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February 20, 2022

Miss America Beauty Pageant Contestants, circa 1920s

This group of Miss America contestants posed for this portrait wearing ornate headpieces and flapper costumes in the 1920s.

(Photo by Atlantic Foto Service. Courtesy Bettmen Archive.)

The pageant, which was originally called Atlantic City’s Inter-City Beauty Contest, was organized in 1921 by a local businessmen’s group seeking to entice tourists to visit Atlantic City over Labor Day weekend.

The first winner was Margaret Gorman, Miss District of Columbia, who was declared “The Most Beautiful Bathing Girl in America” at the age of 16. She received a statue of a golden mermaid. Mary Katherine Campbell of Columbus, won in 1922 and 1923, and was the only woman to win twice. The eligibility rules will changed in 1924, to ensure that no one could win the title more than once.

The contest still exists and is referred to as a scholarship pageant.


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