Let the good times roll! Tuesday is Mardi Gras and while most associate the holiday with New Orleans, some of the greatest celebrations ever held were right here in Memphis!
The first Mardi Gras in the bluff city was back in 1872 and drew a crowd of more than 20,000 people. That’s incredibly impressive since the population of Memphis at the time was just over 40,000.
But it wasn’t just about fun. Historians at the Pink Palace Museum say the city saw the celebration as a way to bounce back from the civil war and reconstruction.
“This was an opportunity to put Memphis back in the eyes of northern businesses and industries,” says Tammy Braithwaite, registrar at the Pink Palace Museum. “They wanted to draw those businesses back down to Memphis and the Mid-South. Having a celebration that promoted Memphis and civic pride was a good way to do that.”
Despite the strong start, historians say the celebrations fizzled out by the turn of the century.