As early as 1902, Atlantic City merchants promoted a Floral Parade of bathing beauties. In the early parade, the decorated rolling chairs were judged, rather than the ladies riding in them.
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.
|Pageant Program cover, 1942. From the Atlantic City Heritage Collections, Atlantic City Free Public Library.|