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Miss America Pageant Collections

History
Electronic Resources
Published Resources
Multimedia Resources
Archival and Special Collections
Early Miss America Contestants
Miss America Pageant Winners

History

As early as 1902, Atlantic City merchants promoted a Floral Parade of bathing beauties. In 1921, as a device for extending the summer season beyond Labor Day, some Atlantic City businessmen organized a small-scale beauty contest. Seven cities in the Northeast each sent a "beauty maid" to represent them in the contest during the first week of September. The first winner was sixteen year-old Margaret Gorman, representing Washington, D.C., who was awarded a Golden Mermaid statue and the title "Miss America". The first contestants, clad in bathing suits, were judged solely on their appearance. From this two-day event evolved the Miss America Pageant we know today.

The Miss America Organization was incorporated and the contest officially became the Miss America Pageant in 1940. By 1945, judging criteria had expanded to include talent and poise and the winners received scholarships. During the next ten years, city representation was phased out, and representation at the national pageant is currently by state. The pageant was televised for the first time in 1954. Over the years, the Miss America Pageant has undergone many changes and adaptations, its development reflecting changes in American life. It has become a model for similar competitions around the world and is one of Atlantic City's many contributions to entertainment history.

The Miss America Pageant moved to Las Vegas, Nevada in January 2006 and was held there until January 2013. The pageant returned to Atlantic City in September 2013, when Miss America 2014 was crowned.

h009.1921missamericapageantlibraryfloat2_web

As part of the first Inner City Beauty Pageant in 1921, the Atlantic City Free Public Library participated in the parade with a float designed to look like the Library building's entrance. (H001.1921MissAmericaPageantLibraryFloat2; ACFPL Heston Collection)
Learn more about the 1921 pageant on The Atlantic City Experience website

Electronic Resources

Published Resources at the Atlantic City Free Public Library

Bivans, Ann-Marie. Miss America: In Pursuit of the Crown . New York: MasterMedia Limited, 1991.
History of the pageant, its contestants and the process involved in the competition and selection of Miss America.

Deford, Frank. There She Is: the Life and Times of Miss America . New York: Viking, 1971.
Fifty-year history examines the local, state and national levels of the pageant.

Dworkin, Susan. Miss America 1945: Bess Meyerson's own story . New York: Newmarket Press, 1987.
A look at the pre-feminist nineteen-forties and how they influenced Ms. Myerson and her generation.

Goldman, William. Hype & Glory . New York: Villard Books, 1990.
An irreverent and humorous account of the author's experiences as a judge at both the Cannes Film Festival and the Miss America Pageant in 1988.

Gray, Daphne. Yes, You Can, Heather!: the Story of Heather Whitestone, Miss America 1995. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1995.
Mother's account of her hearing-impaired daughter's dream to become Miss America.

Martin, Nancie S. Miss America Through the Looking Glass : the Story Behind the Scenes. New York: Messner Books, 1985.
Written mainly for young adults, this history of the pageant outlines the contestants' involvement and the ways in which the pageant changed their lives.

The Miss America Organization. Official Yearbook of the Miss America Pageant.
Annual pageant program featuring photographs and biographical sketches of contestants. (The Library's Atlantic City Heritage Collection has incomplete but extensive holdings of yearbooks dating from 1922 through the present.)

Osborne, Angela Saulino. Miss America, the Dream Lives On . Dallas, TX: Taylor Publishing, 1995.
Commemorative book issued on the 75th anniversary of the pageant.

Preston, Jennifer. Queen Bess: An Unauthorized Biography of Bess Myerson. Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1990.

Riverol, A. R.  Live From Atlantic City: the History of the Miss America Pageant Before, After and In Spite of Television. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1992.
Historical study by a scholar and media critic presents opposing perspectives on the significance of the pageant. Extensive bibliography.

Watson, Ellwood. There She Is, Miss America: the Politics of Sex, Beauty and Race in America's Most Famous Pageant . Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

Multimedia Resources

PBS Home Video. Miss America. DVD Format approx. 96 min long, c2002.

Crowning Segments and highlight reels, 1944 - 1992. (Heston Collection; *multimedia collections require a special appointment for access)

Archival and Special Collections

The Atlantic City Heritage Collection contains many resources related to the Miss America Pageant, including photographs, videos and film, books, and clippings files. Some of the resources are:

  • Vibrina Coronado Miss America Research Collection (H065)
  • Samuel Formicola Miss America Collection, 1957-1968 (H047)
  • Miss America Organization, Pageant Contestant Photographs (1967-present)
  • Miss America Organization, Pageant Winners Photographs (1927-1929, 1955-1995)
  • Miss America Collection (H029) - memorabilia, videos, photographs, programs
  • Atlantic City Free Public Library Collection of Atlantic City Photographs (H009) - photographs of parades, City officials with pageant participants

Early Miss America Contestants (1921-1944)

h009.394.5fir329web

The Heston Collection staff has compiled a list of pageant contestants from the early years. The list is not complete. Please contact us if you have additional information to help complete the list.

Early Miss America Contestants (PDF)

Atlantic City was home to the first Miss America Pageant in 1921 which included representatives from 7 cities and Atlantic City. Sixteen year-old Margaret Gorman from Washington, DC (at far left in white hat) won the first competition. (H009.394.5fir329; ACFPL Heston Collection)

Miss America Pageant Winners

For more information on  individual pageant winners, see the Miss America Organization webpage.

YearMiss AmericaFrom
1921 Margaret Gorman Washington, D.C.
1922 Mary Campbell Columbus, Ohio
1923 Mary Campbell Columbus, Ohio
1924 Ruth Malcolmson Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1925 Fay Lanpier Oakland, California
1926 Norma Smallwood Tulsa, Oklahoma
1927 Lois Delaner Joliet, Illinois
1933 Marion Bergeron West Haven, Connecticut
1935 Henrietta Leaver Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
1936 Rose Coyle Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1937 Bette Cooper Bertrand Island, New Jersey
1938 Marilyn Meseke Marion, Ohio
1939 Patricia Donnelly Detroit, Michigan
1940 Frances Marie Burke Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1941 Rosemary LePlanche Los Angeles, California
1942 Jo-Carroll Dennison Tyler, Texas
1943 Jean Bartel Los Angeles, California
1944 Venus Ramey Washington, D.C.
1945 Bess Myerson New York, New York
1946 Marilyn Bufferd Los Angeles, California
1947 Barbara Walker Memphis, Tennessee
1948 BeBe Shopp Hopkins, Minnesota
1949 Jacque Mercer Litchfield, Arizona
1951 Yolande Betbeze Mobile, Alabama
1952 Coleen Kay Hutchins Salt Lake City, Utah
1953 Neva Jane Langley Macon, Georgia
1954 Evelyn Margaret Ay Ephrata, Pennsylvania
1955 Lee Meriwether San Francisco, California
1956 Sharon Ritchie Denver, Colorado
1957 Marian McKnight Manning, South Carolina
1958 Marilyn Van Derbur Denver, Colorado
1959 Mary Ann Mobley Brandon, Mississippi
1960 Lynda Mee Mead Natchez, Mississippi
1961 Nancy Fleming Montague, Michigan
1962 Maria Fletcher Asheville, North Carolina
1963 Jacquelyn Mayer Sandusky, Ohio
1964 Donna Axum El Dorado, Arkansas
1965 Vonda Kay Van Dyke Phoenix, Arizona
1966 Deborah Irene Bryant Overland Park, Kansas
1967 Jane Anne Jayree Laverne, Oklahoma
1968 Debra Dene Barnes Moran, Kansas
1969 Judith Anne Ford Belvidere, Illinois
1970 Pamela Anne Eldred Birmingham, Michigan
1971 Phyllis Ann George Denton, Texas
1972 Laurie Lee Schaefer Columbus, Ohio
1973 Terry Anne Meeuwson De Pere, Wisconsin
1974 Rebecca Ann King Denver, Colorado
1975 Shirley Cothran Fort Worth, Texas
1976 Tawny Elaine Godin Yonkers, New York
1977 Dorothy Kathleen Benham Edina, Minnesota
1978 Susan Perkins Columbus, Ohio
1979 Kylene Barker Galax, Virginia
1980 Cheryl Prewitt Ackerman, Mississippi
1981 Susan Powell Elk City, Oklahoma
1982 Elizabeth Ward Russellville, Arkansas
1983 Debra Maffett Anaheim, California
1984 Vanessa Williams Millwood, New York (resigned)
1984 Suzette Charles Mays Landing, New Jersey
1985 Sharlene Wells Salt Lake City, Utah
1986 Susan Akin Meridian, Mississippi
1987 Kellye Cash Memphis, Tennessee
1988 Kaye Lani Rae Rafko Monroe, Michigan
1989 Gretchen Carlson Anoka, Minnesota
1990 Debbye Turner Mexico, Missouri
1991 Marjorie Judith Vincent Oak Park, Illinois
1992 Carolyn Suzanne Sapp Kona, Hawaii
1993 Leanza Cornett Jacksonville, Florida
1994 Kimberly Clarice Aiken Columbia, South Carolina
1995 Heather Whitestone Birmingham, Alabama
1996 Shawntel Smith Muldrow, Oklahoma
1997 Tara Dawn Holland Overland Park, Kansas
1998 Katherine Shindle Evanston, Illinois
1999 Nicole Johnson Roanoke, Virginia
2000 Heather French Maysville, Kentucky
2001 Angela Perez Baraquio Honolulu, Hawaii
2002 Katie Harman Gresham, Oregon
2003 Erika Harold Urbana, Illinois
2004 Ericka Dunlap Orlando, Florida
2005 Deidre Downs Birmingham, Alabama
2006 Jennifer Berry Tulsa, Oklahoma
2007 Lauren Nelson Lawton, Oklahoma
2008 Kirsten Haglund Farmington Hills, Michigan
2009 Katie Stam Seymour, Indiana
2010 Caressa Cameron Fredericksburg, Virginia
2011 Teresa Scanlan
Gerig, Nebraska
2012 Laura Kaeppeler Kenosha, Wisconsin
2013 Mallory Hytes Hagan Brooklyn, New York
2014 Nina Davuluri Syracuse, New York