by Dave on June 5, 2009

As first seen in Coastal Sussex Weekly, May 21, 2009:

With all the controversy surrounding Miss California, Carrie Prejean, being allowed to keep her crown despite some questionable conduct, it begs the question: just where did these beauty pageants start? Who were the crazy people who thought it would be a good idea to parade women around in bathing suits and judge them?

Well, the answer might shock you — it was us. From an article in the Wall Street Journal this week:

Miss United States, a precursor to Miss America, took place in 1880 at Rehoboth Beach. The organizers insisted that women stand at least 5 feet 4 inches and weigh no more than 130 pounds. They also had to be unmarried (a rule that persists today). The publicity that contestants received helped them start careers in modeling, vaudeville or Hollywood.

So there you have it. It was simply an innovation in tourism to help struggling businesses in our fair beach town. The pageant was produced by a local official named Joseph A. Dodge, and the prize was a bridal trousseau.

Oh, and to top it all off, one of the judges that day was a man who knew a little something about innovation and firsts. His name?

Thomas Edison.

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