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Cowbellion de Rakin Society initiation ceremony script

Identifier: W-0035

Scope and Contents

The Cowbellion de Rakin Society initiation ceremony is in a small notebook with a paper wrap. The handwritten script provides details and directions for the initiation ceremony, which was in three parts, most likely for the different tiers of membership. Handwritten notes list ceremonial rituals, readings, and songs.


  • 1847


Conditions Governing Access


Biographical / Historical

Mobile, Alabama, is home to the oldest annual Mardi Gras celebrations in the United States. The earliest celebrations in Mobile were held by French explorers and settlers in 1699 and 1703.

The parades that became a Mardi Gras tradition originally began as New Year's Eve celebrations. In 1830, Michael Krafft and a group of revelers paraded through the streets of the city, carrying cowbells and rakes. This celebration marked the foundation of the Cowbellion de Rakin Society, thought to be one of the nation's first carnival societies. The society continued their annual parades and by 1837, the group was throwing small gifts to the crowds. In 1840, the first themed parade was held and horse-drawn floats were introduced. Men who were unable to join the exclusive Cowbellions began founding new societies. The Strikers Independent Society was founded in 1843, followed by the Tea Drinker's Society in 1850.

In 1850, Cowbellion Joseph Ellison moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, and was instrumental in forming The Mystic Krewe of Comus there.

With the foundation of the Order of Myths in Mobile in 1867, a split between Mardi Gras societies and the earlier new year's revelers occurred. In 1888, the Cowbellions discontinued the New Year's Eve parade, while the Mardi Gras celebrations continued.

Sources: Museum of Mobile website, Carnival/Mobile Mardi Gras Timeline; "Mobile's Mardi Gras," Encyclopedia of Alabama


0.1 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Handwritten script outlining an 1847 initiation ceremony conducted by Mobile, Alabama's earliest mystic society, the Cowbellian de Rakin Society.

Physical Location

The A. S. Williams III Americana Collection, Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library, the University of Alabama


Gift of A. S. Williams III, 2010

Related Materials

There are other materials relating to Mardi Gras in the A. S. Williams III Americana Collection and in the W. S. Hoole Special Collections Library. See staff for assistance.


Title on phase box spine: Mardi Gras Mobile Ceremony - 1847

Processed by

Haley Aaron and Martha Bace, 2013



Guide to the Cowbellion de Rakin Society initiation ceremony script
October 2013
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections Repository

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0266