On today’s date, February 27:
In 1827 = a group students dressed in outlandish costumes and masks went running and dancing through the streets of New Orleans, Louisiana, for the first time, the start of that city’s famous Mardi Gras celebrations. The origins of Mardi Gras date back to medieval Europe, passing through Rome and Venice. This carried through the 17th and 18th centuries to France. And from there, the whole tradition of revelry of “Boeuf Gras,” or fatted calf, followed France to her colonies. By the 1730s, Mardi Gras was celebrated openly in New Orleans, but not with the whole parade idea, which had been banned by the Spanish colonial authorities. It was after Louisiana became part of the United States in 1803, that New Orleanians convinced the city council to cancel the ban on the parties in the streets and wearing masks. The new Mardi Gras tradition started on this night in 1827 when groups of students, inspired by their experience of studying in Paris, put on jester costumes and masks and established their own Fat Tuesday festival.
In 1860 = Abraham Lincoln, then a candidate for the Republican nomination for President had a photograph made of himself (the first of many such) by Mathew Brady in New York City, before going on that evening to make a very important speech at the Cooper Union Building. Lincoln did not make an especially dashing subject, so Brady recalled drawing Lincoln’s collar higher up around his neck to improve the man’s appearance.
That evening, Lincoln gave a speech at the Cooper Union in New York City in which he clearly outlined his opposition to the idea of allowing slavery to spread into the territories of the west as they became states:
“Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”
By clearly outlining his belief that slavery should not be extended beyond the South, Lincoln’s speech marked his transformation from a regional politician into a national figure in the debate over slavery. This famous portrait would be made by artists at Harper’s Weekly into full page woodcut images to go with their stories. In subsequent versions of the photo, artists would smooth out Lincoln’s hair and subtly refine his facial features. This early form of candidate’s image making were important keys to Lincoln’s election. As Lincoln himself said: “Brady and the Cooper Institute made me President.”
In 1933 = The Reichstag, the seat of the German Parliament caught fire, and was seriously damaged. The blaze was blamed on one Marinus van der Lubbe, a young Dutch communist who was apprehended at the scene. But according to most historians, the fire was in fact set by members of the Nazi party of Chancellor Adolf Hitler as a way of silencing any lingering apposition to his rule in Germany. By blaming the destruction of the seat of German democracy on the Communists, Hitler and his thugs were able to suspend any rights that his opposition had and, and conduct a ruthless crackdown by jailing, torturing, and murdering thousands throughout Germany. Hitler thus tightened his grip on power in Germany and continued his march into World War II.
D. Sefton Delmar was a reporter for the London Daily Express who witnessed the fire:
“‘This is a God-given signal! If this fire, as I believe, turns out to be the handiwork of Communists, then there is nothing that shall stop us now crushing out this murder pest with an iron fist.’ Adolf Hitler, Fascist Chancellor of Germany, made this dramatic declaration in my presence tonight in the hall of the burning Reichstag building. The fire broke out at 9:45 tonight in the Assembly Hall of the Reichstag. It had been laid in five different corners and there is no doubt whatever that it was the handiwork of incendiaries. One of the incendiaries, a man aged thirty, was arrested by the police as he came rushing out of the building, clad only in shoes and trousers, without shirt or coat, despite the icy cold in Berlin tonight. Five minutes after the fire had broken out I was outside the Reichstag watching the flames licking their way up the great dome into the tower.”
But in spite of the charge against the young Dutchman, William L. Shirer states in his book “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”: “…there is enough evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that it was the Nazis who planned the arson and carried it out for their own political ends.”
Mardi Gras =
The Reichstag =
“The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” by William L. Shirer, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1960.