12 Unusual Mid-Century Pageant Queens
It is a centuries-old tradition for communities to pick a pretty girl to be the “queen” of their seasonal festivals. This was most often seen in the selection of a May Day Queen. The practice evolved into the beauty pageants that we’re all familiar with. In the mid-20th century, businesses and communities began to see the huge commercial possibilities of holding a contest where pretty girls would compete just for the honor of representing their product or main export. Thus there became a beauty pageant and crown for almost every saleable thing imaginable. Below are listed just a few.
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1. Sausage Queen
In 1955, the Zion Meat Company declared Geene Courtney the Sausage Queen of their National Hot Dog Week. Miss Courtney, who once appeared as a bathing beauty in a Three Stooges short, is reported to have been a staunch Catholic who refused to pose nude for Salvador Dali. Because a girl has to keep her dignity.
2. Apple Festival Queen
Although I can’t identify this particular Apple Festival Queen from the Festival’s comprehensive list, I can tell you she was part of the long tradition of Jackson, Ohio Apple Festival Queens dating back to 1937 (interrupted only for WWII). The Festival still produces sweet crisp apples and queens today.
3. Peanut Queen
The Alabama National Peanut Festival began in 1938 (featuring key speaker George Washington Carver, of course.) This photo was taken a year later, showing 1939 Peanut Queen Dot McArthur in a peanut swimsuit, presenting a prize to one lucky winner.
4. Miss American Vampire
Before Johnny Depp and Tim Burton got their goth-and-glam all over it, Dark Shadows was a bizarre 1960s and '70s spooky soap opera. In a tie-in with the show, a Miss American Vampire contest was held. Above is regional winner Christine Domaniecki of Belleville, NJ. The guy crowning her was the original Barnabas, Jonathan Frid. The national winner—selected by a panel of judges that included Regis Philbin—was Sacheen Littlefeather, best known as the Native American woman who refused an Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando.
5. Pumpkin Queen
The Circleville Ohio Pumpkin Show began in 1903 when the city’s mayor decorated his office-front with a few jack-o-lanterns and corn shucks. It has grown considerably since then, and has crowned a Pumpkin Queen every year since 1933 (minus of course, the years of WWII.) Above, pictured becoming truly united with the spirit of pumpkinhood, is the adorable 1972 Pumpkin Queen Kathy Uland.
6. Miss Polish Job
The Muller Brothers Automotive on Sunset Blvd was a 4 acre paradise for cars. The goal of this service station was to fill any automotive need a man (yeah, probably a man) might have. Opened in 1920, by the time LIFE Magazine came to document Muller’s 3,000,000th car wash, there was no limit to what this piece of car heaven could provide. You could buy your car, get new tires, lube jobs, gas, carwash, and, as the lovely lady above testifies, a magnificent polish job. Miss Polish Job was one of many beauty queens Muller’s boasted, including Miss Infra-Red Paint Job, Miss Auto Accessory, and Miss Lube Rack.
7. National Uranium Queen
This is the National Uranium Queen of 1956, Brook Robin. Precious little information could be found about Miss Robin and her radioactive achievement, which we sincerely hope has nothing to do with over-exposure and internal irradiation. At least uranium isn’t absorbed through exposed skin.
8. Donut Queen
Kris Nodland beat out 250 hopeful girls across America to be crowned Donut Queen of 1951. Here she poses with the Gingerbread Donut Boy to announce the opening of the 14th Annual National Donut Week, April 7 - 14, 1951. National Donut Day is still a holiday in America, claiming to have pre-WWII roots when women would bring donuts and coffee to wounded soldiers.
9. Miss Idaho Potato
Miss Idaho Potato,1935. Again, little information is known about this photo. Teach your daughters to be skeptical if anyone wants to celebrate their beauty by stripping them down and burying them in large potatoes.
10. Miss Sweater Girl
The Miss Sweater Girl contest was sponsored by Wool Bureau and the Knitted Outerwear Foundation. Here we see Miss Jeanne Davis of Alabama being crowned Sweater Girl of 1952. A cute little junior miss was also crowned, and five years later a Mr. Sweater (“The Man We’d Most Like To Buy A Sweater For”) would be added. Otherwise it would just be a bosom-and-bullet-bra competition, which didn’t fit the family image of the sponsors.
11. International Posture Queen
If people think your profession doesn’t quite deserve the word “medical” in front of it yet, they you may be a chiropractor in the 1950s. So spread word of your legitimacy by bringing on the pretty girls with the well-aligned spines. Besides being pretty, girls who wanted to wear the Posture Queen crown would have to stand on scales, one under each foot. The goal was to have the same amount of weight distributed on each foot, proving perfect posture. Here we see the well-balanced Diane Stopky, the 1957 International Posture Queen. That girl has coccygeal vertebrae that just won’t quit!
12. The Blueberry Queen
The name of this 1955 Blueberry Queen is lost to history. But the name of the photographer is Hal Mathewson. He can be remembered either as a brilliant absurdist, or as the man who thought a naked woman in a hotel bathtub filled with food would make people want to eat that food.