Oct. 9, 1946, was an especially festive moment in local history: the Veiled Prophet Ball, suspended between 1942 and 1945 because of World War II, was back, and St. Louisans were ready to celebrate once again. More than 300,000 people lined the streets that night for the grand parade that preceded the event. They oohed and aahed as 20 elaborate floats glided by, led by a chariot that carried the Veiled Prophet. Afterward, 12,000 invited guests attended the actual coronation, which took place at Kiel Auditorium downtown. Life magazine was there, capturing every glittering moment in photos, some of them shown here, that spread the word nationwide about our local ritual.

    The bejeweled and tuxedoed crowd murmured its approval when the Prophet crowned Anne Kennett Farrar Desloge as his Queen of Love and Beauty, a tradition begun in 1894. Befitting those relatively innocent times, her gown was demure, her smile radiantly wholesome. It may be a little easier getting ready for the ball these days—blow-dryers and pantyhose weren’t around in 1946. But one thing hasn’t changed: the pomp and grandeur of the one and only Veiled Prophet Ball.