By Henri Schindler
Rex Artistic Director
In the mid-1870s, newspaper coverage of the Carnival season began to augment descriptions of the pageants with small, black-and-white engravings of the float designs. The evolution of these printed images magically paralleled the increasing grandeur of their subjects, and in 1882, the first "broadside" sheets appeared. On one side were the floats for Momus ("The Ramayama"), Proteus ("Ancient Egyptian Theology"), Rex ("The Pursuit of Pleasure") and Comus ("Worships of the World"). On the other side, amid numerous advertisements, were explanations and descriptions of the arcane tableaux; lengthy descriptions also appeared in the daily press, but without illustrations.
The first attempts to reproduce the float designs in color came in 1884, with booklets illustrating the pageants of Momus and Comus. The color was uneven and out of register in these early efforts, but only two years later, the great wedding of steam presses and color lithography produced the first beautiful chromolithographed Carnival Bulletins.
Newspapers, notably the Times-Democrat and the Picayune, vied with one another to publish the Carnival Bulletins. Thousands of copies were printed and always sold separately. These colorful souvenirs could be ordered from the papers, and on the day of the parades, they were hawked for a dime by youngsters on streetcars and busy street corners. These 10-cent bulletins have assumed an importance that could not have been imagined when they were produced. Because so few collections of original float and costume designs have survived, these lithographs became the visual record of the great processions, picturing every float from 1877 until the bulletins were discontinued in 1941.
The Rex Organization revived the tradition in 2003, and this marks the seventh year in which the bulletins have appeared in The Gambit. For 2009, His Majesty presents "Spirits of Spring," a tribute to New Orleans' continuing processes of renewal and rebirth. Text exploring the float titles and numerous links are posted on the Rex Organization's Web site (www.rexorganization.com). Prints of the 2009 bulletin may be purchased from the Web site or from Enoch's Framing and Gallery (4001 Baronne St., 897-2604; www.enochsframing.com).