Klu Klux Klansman In Full Costume, c. 1869
Part of the Online Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, this tintype photo dated ca. 1869 is one of the earliest known photographs of a Klansman in costume. The secret society of racial vigilantes had only started about four years prior in Pulaski, Tennessee.
Though the Klu Klux Klan used a variety of different costumes, variations of the white draped robes seen above are the most recognized today. The oversized cuts of cloth worn by the men were meant to invoke images of spirits, with the long, flowing pants created purposely to cover the legs and stirrups while on horseback. Klansmen would also drape their horses in white and cover the hooves to muffle sounds, adding more to the ghoulish display meant to play upon the superstitions of Southern black communities.