Miss America 1933 Disqualifications
Four MidWest Contestants: Arkansas, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa
The exact timing and specifics of the problems that plagued the MidWest contestants, specifically qualifications (age, marriage and residency) and selection, cannot be determined these 70+ years afterwards. However, it does seem clear that they were caused by James Carrier who was the Promotion Director of the Atlantic City Beauty Pageant, apparently fired just prior to the start of the Pageant in Atlantic City. And it appears that James Carrier had sole discretion over the selection process of the MidWest state beauty queens who would subsequently compete in the national Pageant in Atlantic City in September 5-9, 1933.
|the 7 red MidWest states sent contestants who joined the Whistle Stop Tour; all are thought to have been chosen under the authority of James Carrier; WV is pink and was not part of the entire Whistle Stop Tour. Map of states of all 31 contestants.|
The Miss America Pageant was not the only beauty pageant in 1933, not even the only one choosing a "Miss America." Without a lot of newspaper advertising, the Atlantic City pageant was actually rather obscure, and it was especially so outside the east coast. There had not been a Miss America contest for six years, since 1927. The world had changed and the contest had changed -- marketing was now by radio and not newspaper, and the contestants were chosen by state instead of by city. So it was like starting a new pageant over again from scratch, and the lack of organization showed it.
And in the MidWest in 1933 it likely was overshadowed by the highly advertised World's Fair contest -- which guaranteed a stupendous $5,000 grand prize (worth over $80,000 today, and that was in the midst of the Great Depression). In conjuction with the opening of the Fair in Chicago, scheduled for June 1st but moved up to May 26th, the Court of Honor contest picked 51 contestants from hundreds if not thousands of photographs sent in from around the world. The 51 contestants then had an expense-paid trip to Chicago for an in-person contest to select the grand winner and two runners up. Sponsored by Chicago and Texas newspapers, it had free built-in advertising, with the qualification rules clearly spelled out in the newspapers. So perhaps the Miss America Pageant was so overshadowed that it was hard to find any interest in staging local MidWest pageants. Perhaps the grander prizes of the Court of Honor contest caused less interest in the far-away Atlantic City Miss America contest. Perhaps the Chicago Times, the largest newspaper in the MidWest, refused articles about the Miss America pageant since they were co-sponsors of the Court of Honor contest. Perhaps desperate to find contestants for the national pageant, promoter Jimmy Carrier deliberately bent the rules; it certainly seems clear he bent the rules for Illinois and Idaho. Clearly the MidWest contestants would have thought a photographic selection of 49 contestants for the Miss America contest in Atlantic City was in line with the Court of Honor.
|Of the seven MidWest contestants, four were disqualified. From left: Miss Iowa-DQ; Miss Missouri-underage; Miss Kentucky-underage; Miss Kansas; Miss Arkansas-DQ; Miss Idaho-DQ; Miss Illinois-DQ|
Although all four contestant disqualifications were MidWest contestants, it should be noted that of the other 23 contestants, at least two were underage and there had been problems with married contestants in the Miss Pennsylvania contest as well. Thus, it is not that the other parts of the country were without problems in terms of eligibility. And in terms of selection, while most of the other states had contests to choose their state representative, some contests were small, and some are unknown (like Vermont, New Hampshire, Washington). While there was laxity in making and enforcing rules in the entire country, the extent of disregard of rules was at a different level in the MidWest.
If Miss Illinois Lillian Kroener's exposé is to be believed, Carrier didn't just bend the rules or not show due diligence (like confirming age or single status), instead he actually actively and deliberately sought to use his power to give utter disregard to any rules, appointing women to represent states and even to appoint them to represent states in which they had never lived. It is not clear if he was desperate to field contestants or if he wished to use his power to indebt young women to serve his personal desires; Lillian Kroener's exposé seems to indicate the latter -- "Listen, 'Miss America' -- Honey, if you'll be nice to me, when we get East, I'll get you the finest stage and screen contracts in the country!" and "He wanted me to ride in his car, he said, and "be a little more affectionate"".
Four of the seven MidWest contestants were disqualified, three for residency and one for marriage.
Marital status -- Miss Arkansas (disqualified)
It should be noted that for the Court of Honor World's Fair May contest participants had to be single, but there was no age requirement. When Miss Arkansas entered the Court of Honor contest by sending in her photograph by April, she was not married. She had taken out a marriage license in February, but had not been married afterwards. However, she took out a second license and was married in the end of May, so was in violation of the rules at that time, and would have known it. And clearly she would have known that being married would be illegal in the "Miss America" Pageant. Other states, particularly Pennsylvania, had issues with married contestants as well. It is unknown how the national Pageant officials learned that Miss Arkansas was married. Perhaps this had been confided during the seven-week Whistle Stop Tour, or perhaps her husband followed to Atlantic City and let it slip out. It is unknown if Jimmy Carrier knew that Miss Arkansas had recently married.
Age -- Miss Kentucky, Miss Missouri (not disqualified)
Miss Kentucky was the youngest contestant in Atlantic City; she turned 15 just after the end of the Pageant. Miss Missouri was also underage at 15. As mentioned, Miss Kentucky legitimately entered the Court of Honor contest which had no age restriction. She was definitely picked there by Carrier to represent Kentucky in the Pageant. While Carrier would have known about age rules, it is possible that Miss Kentucky did not. It is not clear that the Miss Missouri state pageant had rules; Miss Missouri clearly lied about her age after winning, but none of the Missouri articles mention an age for her. It is unknown if Jimmy Carrier knew that Misses Kentucky and Missouri were under-age. It appears that Pageant officials never required any documentation on age. Although there supposedly were rules that clearly stated that the contestants be at least age 16, there were at least four contestants who were underage, including winner Miss Connecticut Marion Bergeron and also semi-finalist Miss New Jersey, and all four contestants lied about their age to newspaper reporters.
Residency -- Miss Idaho, Miss Illinois, Miss Iowa (disqualified)
Ten of the (now) thirty Atlantic City Pageant contestants did not have proof of residency. Telegrams were sent to obtain proof. Clearly the contestants were not told to bring proof of residency, and in 1933 few women had legal identification like drivers licenses.
Miss Iowa was from Iowa (although going to college in Indiana), and is clearly a different issue from Miss Idaho and Miss Illinois. For Miss Iowa, her Manning home town mayor did not send in a confirmation telegram for unknown reasons, but probably because she was the only Dankenbring in town and not in a directory, and he did not investigate further. (see more under selection below; more detail about the Manning mayor.)
For Miss Idaho it is unclear how she was chosen to represent Idaho when she was from Spokane, Washington. Spokane is just 15 miles from the Idaho border, and its newspapers and radio serve several Idaho communties too. She is known not to have entered any contest in Idaho; it is unknown if she entered a contest in Washington. Jimmy Carrier is not known to have been responsible for Washington. However it was that her path crossed with Jimmy Carrier, it is assumed that he convinced her to be Miss Idaho. (see more under selection below)
Miss Illinois' story is the most fascinating of the three, and with the most documentation. It is known that she lived in St. Louis, Missouri, and in fact competed in the Missouri state pageant and came in third on July 13th. She said in her exposé that Jimmy Carrier was one of the judges -- indeed, it would be natural for him to be involved in some capacity, at least in a supervisory/coordinator capacity if not as a judge. And it is known he was "reponsible for the bathing beauty contest being conducted by Universal theatres in a tie-up with the annual Atlantic City Pageant" in 1926 (see footnotes). Lillian stated that it was all Carrier's fault, and that "He showed me letters from an alleged pageant promotion director authorizing him to appoint any girls he thought suitable to wear the banners of those states not holding local beauty contests for the purpose of selecting a representative to the National Pageant." She further stated that he did not have her join the group for the first week of the Whistle Stop Tour in St. Louis. Clearly if he had been involved in the Missouri contest he was very aware that Lillian was from Missouri, and having her wait to join the tour was to cover it up.
October 1936 Romantic Confessions magazine - click on picture for a larger view or here for full exposé
Thus Carrier seems to have known the residency of his contestants, and his plan appears to have been to claim that Miss Illinois and Miss Idaho were from neighboring towns to their hometowns -- neighboring towns that were in the "correct" states. There were no special plans for Miss Iowa since she was from Iowa. The August 1, 1933 Cape Girardeau newspaper reports "The other girls are Miss Illinois, Lillian Kroener, East St. Louis; Miss Iowa, Eleanor Dakenbring [sic]: Miss Kansas, Pauline Sayer, Wichita; Miss Arkansas, Miss Vivian Ferguson, Ozark Playgrounds Smile Girl, Little Rock; Miss Kentucky, Lucille Rader, Borea; Miss Idaho, Margaret Wittman, Coeur d'Alene." East St. Louis is in Illinois, across the river from St. Louis, MO where Lillian Kroener actually lived (but she later claimed she was from Elgin,IL according to her exposé). Coeur d'Alene is 30 miles east of Spokane, but considered in the same metropolitan area. It is not certain if the contestants reported this information to the newspaper, or if Whistle Stop manager Roy Zerber did. Therefore, it appears likely that Lillian and Margaret were told to lie, as confirmed in Lillian Kroener's exposé -- "Anyhow, Carrier suggested to me that I become either "Miss Illinois" or "Miss Indiana"" and "He had promised to have a "Miss Oregon" in the parade, and none was available. For the first time, he suggested, I would be "Miss Oregon". In the meantime, he'd have to dig up another "authentic Miss Oregon."" (see more on selection below)
The residency issue would have surfaced shortly into the 7-week Whistle Stop Tour, since Miss Missouri Marie Marks knew that Miss Illinois Lillian Kroener was not only from Missouri but also had competed there and lost. Marie won the Miss Missouri title on July 13th; some MidWest contestants met in St. Louis on July 20th; Lillian is known to have joined the others by the end of July. Marie Marks and her mother surely recognized Lillian immediately, and surely told the other MidWest contestants about the Miss Missouri pageant. The MidWest contestants must have been intrigued, but likely felt that this would not affect them personally in any way; were they ever to be surprised at the ruckus that ensued. After arrival in Atlantic City, the rumors were mentioned to the RKO sponsors of the two NY contestants, who went to the Pageant Director and complained vociferously, turning it into a major problem by day 2 (or maybe even day 1) of the Pageant. The three women disqualified were not the only ones without residency proof; 10 telegrams had been hurriedly sent out to town mayors -- it was just these three contestants for whom return confirmation telegrams were not received. Pageant Director Armand Nichols announced the disqualifications on Wednesday, the third day of the pageant, although the girls were not then named.
It was RKO, the sponsor for Miss New York State and Miss New York City, who instigated the residency charges -- the Atlantic City Press for September 8th: "Armand T. Nichols, director general of the pageant, announced that a conference would be held in his office at 10 am this morning to made final disposition of charges brought against the residence qualifications of three entrants ... While the charges were not revealed, it was learned that a theatrical concern, sponsoring a pair of eastern beauties, had charged that the three western girls did not live in the states they represented. ... Hal Oliver, Publicity Director for RKO, reported to have made the charges against the three girls, would not talk."
The Miss America Pageant prohibited professionals from being contestants for the title of Miss America. Professionals, women with stage or screen experience, or had worked as an artist's model, had their own separate competition ("Miss Golden Mermaid") with the winner having her choice of two theatrical contracts and a handsome trophy.
Curiously, in the 21st century, the Miss America website states that Miss New York City was moved to the "professional" class division -- "After being named a winner in the "professional" class division, a defiant Miss New York City abruptly quit, charging the pageant wasn't "on the up and up". RKO, who had promised a screen test to the new Miss America, abruptly withdrew their support. Instead they awarded the screen test to Elsa Donath, Miss New York City, billing her as "the girl who turned down the title of Miss America." She was also the contest winner RKO had helped sponsor at the Madison Square Garden preliminary where Miss New York City was chosen." However, this is at odds with other publications:
Atlantic City newspaper on Monday, Sept 11, 1933 -- Another beauty, Miss New York City, Elsie Donath, 20, of the Bronx, withdrew from the competition at 5 o'clock Saturday evening. When her manager, Harry Arder, publicity man for RKO, sent a letter to Armand T. Nichols, director general, saying that the Pageant was not "on the up and up." Miss Donath was selected from 10,000 New York girls when the finals were held in the Madison Square Garden.
The NY Daily Mirror, Elsa's co-sponsor, specified on September 9th that Elsa quit just four hours before the judges were to pick the winner, challenging the Pageant with "misrepresentation in its conduct" regarding the entries of four Mid-West contestants who were hand-picked rather than selected through contests -- the Misses Idaho, Illinois, Iowa and Kentucky.
In Miss Illinois' 1936 exposé, which features a picture of Elsa, Lillian states that "Elsa Donath, "Miss Greater New York City", might have won, I think, but when she heard of all the irregularities she withdrew as a protest for fair play."
It is not clear if Miss New York City Elsa Donath was a professional or not; furthermore it is curious that the Miss America Organization website does not mention how Miss New York City was a professional -- stage, screen or model. This statement is at odds with the period sources: the Atlantic City newspapers state on Monday September 11th that Miss New York City Elsa Donath quit and charged the Pageant was not on the "up and up," while on the previous Friday September 8th that the winner of "the Golden Mermaid" for the professional division went to Harriett Myrne, professional beauty from the Hollywood Restaurant of New York City. The professional contest concluded on Thursday, two days before Elsa Donath quit; what professional class division would Elsa have been named a winner of if not the Golden Mermaid? There is no other professional division mentioned in Atlantic City newspapers or any other source I have found. I (DLH) wonder if someone at MAO didn't get the women confused as both represented New York City.
Elsa's son's recollections are: "My understanding was that my mom withdrew as there was so much politicking that she just did not want to be there. As far as I know she was not a professional model or movie star and the RKO contract was awarded to her before the contest was over." If indeed Elsa both quit and was awarded a contract by RKO prior to the coronation, then she could have been considered to be a professional prior to coronation. But it seems clear that she quit before she was "disqualified."
It should be noted that while Pageant Director Armand Nichols did disqualify married Miss Arkansas, and did suddenly require residency proof during the pageant, he did not address the issues of age or the selection process (state contests).
Like the residency issues, the concern over the selection process seems to have been spearheaded by the two New York contestants, and specifically by their sponsor, RKO publicity man Harry Arder and RKO Publicity Director Hal Oliver.
• As mentioned above, the Atlantic City newspaper said "Harry Arder, publicity man for RKO, sent a letter to Armand T. Nichols, director general, saying that the Pageant was not "on the up and up."
• Miss New York City's other sponsor, The NY Daily Mirror, specified Elsa challenged the Pageant with "misrepresentation in its conduct" regarding the entries of four Mid-West contestants who were hand-picked rather than selected through contests -- the Misses Idaho, Illinois, Iowa and Kentucky.
• In Miss Illinois Lillian Kroener's "Romantic Confessions" exposé, she states "Miss New York City withdrew on the final evening citing the Pageant was not on the "up and up" due to the hand-selection" of state Queens Idaho, Illinois, Iowa and Kentucky.
|Sep 1933 Ohio newspaper|
The issue is whether there were clear rules that there had to be an in-person state pageant with requisite numbers of competitors and judges. As the Miss America Organization wanted to distance itself from the 1933 Pageant, any such documentation if it existed has been lost. As most advertising was done by radio and not newspaper, few marketing promises can be located either. While many East Coast states did in fact have large contests, it is not clear that all did, since there is a lack of newspapers found advertising contests in states such as Vermont and New Hampshire. Therefore, it is not clear if selection through a photo contest rather than an in-person contest was a legitimate selection process, and if the selection had to be by a minimum number of judges.
In any case, it is clear that the Court of Honor contest at the 1933 Chicago World Fair played an important part in Carrier's recruitment for the Miss America Pageant. It is not known if Carrier was involved in the Court of Honor contest in an official capacity, or if he just went to the Fair to recruit beauties for the Miss America Pageant. It is certain that he did go to the World Fair in Chicago, and it is certain that he recruited at least Miss Kentucky there, as verified by her son. MAO historian Ric Ferentz thought that three contestants had been chosen at a pageant in Illinois; it is thought to be this pageant and that the three were Arkansas, Idaho and Kentucky.
Hand selection -- Miss Arkansas, Miss Idaho, Miss Illinois, Miss Iowa, Miss Kentucky (four disqualified above; Kentucky not disqualified)
Both Miss Arkansas Vivian Ferguson and Miss Kentucky Lucille Rader were featured in the May 14th San Antonio newspaper listing Court of Honor finalists; no other Miss America pageant contestants are found among the 51 finalists. However, with a $5,000 prize, there were undoubtedly hundreds if not thousands of contestant hopefuls who mailed in photographs. It is unknown if any other Miss America contestants entered the contest by mailing in a photo -- and specifically if any other MidWest contest, Miss Iowa Eleanor Dankenbring, Miss Illinois Lillian Kroener or Miss Idaho Margaret Wittman, did.
Miss Idaho Margaret Wittman also blamed promoter Jimmy Carrier in the September 12 Tyron, PA newspaper article below, and since Margaret did meet up with the other MidWest contestants (while Miss Washington did not), it is assumed he was indeed responsible. Since Spokane is almost 1800 miles from Chicago (map), it is not clear how Margaret met Jimmy Carrier. Perhaps she entered the "Court of Honor" contest, although she is not listed as one of the 51 semi-finalists, and her Spokane newspaper was not listed as one of the participating newspapers, and her name been found in any newspaper clipping in connection with this contest. Perhaps since her father worked for the railroad, she and her parents visited the World's Fair when it opened, and somehow saw the Court of Honor pageant and met Jimmy Carrier. It is known she never entered any contest in Idaho, based on the Sep 7th article below -- "The second girl said she had never resided in the state she represents and had not competed in any sort of contest in that state." There is not thought to have been any contest in Idaho. There is thought to have been a contest in Washington; it is not known if Margaret Wittman participated in it.
While there would be nothing untoward about approaching potential beauty contestants to request them to participate in another contest, the question is whether or not he did have a contest, and whether or not the state queens thought there was a contest.
Miss Iowa Eleanor Dankenbring also implicated Jimmy Carrier in her plight, according to the September 12 Tyron, PA newspaper article below. It is uncertain how her path crossed with his -- while it is possible her picture was also entered in the Court of Honor photographic contest, the July newspapers in both her hometown of Manning, IA and her school town of Valparaiso, IN only state she was informed she had been chosen Miss Iowa as a result of the university contest, as does the September New Castle, PA newspaper. Therefore, it is most likely that Jimmy Carrier saw one or both of the newspaper articles about the University contest in the Valparaiso Vidette-Messenger on June 3rd and June 16th, and especially this latter one since it featured the beauty contest, including a picture and a mention that Eleanor was from Manning, Iowa. If Jimmy Carrier asked Eleanor to submit her photo for a Miss Iowa contest, this would not have seemed odd to her, as both the Valparaiso University contest and the Court of Honor contest had been decided from photographic entries. The statement that she was "chosen" seems to indicate an expected selection process.
Miss Illinois' story is again the most fascinating, and the most damning story. Jimmy Carrier was supposedly one of the judges for the Miss Missouri contest held in St. Louis (both Marie Marks' and Lillian Kroener's home town) on July 13th. Marie Marks won and was crowned Miss Missouri while Lillian Kroener came in third. Lillian Kroener specified in her exposé that Jimmy Carrier was one of the judges; it would seem natural for him to be involved in some capacity, but no other documentation was found for this. Even if he was not a judge, it seems that if he were in charge of the MidWest contests he would have known the contestants. Lillian Kroner further states that Carrier "showed me letters from an alleged pageant promotion director authorizing him to appoint any girls he thought suitable to wear the banners of those states not holding local beauty contests for the purpose of selecting a representative to the National Pageant." She further stated that he did not have her join the group for the first week of the Whistle Stop Tour in St. Louis. It seems impossible that Carrier would not have been aware of Lillian's entry in the Miss Missouri contest; it is unknown how he picked her to be Miss Illinois within the next week; it is damning that he or his assistant told the women to lie about their hometowns (Lillian said she was from East St. Louis in Illinois in August but from Chicago in September); and it is damning that he or his assistant advised Lillian to not attend the Whistle Stop Tour's first week festivities in St. Louis, her hometown.
There were at least two other states for whom Carrier apparently hand-picked the contestants but they backed out prior to Atlantic City -- Texas and Oregon. While Miss Oregon is only mentioned in Lillian Kroener's 1936 "Romantic Movie Stories" exposé, there was an ad specifying a Miss Oregon to perform on the Whistle Stop Tour. There is a picture of Miss Texas Billie Elwood in St. Louis, confirming Lillian's story. There was also a mention in the MidWest papers that Miss Nevada would join the Whistle Stop Tour, so this is another possibility.
|1933 - Miss WV Mildred Fetty, 3rd from the left, joins the other seven MidWest contestants|
There were three MidWest contestants who were selected through state contests -- Miss Kansas, Miss Missouri and Miss West Virginia. There was known to be a fourth state contest in Indiana, but the winner withdrew just prior to the Pageant; it is unknown if there were others, and probably will never be known since much of the advertising seems to have been done by radio instead of print. There are known to be other contestants expected on the Whistle Stop Tour -- Colorado, Texas and Nevada. Miss West Virginia joined the Whistle Stop Tour at the end as it passed through West Virginia on its way to Atlantic City.
It is unknown if it was Carrier's personal job or managerial job to organize the state contests. Again it is important to note that 1933 was the first time to have state queens, six years earlier in 1927 60 city queens competed in what was called an "inter-city" contest. And Carrier had been involved then too, as in 1926 the "The Reel Journal" states that Carrier is "reponsible for the bathing beauty contest being conducted by Universal theatres in a tie-up with the annual Atlantic City Pageant" (see footnotes). And if it was Carrier's direct responsibility, it is unknown if he simply could not organize the contests, or if he just pre-emptively decided it was too much work. While Carrier is known to have been a judge in the Miss Missouri contest, it is not known if he was a judge in the Miss Kansas contest or in any other states.
The first issue is whether Carrier was allowed to select without an in-person contest, which will probably never be known. He would have known whether or not he was acting outside the rules laid down by the National Pageant, but the contestants so chosen likely would not have, especially since other contests did expressly that -- choosing through photographs. But clearly picking women from another state would have been in violation whether or not there was a stated rule to that effect. And this violation would have been obvious to everyone including to both Margaret Wittman from Spokane when she donned the Miss Idaho banner and Lillian Kroener from St. Louis when she donned the Miss Illinois banner. And clearly it was patently unfair for Lillian to get a second chance to be a state queen when she had lost the first.
The fact that Pageant Director Armand Nichols did nothing about the selection process should not be interpreted as tacit approval of the selection process in the MidWest. The firing of Carrier was said to be two weeks earlier, before these problems were known, although clearly Armand Nichols would have known that many contestants were "missing" from the MidWest. While there was pressure for him to make sure of legitimacy of the contestants, this was also during the Pageant, a most awkward timing both in terms of manpower and publicity. The Pageant already had only 31 women show up instead of 50 (48 states and the cities of New York and Washington), and had had one withdraw (Oklahoma) and four disqualified, so were down to 26 prior to Miss New York City's withdrawal -- half of expectations. Plus the contestants had often spent their own money to travel to Atlantic City. There was no business or humanitarian reason to look for more reasons to disqualify more. It feels like Armand Nichols was just trying to strike a balance in a difficult situation.
And if Carrier was fired strictly for not fielding enough MidWest contestants, this underscores how desperate he might have been, and would have given him more impetus to find contestants anywhere. His firing also meant the MidWest contestants were left high and dry, with no Pageant official to vouch for them.
There has been no article found by Jimmy Carrier to present his perspective. Jimmy Carrier had been involved with the Atlantic City beauty pageants well prior to the 1933 one; at least by 1926 he was involved with the contests in the MidWest. At that time he was General Manager of the Universal Theatres, and was responsible for the beauty pageants by Universal Theatres that were tied in with the Atlantic City national pageant. (see bottom of the page for more details on Jimmy Carrier.)
Excerpts from newspaper and magazine articles that mention the disqualification:
Sep 7, 1933, New Castle, PA article (at right), probably published Sep 8th, by International News Sevice Staff Correspondent:
Sep 7 New Castle, PA article
"Disqualify Three Entries For Beauty Title 'Miss America'"
"Three beauties were disqualified today from competition for the title of 'Miss America' in the revival of the Atlantic City beauty pageant. Armand T. Nichols, director-general of the pageant, informed International News Service of the disqualifications, after an investigation of charges that there had been illegal entries in the battle of pulchritude. The three pretties unwittingly violated the rules of the pageant by coming from states other than those they represent. The names of the beauties were withheld by Director Nichols to save the girls from the public embarrassment which might attend such a disclosure. They will be permitted to participate in the events but their identities will be made known to the judges who will ignore them in their deliberations.
The girls, interviewed by International news Serivce, admitted innocently violating the laws of the pageant. They attributed the mistake to a promoter who assured them that they could represent a state other than the one in which they resided. One of the girls was taken from a mid-western college where she had been selected 'Queen of the Campus' to carry to banner of another state. The second girl said she had never resided in the state she represents and had not competed in any sort of contest in that state. The thrid girl said she came from a city in a state many miles distant from the state she was designated for. 'The investigation will continue to find out if any other girls have been entered illegally, either intentionally or unintentionally,' said Nichold.
The announcemnt of the director followed a series of unofficial charges by unofficial managers of the beauties which rumbled beneath the tranquility of the pageant. These charges included allegations that some of the girls were professional models, stage girls, residents of states different from their designation, and with influential friends. Another charge held that a certain far western entry carried artificial eyelashes into the arena of beauty. Today's schedule calls for bathers' revue in the fternoon and the judging of the most beautiful girl in an evening gown at night.
Sep. 8, 1933, Atlantic City Press -- Reports spread through the Auditorium that the girls were "Miss Idaho," Margaret Whitman; "Miss Iowa," Eleanor Dankenbring; "Miss Illinois," Lillian Kroener, which were denied, however, byy [sic] their escorts, and Mr. Nichols refused to identify them. While the charges were not revealed, it was learned that a theatrical concern, sponsoring a pair of eastern beauties, had charged that the three western girls did not live in the states they represented.
Nichols Awaits Telegrams
Mr. Nichols said that he was awaiting telegrams from parents of the accused girls and from their home state sponsors to officially refute the charges [Note that tomorrow's paper says he telegrammed the mayors instead; Ric Ferentz, MAO historian, only mentioned telegrams to mayors.] Earlier he had announced three he did not name had been disqualified in judging. Hal Oliver, Publicity Director for RKO, reported to have made the charges against the three girls, would not talk. He simply said he was here on a vacation and would offer a contract to the new Miss America.
Sep 9, 1933, Atlantic City Press -- As the Pageant grind began its final day early today, 28 tired girls left "The Night of Merriment" at the Auditorium with one thing in common - a desire to see anyone win the coveted title except Miss New York City and Miss New York State, the other two of the 30 contestants for the crown. It was the theatrical concern sponsoring the two New York girls which instituted the investigation which resulted in the secret disqualification of three Western girls on the question of residence, but that's not the reason for the animosity. ... The 'three girls' were disqualified because they do not reside in the state they represent, and Armand T. Nichols, director-general, has determined that only the true representatives of the various states shall be in the running for "Miss America, 1933." Nichols said that he had sent telegrams to the Mayors of all towns having contestants in the Pageant asking them to certify whether or not the girls resided there. Up until a late hour he had received seven replies, and each vouched for the girl in question.
'Three I' League Out
Meanwhile, Nichols still refused to announce the names of the three inter-city beauties who were disqualified. Although it was still reported that the illegal contestants were the girls from the three "I" states, the Misses Idaho, Iowa and Illinois, the girls would not admit they were out of the running. "I can't say anything to the newspapers," said Margaret Wittman, 19, brunette, who wears the ribbon of "Miss Idaho." "If I am disqualified, it is up to the committee to announce it," said Miss Eleanor Dankenbring, 18-year-old blond, who is "Miss Illinois." [actually 20-year-old Miss Iowa] "Ask the committee," said Miss Lillian Kroener, 19-year-old and brown-haired representative of Iowa. [actually Miss Illinois]"
Most of the newspaper accounts of the winners of the Pageant mention the disqualifications, such as Sep 10, 1933, Lincoln, NE article -- "...Four girls were disqualified. They were: Miss Iowa, Eleanore Dankerfring; Miss Illinois, Lillian Karasson; Miss Idaho, Margaret Whitman, and Miss Arkansas, Virginia Ferguson. The first three were eliminated because they do not live in the place they were supposed to represent. The fourth was disqualified becuase she is married. Married women are not permitted to enter the competition."
Sep 11, 1933, Atlantic City Press -- "Before the coronation ceremonies started, it was officially announced to newspapermen, but not from the stage, that four girls had been disqualified. They are: "Miss Iowa," Eleanore Dankerling [sic - actually Eleanor Dankenbring]; "Miss Illinois," Lillian Kroner [sic - actually Kroener], and "Miss Idaho," Margaret Whitman [sic - actually Wittman], all of whom do not reside in the states they represented, and "Miss Arkansas," who is Vivian Ferguson, and who, it was stated, is married. No married women can enter the contest under the Pageant rules."
Sep 11, 1933, Lowell, MA article by judge Gladys Glad's husband, Mark Hellinger --
"All In A Day"
Shelburne Hotel, Atlantic City, N. J. -- It's an exciting life I lead these days. What with beauty pageants, and murmurs of intrigue, and bands, and bathing suit parades, there is no end of excitement. ... "There are disturbing influences at work here. There are evil forces at work that fail to meet the eye." My heart began to beat rapidly. Dirty work at the cross roads, eh? And here was Hellinger right in on the know. "Tell me," I breathed. "What's wrong?" His eyes burned brightly. "Miss Idaho," he hissed, "comes from Spokane, Washington." "NO!" I cried. "Yes," he replied. "And that isn't all. Miss Illinois comes from Missouri!" -- note there was no mention of Miss Iowa going to school in Indiana, or that Miss Arkansas was married. This was an entertainment column rather than a news column.
Sep 12, 1933, Lowell, MA article by judge Gladys Glad's husband, Mark Hellinger --
"All In A Day"
Shelborne Hotel, Atlantic City, N.J. -- To me, beauty pageants have never been very serious affairs. I have covered many of them in this city, and I have always treated them in a light manner. I came here this year to do the same thing, but as I leave here now, I no longer feel like kidding. I have witnessed what turned out to be a sordid mess, and the taste in my mouth is bitter. ...
Then there is "Miss Illinois," disqualified at the last moment because she is a native of Missouri. She has a prop smile on her face but there's plenty of worry in the background. For her return ticket will take her only as far as Elgin, Illinois -- and she has but $1.70 in her purse to carry her the hundreds of miles from Elgin to St. Louis.
Tough Racket on Road
The last girl is one of seven in the pageant who've just been through a heartbreaking experience. For almost two months these seven girls have been touring the sticks in an act called "The Pageant Beauties." They have slept in tenth-rate hotels, worked in the cheapest theatres and night clubs, and have had some terrifying experiences. And for all this they received exactly nothing! ...
Sep 12, 1933, Tyrone, PA article (front page -- displayed at right): "Beautes [sic] Take Vow To Avoid Pageants. Midwestern Girls Left Stranded by Promoters. The national beauty pageant is over and there are at least four little pretties who have taken a vow never to be in another. They are a quartet of midwestern beauties who unwittingly violated the rules of the pageant and were disqualifed. The promoter who selected them permitted three of them to represent states other than the ones in which they resided. The fourth one was married and the promoter did not inform her that this was contrary to the laws of the pageant. As a result the four bewildered beauties are having difficulty today in getting home to forget their humiliation and the tattered memories of a seven-week exhibition tour preceding the pageant. They received no remuneration for the tour. The beauties were only given carfare to the place from which they were supposed to come -- but didn't. In addition, the girls were not given money for their meals on the homeward journey. Miss Arkansas, Virginia [sic] Ferguson, who admitted she was "busted," took the matter philosophically. "I don't mind starving for two days to get away from the nightmare," she said. She was disqualified for being married. Miss Illinois, Lillian Korener [sic], of St. Louis, Mo., had to figure out a way to get home from Chicago, a distance of several hundred miles. The pageant committee refused to giver [sic] her additional carfare. But when Lillian told her story to the judges and their friends, following the crowning of Marion Bergeron, 16-year-old high school girl of West Haven, Conn., as "Miss America," they collected $25 for her. Miss Idaho, Margaret Whitman, was in the same boat. She wanted to get back to her home city, Spokane, Washington. Miss Iowa, Eleanor Dankenbring, was going to Valparaiso, Indiana, where she is a student at the university there specializing in journalism. "I've seen enough to write about the rest of my life," Eleanor declared. Miss Bergeron, the winner of the contest, is a platinum blonde, with a reputation as a "blue singer." She is the daughter of a motorcycle policeman."
Sep 12 1933 Tyrone,PA front page article
October, 1936 "Romantic Movie Stories" exposé by Miss Illinois, Lillian Kroener. ... "Against my parents' better judgment, I went, but I certainly didn't do St. Louis Proud! For, across my bosom, wherever I went, was draped a shiny satin banner, "Miss Illionis"!
Oct 1936 Romantic Movie Stories magazine - click on picture for a larger view or here for complete article
I never had lived in the state of Illinois. Yet I represented that great commonwealth in the pageant. I was a fraud - a phoney! But, it wasn't my fault!
Jimmy Carrier, self-styled promotion director of the pageant, had enough alleged credentials to deaden the suspicions of anyone who didn't think it quite fair of him to appoint any girl he was fit to be any state's representatitve in the contest.
Let me explain what I mean. The pageant blared forth publicity to the effect that every state entrant was chosen by a state-wide contest, by a committee of at least seven judges. Understand, each girl was supposd to be a bonafide resident of the state whose banner she wore. Yet Mr Carrier, traveling from town to town in the Mid-West to impress the natives with these rules, had a sheaf of documents, some of which were from an alleged pageant official contradicting the rules and mocking the by-laws he expoited!
I first met him after a local St. Louis contest in which Marie Marks was chosen "Miss Missouri", and I ran third. Her selection was strictly according to Hoyle.
I happened to enter the beauty battle one day when two gentlemen, contest franchise-holders in town, visited my home and asked me to represent an automobile company in the contest. Mother and Dad were opposed to the idea at first, but I finally persuaded them that it was just a lark and would probably be very good fun.
Carrier was one of the judges in the contest. [Note: full article.]
Despite the claims of unwittingness, it would appear that several of the girls were more responsible than they claimed to the newspapermen during the Pageant. After all, Vivian Ferguson knew it was the "Miss America" contest, so she how would she think she would qualify? Additionally, the Court of Honor contest she had entered also prohibited married contestants. As for Lillian Kroener, nowhere in the 1933 newspapers articles is it mentioned how Lillian tried out and lost in Missouri (although she does mention it in the 1936 exposé), so how did she think she should also be eligible to represent Illinois, a state she had never lived in, and many miles from her home, regardless of any credentials the promoter had? And if her parents had been against a legitimate local state contest, how did they come to support their daughter going on a seven-week tour and national contest representing another state? Curiously, (underaged) Miss New Jersey had mentioned to her children how appalled she was that married women entered the contest; she never mentioned the non-residents! Seventy years later, Miss Wisconsin only vaguely remembered there were some issues.
|9/9/1933 NY Daily Mirror|
MidWest Promoter, Jimmy Carrier
Jimmy Carrier had been involved with the Atlantic City beauty pageants well prior to the 1933 one. It is unknown when he started, but at least by 1926 he was involved with the contests in the MidWest -- as General Manager of the Universal Theatres, he was responsible for the beauty pageants by Universal Theatres that were "tied in" with the Atlantic City national pageant (supporting his credential claims above in 1933):
July 24, 1926 -- The Reel Journal: James Carrier of "U" Theatres Here This Week.
7/24/1926 - Reel Journal
James A. Carrier, who has just been appointed General Manager of Universal's chain of exploitation theatres, was in Kansas City this week. He succeeds Leo Brecher, who recently resigned to devote his entire time to his own chain of theatres. In the interim the management of Universal eploitation [sic] theatres was in the hands of F. A. Flader, who will now return to the management of one of the Universal theatres after a short vacation. Carrier, who assumes his new duties immediately, is a graduate of the University of Illinois. He started in as manager and exploiter of a chain of theatres in Peoria, Ill., and later operated theatres for himself in Decatur, Ill. Mr. Carrier is reponsible for the bathing beauty contest being conducted by Universal theatres in a tie-up with the annual Atlantic City Pageant.
Other references found for Jimmy/James Carrier include:
1928: Box Office: 8/28/1948 -- From the BoxOffice Files (20 years ago) "James A. Carrier is the new managing director of the Uptown, Kansas City." (p.65) (The Uptown had only opened 1/6/1928, and was owned by the Universal Film Company.)
1932: February 1932 "Box Office" -- James Carrier is in charge of the Uptown Theatre in Cleveland
1938: Feb 26 "Box Office" -- "Jimmy Carrier is in New York from the coast and may bury his business stakes here" (p.22)
1938: Aug 6 "Box Office" -- "Jimmy Carrier is director of publicity for Fabian Theatres in Albany" (p.28).
1938: from "The Greece Press" (a weekly paper published 1934-1958 in Monroe County, NY) circa August 1938 highlights the contests for a Miss western NY contest and quotes James Carrier: "James Carrier, Press agent for the Fabian Theaters, explained..." about how the judging in the contest was done. (The Plaza Theatre opened on August 28, 1931 with 2382 seats. It was the second of two theatres built by Jacob (father) and Si (son) Fabian after they left the Stanley-Fabian Theatres that were acquired by Warner Bros. in 1928. The two theatres, the Palace in Albany and the Plaza in Schenectady were leased to RKO. RKO defaulted on the leases and the theatres were taken back by the Fabians and operated as part of the Fabian Theaters circuit. The Palace still operates today in 2009.)
It is not clear from these brief references exactly what Jimmy Carrier's role was in the state contests, but clearly he had been involved at least from 1926 on, and perhaps as early as the first pageant in 1921. It should be pointed out that the pageants in the 1920s had relied heavily on newspaper support, which seems to have been largely non-existent in 1933 with the advent of the new media - radio. It is not clear what impact this had on how Jimmy had organized state contests in the 1920s versus 1933; for that matter, it is not certain if what part of the state pageantry fell under Jimmy Carrier's domain. Perhaps he was in charge of the entire middle part of the country, including all the states West of the Mississippi, excluding the West Coast -- note that most of these states in between Kansas and Idaho (Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska) did not send representatives (map).
While it is unknown if the Miss America Pageant continued any relationship with Jimmy Carrier, it appears from the 1938 article that he did stay involved in at least state pageants.
These articles do not give a firm idea of his age, or his home town, so he cannot be identified with certainty on the 1930 census. It is assumed that he would be living in the MidWest in 1930 (perhaps Kansas City or Cleveland) and perhaps in Albany, NY in 1940. However, it is clear that with at least two years of experience with MidWest beauty pageants for the Miss America Pageant (1926 and 1927), and as a General Manager of reknown theaters, he would have made a credible promoter of the Pageant in 1933. It is also noteworthy that he continued to be involved with beauty contests after 1933, according to the 1938/39 article above. Having theatrical agents/concerns involved with the Pageant was not unusual; RKO sponsored the two New York entries as well as donating a screen test to the winner of the 1933 Pageant.
• possible 1940 census match: James A. Carrier is living in NYC at the Mills Hotel, divorced, 46 (born ~1894), born in IL, 2 years of college, publicity manager for motion pictures, in 1935 lived in Springfield,IL. If this is a match, and it appears likely as his occupation of "publicity manager" matches the 1938 "Box Office" article above, he would have been ~39 at the time of the Pageant.
As more newspaper archives and magazine archives are digitized, perhaps more can be found on Jimmy Carrier.
Afterword: Clearly the pageant was not run as honestly or at least as organized as it should have been, with definition of all the qualifications-of-contest and pre-verification that each contestant was qualified. Although three were disqualified for residency, and one for marital status, there were at least four more contestants, including winner Miss Connecticut, who were not qualified according to the minimum age requirement of 16. And, this is out of only 31 contestants! And there was lack of uniformity in the procedures to pick a state queen -- Director Armand Nichols appears to have assumed that every state would have contests with many judges, but there was no vehicle to ensure this was done. And there had been several state contests (notably Miss Pennsylvania) that had been plagued with married contestants. Overall, it seems that there should have been more explicit rules for qualification, and much more verification of meeting the existing rules. In addition to the administrative problems, there were additional issues with two contestants withdrawing prior to the finals: Miss Oklahoma (withdrew for medical reasons) and Miss New York City (withdrew saying the contest was not on the "up and up"). (However, the 2010 Miss America website states Miss New York City was disqualified for "professionalism" although this is not mentioned in newspaper accounts). In addition to the disappointingly low number (25) of final contestants -- 31/49 states (including NYC as well as NY) had representatives in Atlantic City with 4 disqualifications and 2 withdrawals -- there were many other issues with the Pageant. RKO, who sponsored both NY contestants, gave their screen prize which had been promised to the winner to Miss NYC anyway and not to Miss Connecticut! The crown was stolen. Thugs threatened the judges. The pageant lost money. Most of the articles about the winners also mentioned the disqualifications. No wonder bad publicity "dogged" this contest! No wonder the Miss America Organization hired new personnel in 1935 and distanced themselves from 1933 for over 25 years. No one in 1933 thought the Pageant would grow into the American icon it became. -- DLH 2011
Miss America website history in 2014 -- 1933 Despite backing from the Mayor and the endorsements of other city officials, the Atlantic City Hotelmen still did not endorse the pageant as they had in the past. Thirty representatives took part, most wearing state titles. But gone were the outdoor parades and other attractions deemed too expensive to stage for Depression-era businesses. Prizes to the eventual winner (fifteen year old Miss Connecticut, Marian Bergeron) were also hard to come by. After being named a winner in the "professional" class division, a defiant Miss New York City abruptly quit, charging the pageant wasn't "on the up and up". RKO, who had promised a screen test to the new Miss America, abruptly withdrew their support. Instead they awarded the screen test to Elsa Donath, Miss New York City, billing her as "the girl who turned down the title of Miss America." She was also the contest winner RKO had helped sponsor at the Madison Square Garden preliminary where Miss New York City was chosen. Miss Oklahoma suffered an appendicitis attack shortly after arrival. Miss Arkansas admitted she was married and other women from Iowa, Illinois, and Idaho were disqualified when their official residency papers didn't arrive on time. This time both Atlantic City and Armand T. Nichols decided to lay Miss America quietly to rest.