​Almanac: Miss America


Margaret Gorman, of Washington, D.C., was 16 when she was named winner of the first Miss America pageant in 1921.

CBS News

And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: September 7th, 1921, 93 years ago today . . . when beauty put the Boardwalk in Atlantic City on the map.

For on that day eight young girls arrived on the New Jersey shore to compete for the title of the very first Miss America.

The "Inter-City Beauty Contest " (as the pageant was originally called) was a stunt dreamed up by business owners who wanted to keep the summer crowds in town beyond Labor Day.

Margaret Gorman at Atlantic City, N.J. Library of Congress

To appease conservative groups scandalized by the loosening morals of the Roaring '20s, contestants had to wear modest bathing suits -- and were not allowed to wear makeup or bob their hair.

The winner of the crown that first year was 16-year-old Margaret Gorman from Washington, D.C. At five feet one, with long ringlets, she was the spitting image of Mary Pickford, the biggest movie star of the day.

Gorman was wrapped in an American flag and given a Golden Mermaid trophy.

Beginning in 1954, the pageant moved to television, drawing audiences of millions. The following year, emcee Bert Parks started a tradition with the now-famous song, "There She is, Miss America."

Over the years, the Miss America pageant has had to change, along with the social mores of the times.

In 1945, Bess Myerson became the first Jewish Miss America.

The pageant's "Rule Seven," limiting participation to white women, was eventually dropped. But it wasn't until 1984 that Vanessa Williams would become the first African-American to wear the crown.

Today, more than 10,000 young women each year hope to compete in the Miss America Beauty Pageant . . . a far cry from the eight beauties who started it all back on the Boardwalk in 1921.

Nina Davuluri (center), of New York, is crowned Miss America 2014 at Boardwalk Hall Arena on September 15, 2013 in Atlantic City, N.J. Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

For more info: