Historic Mardi Gras Throws Exhibition.
THIS EXHIBITION IS A SPECIAL EVENT CURATED BY YUKI NORTHINGTON for The Arts, Hancock County.
JANUARY 10 THRU FEBRUARY 10, 2024.
Also includes Children's Shoe Box Floats! Come see!! Open Tuesday thru Saturday, 9am-4:30pm.
A Brief History of Mardi Gras Throws from The Historic New Orleans Collection:
In early-19th-century New Orleans, processions of ladies en route to Carnival balls were said to have tossed sweets and bonbons, as well as provocative smiles, to gentlemen along the route. Bands of youths would throw flour (and, later, nastier substances, such as rotten fruit, plaster pellets, urine, and caustic lime) at revelers on Fat Tuesday. One newspaper in the 1840s reported on Ash Wednesday that the streets looked as if snow had fallen.
The first reports of items being thrown as part of the official parades we know today came in the early 1870s with the second procession of the Twelfth Night Revelers, according to Carnival historian Errol Laborde. Following their “Mother Goose’s Tea Party”–themed parade, a costumed Santa distributed gifts from his bag.
In the early 20th century, the Rex Organization began the tradition of tossing throws to the crowd from each float. Strings of hand-strung glass beads quickly became the desired souvenir. According to a master’s thesis written by the late Lissa Capo, who was THNOC’s in-house expert on Carnival throws, the earliest surviving examples are Japanese mercury glass beads, made during WWII. Czechoslovakian crystals were in vogue next, through the 1960s, when they were superseded by hand-strung plastic necklaces. With the arrival of plastic beads molded directly onto polyester strings, the throws became bigger, longer, showier, and more customizable to each krewe. Abundant strings of oversized beads became the new gold standard, beloved by viewers. And the krewes responded, throwing more and more—and more.
The early 20th century marked the arrival of painted walnuts and, later, painted coconuts from the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club. Today the painted, glittered, and feathered coconuts are passionately sought—something of a holy grail for even experienced parade-goers.
The Zulu coconut influenced other krewes and walking clubs to create their own signature throws. In 2001, a member in the Krewe of Muses—using the Zulu coconut as inspiration—introduced their tradition of presenting glittered, decorated high-heeled shoes as the prized throw of their parade. Each one is intended to be a unique work of art for the lucky recipient. Other krewes have thrown bedazzled oyster shells, brassieres, wine corks, goblets, grails, eyeglasses, toilet scrubbers, eggs, and more. There seems to be little a Carnival-loving New Orleanian won’t encrust with glitter! And, on the receiving end, there’s little a dedicated parade-goer won’t do to secure one of these treasures—screaming, dancing, and making a general fool of one’s self. Such is the magic of the season.