The Inner City Bathing Beauty contest started in 1921 and became Miss America.
Local business owners, wanting to expand the tourist season into September, combined efforts in 1921 to stage a revue. Newspapers in eight cities selected contestants to compete in the Inner City Bathing Beauty Contest. Margaret Gorman, a sixteen-year-old from Washington, DC, won the first contest. However, she was not officially named Miss America until the next year, when she returned to defend her crown. She lost, and the title was passed onto the next winner.
The earliest pageants were based solely on physical beauty and characteristics. By 1945 the talent portion was added and contestants competed for scholarships. The swimsuit portion of the competition was eliminated in 2018.
Recently, Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall has been the home of the pageant. In early years, the pageant was held in various other Atlantic City venues, including on the beach and in the Warner Theater. It was not held annually in the late 1920s and 1930s. From 2006 to 2013, the pageant was held in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Over the years, the Miss America competition 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.
“Show Us Your Shoes!”
While national audiences tune in to watch the crowning of Miss America, local residents look forward to the annual Miss America Show Us Your Shoes Parade.
The Parade, which dates back to the first pageant, has evolved, just like the competition. Earlier parades featured extravagant floats and decorated rolling chairs. Local businesses’ floats competed for trophies.
The current parade features the contestants riding in cars and decked out in costumes to represent their states or their own interests. Each contestant’s costume includes an elaborate pair of shoes. Parade viewers line the Boardwalk and call to the contestants to “Show us your shoes.”
Local lore states that in the 1970s or 1980s, the tired contestants had taken to wearing slippers under their gowns as they rode down the Boardwalk. Parade watchers on New York Avenue, viewing the event from a balcony, noticed this and encouraged the women to show off their footwear. Soon after, the shoes became as important a part - if not more so - than the costumes.