“The Very Golden Apple” was the title of an essay by E. A. Tosbell in the Sept. 3, 1927 issue that examined the transformation of the Miss America pageant–just seven years old–into a big money concern.
Tosbell opened with the lament that Miss Los Angeles, Adrienne Dore, should have won the 1925 contest save for a lapse in table manners…
Tosbell offered us a taste of what contestants could expect upon their arrival in Atlantic City…
Norma Smallwood from Tulsa, Oklahoma was crowned Miss America 1926, the first Native American to capture the title. Smallwood was highly criticized in the press for her business savvy as she went on to earn $100,000 through personal appearance fees and product endorsements. Tosbell noted:
In 1927 Smallwood would again draw criticism when she requested $600 from the pageant for her appearance in crowning the new winner, Lois Delander. Delander was a high school student who won her local contest in Joliet, Illinois by reciting Bible verses. Unlike her predecessors, Delander turned down lucrative offers in show business and returned home to continue her school studies.
In the case of a 1922 Miss America contestant, Georgia Hale, you didn’t have to win the pageant to make it to the Big Time. Hale was chosen by Charlie Chaplin to be his “leading lady” in 1925’s The Gold Rush, and in the following year she would play Myrtle Wilson in the first filmed version of The Great Gatsby. A savvy businesswoman, Hale would become wealthy through real estate investments in Southern California.
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The September 3 “Talk of the Town” offered some insights into the dressing habits (and tardiness) of New York’s dandified mayor, Jimmy Walker, who was preparing for an overseas journey. Excerpts:
The New Yorker continued its commentary on the changing city skyline as urban residences continued their skyward climb, including the oddly named Oliver Cromwell apartment hotel:
An advertisement in the same issue touted the Cromwell’s serene, park-like setting:
There were numerous advertisements like these in the New Yorker. Another promoted the Beverly’s sky-high “wind-swept terraces…”
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On to the Sept. 10, 1927 issue, and a couple of cartoons that aptly represented the spirit of Roaring Twenties…
…Johan Bull offered a glimpse of the new rich in the realm of culture…
…while Carl Rose captured the spirit of investors during the waning days of the red hot 1920s stock market…
It was a busy week for the Sept. 19 issue of The New Yorker. “The Talk of the Town” reported that ‘amateur beauties” at the Atlantic City Beauty Pageant (known today as the Miss America Pageant) were “protesting against the presence of professional sisters in the contest.” Talk then posed this question:
“Is beauty, one wondered, ever amateur? Is it not the most professional of all professional matters? To a man it would seem so. But women may know better. And if there is a distinction—if we are to have amateur and professional beauties—why should not the Atlantic City promoters take a leaf from golf’s book and hold an open championship, wherein the two classes may meet?
The winner of last year’s beauty contest, Miss Ruth Malcomson, tells how she won it in a recent issue of Liberty; and from these writings we leap hastily to the conclusion that the very beautiful are also very very simple.
“Talk” was right about Ruth Malcomson, who was just 18 when she won the title. A native of Philadelphia, she defeated 85 fellow contestants including incumbent Mary Campbell, who was seeking her third consecutive crown. At the time the contest was only in its fourth year, and the winner was called “The Golden Mermaid.”
Malcomson was among the critics of the “professional” contestants. According to her obituary in the Philadelphia Inquirer (May 28, 1988) Malcomson stated in 1925 that “The pageant now has become nothing but a commercial proposition to exploit the beauties who make their living from their good looks. What chance has an ordinary girl, untrained, to win a contest in which girls who have been trained to make the most of their beauty are competing?”
In her Liberty Magazine interview, she also blasted women’s groups for berating her involvement in the competition.
Malcomson hinted that the women’s groups were exploiting her, not the pageant (yes, there is nothing new under the sun…).
True to her word, Malcomson married an unassuming Carl Schaubel in 1931 and returned to a quiet, simple life in suburban Philadelphia.
In other “Talk” items, the “No Smoking” rule at the public library was challenged, and arguments were made for special smoking rooms that could be reserved for writers. The column also offered comment on the growing popularity of tennis as a professional spectator sport, rather than merely a side activity for a society weekend:
“Profiles” turned its attention to bodybuilder and publisher Bernarr McFadden (featured in an earlier post in this blog). McFadden was always at the cutting-edge of scandal, whether for the nearly nude photos featured in his Physical Culture Magazine, or for the celebrity scandal and sensational crime reported in his Evening Graphic.
In his essay “Murder As Bad Art,” Waldo Frank pondered America’s high homicide rate, and suggested that murder is an expedient means toward an end for the impatient American. An excerpt, with artwork by Helen Hokinson:
In “Books,” Harry Este Dounce offered a lengthy, thoughtful and positive review of Willa Cather’s latest novel, The Professor’s House (my favorite by Cather), and likened its tone to an Ibsen play. Cather would continue to receive praise from New Yorker critics throughout the remainder of her career.
In “Sports Of The Week” John Tunis offered extensive coverage of the Davis Cup matches, and noted that American star Bill Tilden was hurt and was “far from the Tilden of old.” There were rumors that Tilden was determined to throw his match with French tennis champion Jean Borotra. Tunis wrote that he had his suspicions, but offered that perhaps Tilden was playing carelessly as he had done before “with other less celebrated opponents.”
And Lois Long offered her frank opinions on two New York hotspots, the 45th Street Yacht Club and the Owl Club at 125 East 45th:
And another ad courtesy of Raoul Fleischmann, with testimonials from a man and two women who credit Fleischmann yeast with curing them of boils, constipation and “bilous” attacks:
Well, at least advertising revenue is up, but this ad seems out of place in a magazine like The New Yorker:
Culkin was a Tammany Hall politician who would serve as county sheriff from 1926 to 1929. He was later indicted for embezzling interest money from the sheriff’s office, part of the whole mess that brought down Mayor Jimmy Walker (we will explore that later, I am sure).
Now, for a couple of cartoons by I. Klein and Johann Bull, featured on facing pages, that illustrate two very different aspects of New York life in the 1920s: