“Here she is… Miss America…” All the contests and talent shows we have on television today have to give thanks, in part, to the original Miss America pageant.
The idea of a pageant came about as a way to promote Atlantic City tourism past the end of the summer season on Labor Day. They came up with a “Fall Frolic” in 1920. The next year, newspapers were encouraged to pick one “Inter-City Beauty” to send to the Fall Frolic pageant in Atlantic City. Eight contestants competed in the very first pageant in 1921. By 1922, the contest had grown with more than fifty contestants just one year later.
MISS AMERICA TRIVIA:
Did you know that the same girl won the pageant in 1922 and 1923, prompting officials to add a rule that you may only win the Miss America title once.
Over three hundred thousand people attended the 1923 pageant, and the results had to be broadcast over national radio for all the rest who couldn’t attend. A year later, the Newspaper Publishers Association warned newspapers AGAINST participating in the pageant, because all they were really doing was giving free publicity to Atlantic City. None of the papers declined to participate. And by 1925, the pageant was getting live radio coverage.
A combination of bad press and early effects of the Great Depression shut down the pageant from 1929 until 1932. 1932 saw the Miss America Pageant held in Wildwood instead of Atlantic City. The next year, the pageant returned to Atlantic City, with disastrous results. One contestant quit, another suffered appendicitis, yet another was shown to be married, and several couldn’t get their proof of residency on time. The 1934 pageant moved to New York City.
MISS AMERICA TRIVA:
Did you know that it was not until 1938 that officials finally added a rule saying that contestants could not be married, divorced, or even have a wedding annulled. They also added another rule restricting the age of contestants between 18 and 28.
Things seemed to be back on track for the pageant by 1935. The “Showman’s Variety Jubilee” managed to pay off some major debts the old pageant had left in its wake. Talent became a mandatory portion of the contest in 1938, accounting for a quarter of the score. People feared that World War II would create another hiatus in the Miss America Pageant, but pageant officials gave the contest a patriotic aspect to help boost the nation’s morale.
MISS AMERICA TRIVIA:
Did you know that the pageant was not officially known as Miss America until 1941!
1945 saw a new addition to the pageant: a scholarship award for the winner. Three years later, a scholarship prize was offered to Miss Congeniality, as well. By 1953, the pageant was the biggest scholarship foundation for women in the world, with a goal of offering scholarships to all of their contestants.
By 1954, the pageant was broadcast on national television. Coverage joined the event in progress, and twenty-seven million viewers tuned in to see who took the crown. Another pageant milestone the very next year: that famous song was introduced.
The pageant had its share of ups and downs, crisis and scandals right up until 2004, when ABC dropped the pageant broadcast to “pursue other opportunities.” Ironically enough, that year was the 50th anniversary of television broadcasts for the pageant. The next year, the pageant signed an agreement with Country Music Television to broadcast the pageant, but the contest was moving on. The 2006 Miss America Pageant was held in that OTHER casino city, Las Vegas.