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Veiled Prophet: Symbol of wealth, power and, to some, racism

Veiled Prophet: Symbol of wealth, power and, to some, racism

On Oct. 8, 1878, the Post-Dispatch covered the first Veiled Prophet celebration, saying the city was "overflowing with strangers, all anxious and glowing with prospects of the brilliant panorama."

Since then, the Veiled Prophet has visited St. Louis, gracing the city's debutantes with a grand ball and parade.

The details have changed over the decades: the ball was once held in the fall, the parade used to be on the day of the party. But the prophet's identity is still kept a secret, and his presence still stirs controversy.

The organization was co-founded by former Confederate officer Alonzo Slayback. The ball met with protests in the 1970s and in recent years as well. It had to move from a city-owned auditorium over allegations of racism. The members of the organization didn't include any black men until 1979. 

The prophet crowns a queen every year; their last names include Kemper, Busch, Danforth, Schnuck, Schlafly, Chouteau, Cabanne, Niedringhaus, Desloge and other historic St. Louis families.

The Veiled Prophet Organization still holds a parade, and funds Fair St. Louis to celebrate Independence Day. 

— Compiled by Beth O'Malley, bomalley@post-dispatch.com

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