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What Do Charles Darwin, Ulysses S. Grant, and Mardi Gras Have in common?

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Mardi Gras celebrations in Louisiana are almost always tinged with political and social satire. President Bush, Governor Jindal, even Britney Spears — these are just a few of the names that have inspired floats and costumes in recent years. In 1873, New Orleans’ famous Mystick Krewe of Comus took their inspiration from none other than British naturalist Charles Darwin, who had recently published On the Origin of Species, the controversial book in which Darwin presented his theory of natural selection.

Dressed as everything from mice to monkeys, the members of the krewe paraded through the streets of the city. A poem written in imitation of Alexander Pope’s Essay on Man was painted on transparencies and carried along by the revelers. The real butt of the joke, however, was the Republican Party, not Darwin. The city police force, which supported the GOP and its plan for reconstruction of the post-Civil War South, wasn’t amused. As the parade tried to cross Canal Street, the police ended it.

That didn’t prevent the publication of a small book to commemorate the event. Now part of the Irby C. Nichols Papers at the LSU Libraries and entitled The Missing Links to Darwin’s Origin of Species, the book contains more than a dozen cartoons of strange creatures, half man, half beast. Some of the characters are identifiable. Ulysses S. Grant, for example, has been crossed with a caterpillar and lounges on a leaf smoking a cigar. General Benjamin Butler, the despised commander of the Union army in New Orleans during the Civil War, is shown in another cartoon dining with a party of bears and hyenas. Members of the notoriously corrupt metropolitan police force are depicted throughout the book as slithering animals of every shape and size. Such men, the poem suggests, were fit subjects for Darwin’s investigations as well as proof that he was right — just look at the people who are running our city and there can be no doubt that men are indeed descended from apes.

Interested in the intersection of science and social history? Explore our catalog or contact us to find out more about what we have to offer.

Michael Taylor is Curator of Books, LSU Libraries’ Special Collections

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2019

Comeaux, Dave;  Emily Frank; and Mike Waugh. “Supporting Student Success: E-books as Course Materials,” CODEX: Journal of the Louisiana Chapter of the ACRL. Volume 5, Issue 2 (Fall/Winter 2019).

O’Neill, Brittany; and  Allen LeBlanc. “Evaluating Trends in Instruction Scheduling Management: A Survey of Louisiana’s Academic Libraries,” CODEX: Journal of the Louisiana Chapter of the ACRL. Volume 5, Issue 2 (Fall/Winter 2019).

Ziegler, Scott; and Cara Key. “More Than a Pretty Interface: The Louisiana Digital Library as a Data Hub,” CODEX: Journal of the Louisiana Chapter of the ACRL. Volume 5, Issue 2 (Fall/Winter 2019).

2018

Hebert, Andrea. “Information Literacy Skills of First-Year Library and Information Science Graduate Students: An Exploratory Study,” Evidence Based Library and Information Practice Volume 13, Issue 3 (September 2018).

Miller, Marty. “Sacred vs. Profane in The Great War: A Neutral’s Indictment: Louis Raemaekers’s Use of Religious Imagery in Adoration of the Magi and Our Lady of Antwerp.” Catholic Library World, vol. 89, no. 1, Sept. 2018, pp. 20–32.

Wilder, Stanley. “Delayed Retirements and the Youth Movement among ARL Library Professionals,” Research Library Issues, no. 295 (2018).

Wilder, Stanley. “Hiring and Staffing Trends in ARL Libraries,” Research Library Issues, no. 295 (2018).

Wilder, Stanley. “Selected Demographic Trends in the ARL Professional Population,” Research Library Issues, no. 295 (2018).

Ziegler, Scott; and Richard Shrake. “PAL: Toward a Recommendation System for Manuscripts,” Information Technology and Libraries, Vol. 37, No. 3 (2018).

2017

Caminita, C.; Cook, M.; and Paster, A. (2017). Thirty years of preserving, discovering, and accessing U.S. agricultural information: Past progress and current challenges. Library Trends, 65(3), 293-315.

Dauterive, Sarah; John Bourgeois; and Sarah Simms. “How little is too little? An examination of information literacy instruction duration for freshmen.” Journal of Information Literacy, 11.1 (2017): 204-219.

Fontenot, Mitch; Emily Frank; and Andrea Hebert. “Going Where the Users Are: Three Variations on a Theme,” Louisiana Libraries, Fall 2017.

Hawk, Amanda K. “Highflying Crowdfunding: Creating a Successful Partnership with a Campus Donor,” Archival Outlook, July/August 2017: 12-13, 19. https://www.bluetoad.com/publication/?i=422988.

Hebert, Andrea; and Marty Miller. (2017). Using FSA-OWI photographs to teach information and visual literacy. Louisiana Libraries, 79(3), 19–25.

Johnson, Hayley. “#NoDAPL: Social Media, Empowerment, and Civic Participation at Standing Rock,” Library Trends, Fall 2017.

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