"Nobody hears about Michael Krafft": a family meets to celebrate the founder of Mobile Mardi Gras


Joe Cain received all the love of Mardi Gras in Mobile, but Michael Krafft was probably the first real carnival party in the city.

In 1831, more than three decades before Cain resuscitated Mardi Gras after the American Civil War, Krafft and a troop of pals walked the streets of Mobile and woke people – including the mayor – by making noise with cow bells. , rakes and other tools and gizmos borrowed from a hardware store.

"It's all about Joe Cain and nobody has heard of Michael Krafft," said Lynn Bullock, a member of the Krafft family, who lives in the suburbs of Atlanta. "We have the impression that it's really too long to know who really started. But for us, we are like, "Yes, he is our parent" and he has traveled the streets of Mobile and created mystical societies. "

Family meeting

The big Krafft holiday moment will be in the spotlight Saturday at the annual Bayport Parading Society parade, which will begin at 2 pm. and drive along the A road through the city center.

Bullock and his two siblings – Mark Bullock from the suburbs of Chattanooga and Susan Bullock from suburban Atlanta – as well as Ames Yokel's cousins ​​from Fairhope and Larry Filippini from Birmingham will be on the parade emblem float . All five are the grandchildren of Julia Bullock, whose maiden name was Vincent and who was a descendant of Michael Krafft's sister, Ann Krafft Vincent.

"They are all very enthusiastic," said Janet Anderson, one of the founders of the Bayport Parading Society, who organized her first parade in 2006. She regularly rides on the iconic float, which will be the first tank that will run this year's parade.

"Some of them did not attend a Mardi Gras, let alone a single race," Anderson said. "It's a bonus for them."

Lynn Bullock said the family's story is well known to Julia Bullock's grandchildren.

"My grandmother was a very respected Mobillian and a Mobilien of the Year in the 1960s," she said, adding that her grandmother had been studying and embracing the Mardi Gras family's heritage for a long time. "What's fun is that we still know Michael Krafft, but it's only really recently that we've seen Mobile start advertising that it's the origin of Mardi Gras. So, we were a bit like, "Yes, we know it."

Create a cow

An image of Michael Krafft (photo courtesy of Wayne Dean, Mobile Historian)
An image of Michael Krafft (photo courtesy of Wayne Dean, Mobile Historian) Photo provided

Indeed, Krafft's claim to Mardi Gras legend reinforces Mobile's argument that it is the cradle of Carnival in the United States rather than New Orleans.

The quarrel between the two cities warmed up a bit more last year after the Alabama Ministry of Tourism sponsored a billboard along Interstate 10 in New Orleans, which reads: : "You are 114 km from the original American Mardi Gras".

Arthur Hardy, a Mardi Gras historian based in New Orleans, wrote a newspaper article in 2015 that Krafft's March 1831 was "Mobile's most important contribution to Mardi Gras."

However, this march took place on New Year's Eve – not Mardi Gras, which is historically the most public holiday associated with Carnival.

Krafft's first march was a spontaneous celebration and was adopted by the Mayor of Mobile, John Stocking, who invited the revelers to come home for breakfast.

"I do not know if they knew it or not, but it's probably because the city was not huge at the time," said Wayne Dean, a Mobile Historian Mardi Gras who described the character of the "Slacabamarinico chef" for 34 years. . Joe Cain imagined the fictional "Chief Slac" in the late 1860s, donning a strange outfit to parade through the streets of Mobile in a charcoal tank – an act that sparked the revival of Mardi Gras in Mobile.

The merry band of Krafft party-goers soon took a name: the Cowbellion of Rainin Society. The mobile feast will grow in size and celebrity each year until 1840, when the Cowbellions host the city's first thematic parade, "Pagan Gods and Goddesses."

"They have the distinction of being the first mystical society in the world in the tradition that we know of mystics at Mobile," Dean said.

The Cowbellions helped Mobile gain the reputation of "mother of the mystics" after the formation of two other companies before New Orleans joined the party in 1852.

In fact, it was some Cowbellions who created the Krewe of Comus, the first Mardi Gras organization in Crescent City.

"This one is well documented in the Comus archives," Dean said. "They had the Cowbellions sitting as honored guests at one of their balls."

'Unique Mobile'

Krafft died in Pascagoula a year before the parade of 1840, in 1839. Yellow fever killed him at the age of 32. He is buried in Mobile's Magnolia Cemetery and his burial place – very similar to Cain's in Church Street Cemetery – is often festooned with pearls and other Mardi Gras throws.

Krafft's link to the legend of Mobile Mardi Gras was as well known as Cain's until the 1960s, when Julian folklorist "Judy" Rayford demanded that Cain's body be exhumed from the Bayou La Batre cemetery. reentered at Mobile.

This act launched the massive day of Joe Cain and the procession celebrated on the Sunday preceding each Mardi Gras.

Why Joe Cain Day, for 50 years, is only mobile

Krafft was described by people at the Joe Cain Day procession. In the 1990s, the Resurrected Cowbellion Society in Rankin organized New Year's Eve events, but these were dissolved years before the MoonPie Over Mobile event drew a large crowd to downtown from 2007.

"(Krafft) was better known but not as famous as Joe Cain today," Dean said. "It's very important that we recognize the tradition of Michael Krafft as well as that of Joe Cain. The two men did totally different things.

He said: "Today, if you watch the parades going on, the Excelsior group is in the center, just like the chef, and they are considered a big part of Mardi Gras. In the 1800s, you did not have that kind of music in the Mardi Gras fashion shows. Thus, every culture, every group of people contributes to this thing that we call Mardi Gras and makes it unique. "

Lynn Bullock said that his family's Mardi Gras gathering would not include costumes or wacky skits that would create a historical memory like Krafft's.

But they were asked if they would ring bells on the parade route. Bullock said, "We may just have to go out and buy some before the show. It's a good idea. "

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