While watching some stupid TLC show about beauty pageants, I thought to myself, who invented this strange practice? I answered myself:
While beauty pageants tie in to the choosing of kings and queens for May Day, it appears beauty pageants in the modern sense originated in the U.S.
“The first modern American pageant was staged by P. T. Barnum in 1854, but his beauty contest was closed down by public protest. He previously held dog, baby, and bird beauty contests. He substituted daguerreotypes for judging, a practice quickly adopted by newspapers. Newspapers held photo beauty contests for many decades: In 1880, the first “Bathing Beauty Pageant” took place as part of a summer festival to promote business in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
Contests became a regular part of summer beach life, with the most elaborate contests taking place in Atlantic City, New Jersey (“Fall Frolic”) and Galveston, Texas (“Splash Day”), where the events attracted women from many cities and towns.”
pictured - a poster for one of Barnum’s early pageants.