History of the Rocky Mountain Carnival

BY SARAH LANGSDON

In July 1890, Ogden welcomed King Rex and the cavalcade with a full-fledged Mardi Gras to the city. The event was called the Rocky Mountain Carnival. Rex and his lieutenants and aides left New Orleans on June 25 on a special train bound for Utah. The train also included nearly a hundred representatives from New Orleans businesses on the invitation from the Knights of Monte Cristo under the direction of Major J. Henry Behan of New Orleans. The train was greeted by the Carnival Chorus of 250 voices and 30 musicians; the city was decorated at every step. Purple, green, and gold were seen around downtown along with banners, flags, garland, and Chinese lanterns. A gas arch of 70 jets covered with colored glass adorned Harcombe’s store at 2473 Washington.

The arrival of the train ushered in four days of unprecedented entertainment for the citizens of Ogden. Part of the ceremony was the masked queen and prince, whose identities would not be revealed until the final ball. The two were chosen from the men and women of Ogden. The queen proved to be a woman of exceptional beauty and personal charm, tall and graceful, but her features remained hidden by a pink mask. She was attended by Miss Kate Bridewell of New Orleans and Miss Marie Harvey of Ogden. The prince was a commanding figure, tall and well-proportioned with his face shielded by a black mask of Spanish lace. The group was welcomed to the city by Mayor Kiesel who handed King Rex a two-foot club.

Two hundred cowboys from all parts of the West arrived to show their skills, including picking up silver dollars thrown at random into the street while riding at full speed. They would also compete with the Knights of Monte Cristo in feats of horsemanship. Members of the Shoshone and Bannock tribes traveled from the reservation in Pocatello, Idaho, to perform war dances. The crowd also enjoyed a square dance, where even the cowboys joined in.

On the afternoon of the fourth of July, a delegation of citizens called on Mayor Kiesel’s home and asked to talk with King Rex. The group wanted to know the identity of the masked prince who was set to be unmasked at the midnight ball that evening. They stated, “We understand that a Mormon is to be unmasked as king. We want you to know that three armed men will be standing in front of the platform when he is unmasked, and if he is a Mormon, he will die on the spot.” The decision was to have a member of the New Orleans delegation take the place of the masked prince, but they didn’t have anyone who matched the size of the man. So, they added additional clothing to make him appear larger. Ten thousand Ogdenites were seated in Carnival Palace at 10 o’clock when the first music and military organizations arrived for the final ball. As the masquerade began, three men in their evening dress emerged and stood before the throne. They wore no disguises and made all around them aware of their intentions for fulfilling their promise. At 12:56 a.m., Colonel William “Coin” Harvey stood near the throne and removed the black lace mask of the prince. To the surprise of the crowd, Major J. Henry Behan of New Orleans was unmasked as the prince. The queen was then unmasked, revealing the lovely Miss Minerva Anderson. The dance went on as the three men vanished into the crowd, not knowing that a detail of the Louisiana Rifles had them in their sights, ready to fire, if guns had been drawn.

The news releases that had been sent to other cities in Utah were published and announced that the Prince that was unmasked was “John Q. Cannon, one of the editors of the Standard.” He had been willing to take the risk but decided against it for the sake of public harmony among the Mormons and non-Mormons of the city.

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