" Pageantry Builds Endurance, Grace & Character."
- Charity Cramer
History of Pageantry
Understanding the history of Pageantry
George Washington Presidency
As symbols of bounty and community ideals continued, as young beautiful women participated in public celebrations. When George Washington rode from Mount Vernon to New York City in 1789 to assume the presidency, groups of young women dressed in white lined his route, placing palm branches before his carriage.
Start of Resort Pageants
By the early decades of the twentieth century, attitudes had begun to change about beauty pageants. Prohibitions against the display of women in public began to fade, though not to disappear altogether. One of the earliest known resort beauty pageants had been held in 1880, at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. However, it was not until the twentieth century that beach resorts began to hold regular beauty pageants as entertainments for the growing middle class.
Began Competition Requirements
In an effort to lure tourists to stay past Labor Day, Atlantic City organizers staged the first Miss America Pageant in September. Stressing that the contestants were both youthful and wholesome, the Miss America Pageant brought together issues of democracy and class, art and commerce, gender and sex — and started a tradition that would grow throughout the century to come.
First Modern Beauty Contest
Some of Barnum’s most popular attractions were “national contests” where dogs, chickens, flowers, and even children were displayed and judged for paying audiences. While 61,000 people swarmed to his baby show in 1855, a similar event the year before to select and exhibit “the handsomest ladies” in America proved a disappointment. The prize — a dowry (if the winner was single) or a diamond tiara (if the winner was married) — was not enough to lure respectable girls and women of the Victorian era to publicly display themselves.
One of the most popular of these contests occurred in 1905, when promoters of the St. Louis Exposition contacted city newspapers across the country to select a representative young woman from their city to compete for a beauty title at the Exposition. There was intense competition and, according to one report, forty thousand photo entries.