Galveston’s 1938 Mardi Gras Celebration

 Galveston’s 1938 Mardi Gras Celebration
Sketch for the medieval Mardi Gras costume worn by Saralin Barclay. Barclay was a princess in the 1938 royal court [Gift of Mrs. William Lawder].

During the month of March, Rosenberg Library exhibited items related to Galveston’s 1938 Mardi Gras Celebration.

The theme of Galveston’s 1938 Mardi Gras was “A Court in Old England,” and it was described as “one of the most beautiful” Mardi Gras celebrations to date by the Galveston Daily News. Participants wore garments in the style of 15th century English royals made of colorful silk, brocade, and velvet adorned with embroidery and jewels.

During the two days leading up to Ash Wednesday (February 28 – March 1), a variety of events took place on the island. A downtown parade was held in honor of King Frivolous (Charles Grainger Dibrell, Jr.) at 8 p.m. on February 28.

 Galveston’s 1938 Mardi Gras Celebration

Afterwards, a public dance was held onboard USS Somers, and members of the king’s court attended a ball at the Hotel Galvez. The following day, the Kiwanis Club hosted a luncheon for the crew of USS Saranac, and both USS Somers and USS Saranac were open for public tours during the afternoon. A coronation and masquerade ball was held at the City Auditorium at 8 p.m. that evening, with Miss Catherine Evans being crowned Queen of Mardi Gras. At 11 p.m., a crowd of 500 guests gathered at the Buccaneer Hotel for the Queen’s Ball.

Saralin (Barclay) Lawder was a princess in Galveston’s 1938 Mardi Gras court, and in 1982, she donated an original costume sketch, program, and invitation from that event. These items are now preserved in Rosenberg Library’s permanent museum collection.

Past Treasures