A young girl who had to leave the Mardi Gras ball early left behind a slipper that was returned to her when the man who found it wed her.
It was a special night for Adelaide Gordy. It’s not known whether it was her first ball or not, but it was a night that would change her life. From this night would come a story that would show that fairy tales can come true.
Upon hearing a tale that would enchant generations, her descendants would look at each other and smile, knowing, yes, it could happen. It had happened to Adelaide on February 24, 1857.
Early Mardi Gras History
Mardi Gras first came to America in 1699 before there even was a New Orleans. On March 3, French Explorer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville set up camp on the Mississippi River 60 miles south of present-day New Orleans. Iberville named the site of the celebration Point du Mardi Gras.
Under French rule, masked balls and festivals were common for Mardi Gras. That ended under Spanish control. That masked ball ban lasted even when New Orleans became part of the U.S. in 1803.
That changed in 1823 when the residents petitioned the governor to allow the masking. The first Mardi Gras parade happened in 1837.
However, the masks also allowed violence to grow during the festivals because it hid the criminals as well as the revelers. It became so bad that public opinion began turning against continuing Mardi Gras.
The 1857 Mardi Gras was the first one held by the Comus organization, a group of six New Orleaners who were determined to bring beauty and style back to a celebration that had become known for its violence. Comus started the traditions of having a secret Carnival society, a theme parade with floats and a ball after the parade. Their efforts not only saved Mardi Gras but created a night of magic for Adelaide.
Dressing for the Ball
The 16 year old attended the ball looking like a princess dressed in a gown made of tarlatan with silk in satin stitch. Amid all the guests, the young lady caught the eye of 27-year-old John Blount Robertson. The two danced, talked and ignited a spark. However, during the evening, Adelaide left the ball hurriedly; so much so she left behind one of her slippers.
Recovering the Slipper
John saw the stray slipper and retrieved it. Later he would write on the inside a memory of the night and the girl who wore it. He wrote:
“Slipper of Adelaide Gordy
Worn at Ball of Mystic – I saw
Mardi Gras 1857 [illegible] Street. By JBR”
John pursued Adelaide in a whirlwind courtship that culminated in their marriage on April 15, not even two months after they had met.
Dream Come True
On that special day, Adelaide enchanted John again, wearing the dress that had first caught his eye as her wedding dress and he returned to her the slipper she had left behind at the ball.