Monday, February 8, 2010

Mardi Gras Architect Charles Briton (1841-1884)

On 3 July 1884, The New York Times and The Daily Picayune both reported the death of a noted New Orleans architect, artist and civil engineer:

"The remains of Charles Briton, the artist, were laid away in Greenwood Cemetery on Wednesday morning. The deceased was forty-three years of age, a native of Gothenberg Sweden, and a resident of this city for twenty years. No person of his kindred was nigh, but neither in life nor death was he neglected."

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"There was a strange history connected with Briton's life, and as he was very reticent few fathomed his secret. Among his effects was a uniform which he wore in Mexico as one of Prince Salm-Salm's regiment, under the ill-fated Maximilian. After the death of his chief he came to New York and then to New Orleans. His genius was immediately recognized. Ever since the various mystic organizations have been in existence Mr. Briton has drawn the designs from which the wagons were decorated and the designs ordered. Not alone to New Orleans was his work confined, but Cincinnati, Baltimore and other cities owe the success of their Carnival representations to Briton. . . By his death a master pencil is lost."

The Daily Picayune 03.07.1884. Via America's Historical Newspapers, an electronic database available through Tulane University Libraries. Henri Schindler has surveyed Briton's pageant designs as the first chapter in his Mardi Gras Treasures: Costume Designs of the Golden Age. Gretna: Pelican Publishing Company, 2002 and his Mardi Gras Treasures: Float Designs of the Golden Age. Gretna: Pelican Publishing Company, 2001.

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