The 123rd Annual Veiled Prophet Ball was held recently at the Adams Mark Hotel. More than 2,000 guests were in attendance as last year’s queen, Janice Hope Jones, retired and the Veiled Prophet crowned a new “Queen of Love and Beauty,” Katherine Remington Martin, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Egley Martin. Four special maids of honor were also crowned: Susan Christina Sullivan, Mary Margaret Reagan, Kathryn Cole Boyle and Kaelan Devon Sullivan.

In total, 56 young women made their formal entrance into society during the lavish processional. The Queen wore a white strapless dupioni silk ball gown with pleated bodice and rose and crystal-adorned skirt designed by Saks Fifth Avenue. The special maids’ jewel-strapped gowns were also designed by Saks.

The Veiled Prophet Ball is St. Louis’ oldest and grandest social tradition. It dates back to 1878, when New Orleans natives and St. Louis businessmen Charles and Alonzo Slayback met with 20 other prominent businessmen to discuss ways to celebrate the city and promote its businesses. Inspired by the extravagant parades of Mardi Gras, the Slayback brothers suggested the men form a civic organization and sponsor an evening parade followed by a grand ball. The evening would be in honor of The Veiled Prophet, a mysterious and benevolent character created by the founding members of their new organization, which they named The Mysterious Order of the Veiled Prophet. Additionally, members of the Order decided to remain anonymous, so that credit for their good deeds could never be attributed to particular individuals.

The first year was a wild success. More than 50,000 onlookers lined the streets to get a glimpse of the more than 17 floats the Slayback brothers purchased from New Orleans. The horse-drawn floats carried monsters in costumes, beautiful maidens and heroes. The final float carried the masked Veiled Prophet to the Merchants Exchange building downtown for the ball. During the course of the evening, the Veiled Prophet chose a ‘Belle of the Ball,’ 16-year-old Susie Slayback, for the first dance.

It wasn’t until 1894 that the Belle of the Ball officially became the Queen of Love and Beauty, and although much has changed over the years, the organization’s dedication to promoting and serving the St. Louis community has remained constant.

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