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History of the Rex Bulletin

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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 large "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 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, with every float from 1877 until the bulletins were discontinued in 1941. The Rex Organization revived the tradition in 2003 and this marks the fifth year that the bulletins have appeared in Gambit Weekly. For 2007, His Majesty presents "The Lunar Realm," a visual feast drawn from mythology, poetry and fairy tales invoking the moon. Text exploring the float titles and suggested links are posted on the Rex Organization Web site (www.rexorganization.com). Prints of the 2007 Bulletin may be purchased from the Web site or from Enoch's Framing and Gallery (4001 Baronne St., 897-2603; www.enochsframing.com).
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