Miss America Pageant History
Miss America History 1921 to dateIn 1921, the Miss America Pageant was started as an inauspicious "national beauty tournament" on Atlantic City's beaches, concocted by local merchants to extend the summer tourism season into early September by staging a parade of bathing beauties on the town's beaches to select "the most beautiful bathing beauty in America." A local reporter, Herb Test, offhandedly suggested: "Let's call her 'Miss America!'
NOTE: We also offer a detailed decade-by-decade pageant history section where you can read a more detailed history of all major pageant systems.
Newspapers throughout the east coast were invited to run mail-in photo contests to select their representatives. When the contestants arrived in town that September, thousands of tourists flocked to Atlantic City to watch the first bathing beauties parade down the beach in swimsuits considered racy at the time (baggy wool dresses draped over bloomers and coordinated with knee socks!) The event was a huge success and the "pageant" of bathing beauties became so popular that it soon attracted massive crowds and its winners became celebrities of their times.
The judging panels in early years had the unenviable task of deciding which type of woman their queen would be - seductive and sexy...or wholesome and respectable. They concluded that someone called "Miss America" should reflect ideal American womanhood - pretty, charming and wholesome. Next
In years to come, what had now officially become the "Miss America Pageant", added:
gown to showcase a more wholesome image
By the half century mark, the pageant had evolved into a beloved national tradition, a popular annual television special on par with the Academy Awards at times, and a major scholarship program for women. By the end of the century the Miss America Organization had become the world's largest private provider of scholarships for women. In 2012, the Miss America system made available over $45 million in scholarship assistance to over 12,000 young women who competed at the local, state and national levels. All Miss America winners Famous pageant winners Pageant history
To read more Miss America Pageant history, select each year below for a recaps of that's year's pageant events, winners and runners-up, and interesting facts.
Miss America Pageants from 1921 to date
Copyright, ©Pageant Center, 1998. All rights reserved. This material is fully protected by United States copyright law. No content on this website can be reproduced or otherwise used without written permission from pageantcenter.com prior to such reproduction or use.
PageantCenter.com is not affiliated with the Miss America Pageant. Miss America® is a registered trademark that belongs to the Miss America Organization. All trademarks on this web site whether registered or not, are the property of their respective owners.
Find pageants near you
Add your pageant Free!
Miss Teen USA