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Rosenberg Treasure: Galveston’s 1938 Mardi Gras Celebration

Galveston's 1938 Mardi Gras Celebration

Rosenberg Treasure of the Month

Last Updated: March 1, 2019 by Rosenberg Library | History


During the month of March, Rosenberg Library will exhibit 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.

Sketch for the medieval Mardi Gras costume worn by Saralin Barclay

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 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.  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.

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.  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.

1938 Galveston Mardi Gras Invitation

Invitation to the Mardi Gras Queen’s Ball held on March 1, 1938
Gift of Mrs. William Lawder

1938 Galveston Mardi Gras Program

Mardi Gras Coronation Program, 1938
Gift of Mrs. William Lawder


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Rosenberg Library

Rosenberg Library has offered over a century of community service to the Galveston area, and is the oldest public library in Texas in continuous operation. The building itself was dedicated on June 22, 1904, the birthday of its patron, Henry Rosenberg. The Moody Memorial Wing opened in 1971, more than doubling the floor space and allowing for a children’s library, a history center, several galleries to showcase museum collections, and later, a computer lab. The Library accepted its first museum piece shortly after it opened in 1904. Since then, thousands of rare and interesting objects from around the world have been added to the collection. Each month they display a “Treasure of the Month”. Learn more by visiting the Rosenberg Library page and the Gifts of Henry Rosenberg section.

2020-01-22T15:14:27-05:00

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