By Liana Jacob
VINTAGE twentieth century photographs reveal just how popular and glamorous beauty pageant of the past really were.
The mono-chrome pictures show a large crowd of people surrounding the beauty pageant parade in Atlantic City, USA and another shows a beautiful contestant smiling with music papers scattered around her.
Other images reveal a line-up of beauty contestants in their swimming suits in Huntington Beach, California, in 1925, while another line-up shows the stunning woman wearing sashes in Venice, Italy, for the Venice Bathing Beauty Pageant in 1926.
Another panoramic picture shows a group of beauty pageants about to jump into a pool of oranges for the Miss Anaheim competition in LA, USA, 1929.
“A beauty pageant or contest is a competition manifestly based on an evaluation of contestants’ appearance., and contestants are typically, although not invariably, for girls or women,” Carol Brooks Gardner said in the book Gender and Society, edited by Jodi O’Brien.
“There is an implicit and obvious feminist criticism of the beauty pageant, which is most often a pyramidal contest that pits one woman against another and evaluates all in a series of eliminations.”
Entrepreneur, Phineas Taylor Barnum, staged the first modern American pageants in 1854, but his beauty contest had to be shut down due to a protest from the public.
The UK beauty pageant Miss United Kingdom was created in 1958 by British TV host, Eric Morley, the man behind the Miss World pageant.
“In addition to originating widely advertised contests that judged babies, flowers, and dogs, Barnum promoted ‘feminine beauty’ contests,” Carol said.
“These contests appealed to the American value of the competition, and they gained popularity thanks to the rise of the mass distribution newspaper and the technology of the daguerreotype.”
European festivals from as far back as the medieval period, provided the most direct connection for beauty pageants.
English May Day celebrations always involved the selection of a May Queen.