October 10, 1832
Joseph Stillwell Cain was born in Mobile. In 1866, Cain and six members of the Tea Drinkers Society, dressed in exaggerated Indian costumes, paraded through downtown Mobile in a decorated charcoal wagon while playing horns and drums. The parade was Mobile’s first Carnival celebration since before the Civil War and the first to move festivities from New Year’s Eve to the more traditional pre-Lenten period in February. Each year, Mobile honors Cain with Joe Cain Day, which is held the Sunday before Fat Tuesday and features “The People’s Parade” and Cain’s Merry Widows, who visit his burial site in mourning to lay a wreath and lament his loss.
Read more at Encyclopedia of Alabama.
Mobile native Joe Cain is credited with reviving the city’s Mardi Gras tradition. In 1866, soon after the end of the Civil War, he and a group of friends led a parade through the city’s downtown. He is honored by Mardi Gras revelers every year in a ceremony held at his grave in the historic Church Street Graveyard. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, courtesy of The Doy Leale McCall Rare Book and Manuscript Library)
The grave of Joseph Stillwell Cain (1832-1904). (Avhell-Pat David, Wikipedia)
The Excelsior Band performs during the Mardi Gras celebration known as Joe Cain Day, during which revelers dance on the grave of Joseph Stillwell Cain, the man who revived Mobile’s Mardi Gras tradition after the Civil War. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, courtesy of The Doy Leale McCall Rare Book and Manuscript Library)
The Merry Widows are a part of the annual Joe Cain Day celebration. The women dress as mourning widows and gather at Joe Cain’s graveside in Mobile’s Church Street Graveyard. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, courtesy of The Mobile Press-Register)
Mardi Gras, Mobile, 2010. (The George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)
For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.