Miss District of Columbia 1933 Rita Burns - Semi-Finalist

No information about the Washington, DC contest has been located in historical newspapers, underscoring how while the pageants in the 1920s had wide newspaper coverage, by 1933 the local, state and national pageants must have been mostly advertised via the booming new technology -- radio. The nation's capital city contest was held in the Maryland suburb of Chevy Chase.


1930 Burns family census - Washington, D.C.
1930 census: Washington, D.C.:
2207 Washington Circle (6 blocks NW of the White House)
Emmett Burns, 49 (VA), superintendant of the Gas Light Company
May 40 (VA), Helen 18 (DC), Rita 15 (DC), Robert 13 (DC), John 12 (DC), Thomas 11 (DC), Marie 10 (DC), Trecia 6 (DC)
Rita Burns was born on June 28, 1914 to Emmet and May Burns in Washington, DC, the second of seven children.

Rita from the panorama picture - age 19
August 1-13 Newspaper article
Curiously, the Washington DC papers did not have articles about the Pageant and the sites and rules of competition. While a lot of newspapers carried a picture with caption of Rita Burns in early August (Aug 1-13), this was not found in any Washington DC newspaper, but rather in Ohio, Florida, New York and California! So while it is clear she was selected somehow, it is only known that the contest probably occurred the end of July and it was in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Chevy Chase, likely at the Chevy Chase Lake resort that hosted all the contestants the end of August. Clearly this underscores how in the larger cities, the promotion of the pageant was primarily by radio -- a huge departure from six years earlier. Newpaper caption: What could be more fitting than a "Miss America" from the nation's capital? The chances look rather bright now that Rita Burns, blonde and 19, has been chosen "Miss District of Columbia" to compete for the title at Atlantic City.

Rita was featured in an early Atlantic City newspaper report: "Make Pageant Audiences Stare." "Miss California, Miss Maryland, Miss D.C., whose appearance in evening costumes at the American Beauty Ball, first formal function of the Pageant, won them big rounds of applause. They were reported outstanding among the beauties in the points scored with the judges" - Atlantic City newspaper, Sep 7, 1933.

September 9, 1971 Santa Cruz, CA obit
In 1940 it appears that Rita is living with her three brothers, divorced with no children. Her parents and her husband-to-be Orval Lecuyer, as well as her three sisters, cannot be located.

Rita was the second youngest contestant to die, in 1971 in Santa Cruz at just age 57, survived by her husband and two sons, and also her her mother, three sisters, and one brother. California Death Index, 1940-1997. Name: Rita Lecuyer Sex: FEMALE Birth Date: 28 Jun 1914 Birthplace: Dist. of Columbia Death Date: 8 Sep 1971 Death Place: Santa Cruz

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In 2010 I was able to contact one of her sons to verify this information. He unfortunately had no information to add on her selection process in Washington, DC. He had contacted the Miss D.C. Pageant, and they had given me his surname. A search of Rita Lecuyer turned up her California Death Index listing.
-- curiously, no SSDI for Rita Lecuyer, 1914-1971; perhaps she had no SSN since she had never received any benefits.
-- SSDI for her husband: LECUYER, ORVAL 12 Nov 1916 Apr 1981 64 95060 (Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA) 95061 (Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA) California 560-07-2356