Photography in History · Photojournalism

History in Pictures

Miss America contestants, circa 1920s.

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The Miss America competition is a scholarship pageant that is held annually and is open to women from the United States of America that are between the ages of 17 and 24.

In 1921, the competition originated as a “bathing beauty revue”.  The contest is now judged on competitors’ talent performances and interviews in addition to their physical beauty. Once crowned, Miss America travels about 20,000 miles a month… touring the nation and promoting her particular platform of interest.

Miss Arkansas 2016, Savvy Shields, is the current titleholder. She was crowned on September 11, 2016, by her predecessor Betty Cantrell.

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In 1920, there was an event entitled, The Fall Frolic. The Miss America pageant has its roots set in this event which was held on September 25 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The Fall Frolic was designed to bring business to the Boardwalk: “three hundred and fifty gaily decorated rolling wicker chairs were pushed along the parade route. Three hundred and fifty men pushed the chairs. However, the main attractions were the young ‘maidens’ who sat in the rolling chairs, headed by a Miss Ernestine Cremona, who was dressed in a flowing white robe and represented ‘Peace.'”

The event was so successful that The Businessmen’s League planned to repeat it the following year as a beauty pageant or as they called it, a “bather’s revue”…. and voila, The Miss America Pageant was born!

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Margaret Gorman, Miss District of Columbia, was declared “The Most Beautiful Bathing Girl in America” in 1921 at the age of 16 and was recognized as the first “Miss America” when she returned to compete the next year.

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