Jordan Kisner at The Believer:
There are many debutante balls in Texas, and a number of pageants that feature historical costumes, but the Society of Martha Washington Colonial Pageant and Ball in Laredo is the most opulently patriotic among them. In the late 1840s, a number of European American settlers from the East were sent to staff a new military base in southwest Texas, a region that had recently been ceded to the United States after the Mexican-American War. They found themselves in a place that was tenuously and unenthusiastically American. Feeling perhaps a little forlorn at being so starkly in the minority, these new arrivals established a local chapter of the lamentably named Improved Order of Red Men. (Members of the order dressed as “Indians,” called their officers “chiefs,” and began their meetings, or “powwows,” by banging a tomahawk instead of a gavel.)
The Improved Order of Red Men fashioned itself as a torchbearer for colonial-era American patriotism, and its young Laredo chapter was eager to enshrine that culture down at the border. So it formed the Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association (WBCA).