Mardi Gras krewes began as early as the city's founding in 1718 as a string of secret societies. The first krewe was organized in 1857 and called themselves the Mistick Krewe of Comus. In 1872, the Krewe of Rex was formed in part by efforts of the city to add order to the chaos of past Mardi Gras street parades and to give something back to the people of the city– hence their motto “Pro Bono Publico” or “for the public good.”
In the early days, long before cheap chains of Chinese-made beads, the parades threw expensive glass necklaces. The folks of Zulu decided to throw coconuts instead of beads which now have evolved into hand-painted and prized souvenirs.
However, throwing something as hard and heavy as a coconut from a parade float resulted in a lot of people being hurt. In 1987, Zulu was unable to get any insurance coverage and there was a halt to the throwing of coconuts. In 1988, Governor Edwin W. Edwards signed Louisiana State Bill #SB188, the “Coconut Bill”, into law removing liability from injuries resulting from a coconut – enabling the tradition to resume.
Instead of banning the coconut, they banned the lawsuits.