was hanging 17 feet south of the base, and studies showed that the tilt was increasing by a ...read more

AIM occupation of Wounded Knee begins

On the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, some 200 Sioux Native Americans, led by members of the American Indian Movement (AIM), occupy Wounded Knee, the site of the infamous 1890 massacre of 300 Sioux by the U.S. Seventh Cavalry. The AIM members, some of them armed, took 11 ...read more

U.S. aircraft carrier Langley is sunk

The U.S. Navy’s first aircraft carrier, the Langley, is sunk by Japanese warplanes (with a little help from U.S. destroyers), and all of its 32 aircraft are lost. The Langley was launched in 1912 as the naval collier (coal transport ship) Jupiter. After World War I, the Jupiter ...read more

U.S. Olympic hockey team beats Soviet Union

The underdog U.S. Olympic hockey team defeats the Soviet Union in the semifinals at the Winter Games in Squaw Valley, California on February 27, 1960. The next day, the U.S. beats Czechoslovakia to win its first-ever Olympic gold medal in hockey. The 1960 U.S. team was led by ...read more

Mathew Brady photographs presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln

On February 27, 1860, President Abraham Lincoln poses for the first of several portraits by noted Civil War-era photographer Mathew Brady. Days later, the photograph is published on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar with the caption, "Hon. Abram [sic] Lincoln, of Illinois, Republican ...read more

Video recreation used in murder trial

Artie Mitchell is shot to death by his brother Jim in his Corte Madera, California, house. When police responding to a 911 call by Artie’s girlfriend arrived at the house they found Jim wandering aimlessly outside carrying a rifle. Artie had been shot multiple times in the chest ...read more