Mardi Gras: Rare Vintage Photos From America’s Most Famous Party

March 30, 2015 at 05:05 (Uncategorized)

TIME

Early on in its decades-long run as a weekly magazine, LIFE turned its eye toward always-enticing, ever-vivid New Orleans and that great city’s signature annual event: Mardi Gras. In February, 1938, editors sent photographer William Vandivert to the Big Easy to chronicle the carnival, and to show LIFE’s readers how one American city — in so many ways a Caribbean, as opposed to a purely Southern, town — maintained a centuries-old tradition of refined debauchery and unalloyed fun in the midst of the Great Depression.

The story that ran in the March 14, 1938, issue of LIFE, alongside some of Vandivert’s photographs, was interesting enough, in its own way. Titled “LIFE goes to America’s Most Famous Party,” the five-page feature focused almost exclusively on the aristocratic Comus Ball, and the pomp and ceremony that attends the crowning of the ball’s king and queen.

In fact, in 1938, LIFE was

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