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Miss America 1921

Miss America 1921

Miss America 1921

ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO, September 8, 1921, the first Miss America pageant was won by Margaret Gorman of Washington, D.C. She was named “America’s Most Beautiful Bathing Girl” (a year later, her title was shortened to “Miss America”) over eight other women representing Atlantic City, Ocean City, New York City, Pittsburgh, Camden, Newark, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia.

The September 10, 1921 Ocean City Ledger reported: “Ocean City figured quite prominently in Atlantic City’s great pageant this week, and Miss Hazel Harris, who won The Ledger’s prettiest girl contest, got much applause, as Miss Ocean City, from the multitude of spectators as she took part in the various affairs arranged by the committee in charge of the pageant.

A front page article in the September 10, 1921 Ocean City Ledger reported on the first Miss America Pageant.

“Miss Harris is an attractive brunette, a graduate of Ocean City High School and the Trenton Normal School and has been a public school teacher in this city for a year.”

The pageant also included a best physical build contest for lifeguards. Arthur R. Behan, a member of the Ocean City Beach Patrol, was awarded first prize. The Ledger reported, “Out of fourteen contestants for the best physical build among lifeguards, Arthur R. Behan, a member of the Ocean City Beach Patrol was awarded first prize at the Atlantic City Pageant. Behan is rounding out his second year as a lifeguard here. During both seasons on the beach he was stationed at Park Place.”

The pageant included a boardwalk parade “Carnival on Wheels” led by King Neptune featuring floats covered with flowers and hundreds of decorated rolling chairs.

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The 1921 event was so successful that in 1922, 58 women were vying for the title of Miss America. Mary Campbell of Columbus, Ohio won the title.

Find this story and more in our September/October magazine

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