Perley A. Thomas streetcar 904 passing the Pickwick Club, at the corner of Canal St. and St. Charles Avenue.
The Pickwick Club is an all-male, all-white lunch/social club. The club was originally affiliated with the Mistick Krewe of Comus, the oldest Carnival organization in the city. Comus has been around since 1857, when their two-float parade was the first of its kind in New Orleans. While the official connection between the club and Comus was broken in the 1880s, the membership of both organizations is reputed to be closely linked. Nobody knows for sure, however, because neither the Krewe nor the club make their membership public.
That lack of openness was the subject of a 1991 ordinance passed by the New Orleans City Council. That body decreed that, to get a permit to use public facilities like streets, an organization had to show it did not employ discriminatory practices in determining its membership. Rather than make its membership list public, Comus, along with two other Carnival organizations (Momus and Proteus) withdrew from the parade lineup. Proteus returned several years later, but Comus and Momus have steadfastly refused to comply, even though Comus won a lawsuit against the city, validating their right to freedom of assembly.
The Pickwick Club building is often confused with the Boston Club, which is actually down the street. While the Pickwick Club is closely aligned with Comus, the Boston Club is aligned with the School of Design, the organization which names Rex, King of Carnival, and parades on Mardi Gras morning. The Boston Club (which gets its name from the card game, not the city) is actually down the street. Prior to the 1991 blow-up, the Pickwick Club erected reviewing stands in front of the club on Canal St. Rex would roll down St. Charles and turn left onto Canal St., in front of the club. The king's float would stop there, and Rex would toast his queen, who watched the festivities of the day from that vantage point. Since the passage of the 1991 ordinance, however, the School of Design switched venues for their court, and now the toasts take place at the Intercontinental Hotel, at St. Charles and Poydras.