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Five of the debutantes all attend by invitation only are chosen by secret process to make up the "Veiled Prophet's Court of Honor. The founders' intent was to create an annual local celebration similar to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, eventually to include pageantry and costuming as well as a parade with floats.
In the face of increasing criticism of using civic resources to support a socially exclusive organization, this was renamed as Fair St. Louis in and broadened in appeal. The event had its roots in the St. Louis Agricultural and Mechanical Fair , an annual harvest festival which had been held in St. It attracted agricultural crops, crafts, demonstrations and attendees from throughout the region.
In the economic difficulties after the American Civil War in the s, such events declined. City boosters devised the Veiled Prophet Fair in an attempt to reclaim from the rapidly growing city of Chicago , pre-eminence for St. Louis as a manufacturing center and agricultural shipping point. On March 20, , Charles Slayback, a grain broker and former Confederate cavalryman who had spent several years in New Orleans after the Civil War and become acquainted with its Mardi Gras traditions called a meeting of local business leaders at the Lindell Hotel.
Together with his brother Alonzo , Slayback created a mythology for a secret elite society, whose public demonstrations would coincide with the annual fair.
In their version, the Prophet was a world traveler who had made St. Louis his home base. The first parade, attracting over 50, spectators, and grand ball were staged that year on October 8, The fair was also intended to re-assert the social hierarchy which had been challenged by the Great Railroad Strike of Spencer said this was the first and most successful strike of its type, and unusual for involving large numbers of African American workmen as well as ethnic whites.
He commented on the early imagery of the Veiled Prophet see image , wearing a hood and robe similar to members of the Ku Klux Klan and being armed with pistol and rifle, thus referring to issues of the white supremacist South.
At the time, the Missouri Republican commented, "It will be readily observed from the accoutrements of the Prophet that the procession is not likely to be stopped by street cars or anything else. Lucy Ferriss wrote about the VP events in her memoir, characterizing St.
Louis as "the northwest outpost of the Confederacy. The Prophet was selected secretly from among male members, who were made up of St. Louis' business and civic elite. The first prophet was Police Commissioner John G. Priest who had been energetic in suppressing the strikers' attempt to prevent strikebreakers from taking their jobs.
Although the identity of a given year's Grand Oracle, or Veiled Prophet, was officially a secret, early holders of the office were reported to include Col. Frank Gaiennie, John A. Haarstick, George Bain, Robert P. Normile, Wallace Delafield, John B. Gould, Henry Paschell, H.
In the 21st century, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch still speculates each year on the identity of the Veiled Prophet. The Queen of Love and Beauty, and later maids of honor, were to be selected by the Veiled Prophet from among the debutantes who had received invitations to the ball. The list of invitees was determined by a process never made public.
The supply of tickets was limited to members of the VP organization, which had a secret constitution, and the assignment of these non-transferrable tickets required the organization's approval. The Veiled Prophet would dance the "Royal Quadrille" with the Queen, and then award her some keepsake of the occasion. Over the years, the Queens and their courts received pearl necklaces or silver tiaras, which became family heirlooms as did the elaborate invitations themselves.
Thomas Birdsall days earlier, violating the rule that the Queen of Love and Beauty must be a "maiden. Louis Times , Smith recalled how the Veiled Prophet. Smith was "made to feel she disgraced her family. None of her friends stuck by her she was told she could not visit their houses , she was never invited to another VP ball, her picture was removed from the collection of queens' portraits at the Missouri Historical Society , and her name was deleted from the Social Register.
The ball, parade and fair became an established St. Louis tradition, though not without controversy. According to the official St. Louis city government website, "The traditional VP celebration has represented for St. Louisans a perceived link between different components of the community in a holiday celebration, while also reinforcing the notion of a benevolent cultural elite.
Spencer believes that the event generally revealed rather than soothed class conflicts. As early as , public objections were made to the ethnic stereotypes represented by some of the parade's floats.
Discussion of the SPK in written sources increased during the s, reaching a peak around , after which it fell before rising again from the early to mids. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. SPK Turn illness into a Weapon. Retrieved 14 December Der Psychiatrie-Komplex in German. How to apply the concept of illness". Retrieved 18 June Retrieved 2 December Retrieved 21 November Ruprecht Heidelberger Studierenzeitung , Number 35 16 May Dokumentation zum Sozialistischen Patientenkollektiv" [Proliferation, no longer tolerated.
Heidelberg University , West Germany.
Buchanan , then an editorial writer for the Globe-Democrat newspaper, particularly portrayed the group as radical dissidents. Confectioners' shops stocked the pea-shooters in anticipation of the parade, in a kind of institutionalized defiance.
Louis Post-Dispatch still speculates each year on the identity of the Veiled Prophet. However, the SPK experiment was criticized by many within Heidelberg's university and psychiatric clinic and the SPK's funding, salaries and meeting space were threatened.