Miss Maryland 1933: Dorothy Dennis

Dorothy was very private about her participation in beauty contests. Her cousins had no idea, and furthermore felt that if her participation had been known there would have been family disapproval -- the family felt such contests were too risqué as they featured bare arms and legs. Even Dorothy's own children had limited knowledge and had not realized she was so young at the time, or so beautiful. Although Dorothy was barely 16, she did just meet the age requirements, and there were at least five younger contestants. It is unknown how much she enjoyed the Atlantic City Pageant; her obituary did mention she was the 1934 [sic] Miss Maryland at the Atlantic City Miss America beauty contest.

1930 Dennis Family census form --
1930 census data, Parsons, MD (Wicomico County - Eastern Shore):
Ocean City Road
Lawrence Dennis 40 (MD) house carpenter
Ruth R. 32 (MD), Dorothy L 12 (DE), Lawrence 6 (MD). (Note: it looks like Lawrence has a brother Edgar who is 48 and also a house carpenter -- at the bottom of this page.) In 1920 census they lived in Baltimore and Dorothy is listed as 2 5/12.
Dorothy Dennis was the older child and only daughter of Lawrence and Ruth Dennis.

Dorothy from the panorama shot - age 16
August 15, 1933, Baltimore Sun

The August 15, 1933 Baltimore Sun article (near left) specifies that Dorothy Dennis lived at 2009 Eutaw Place [must be Baltimore, as no city was listed]. She was selected at a contest held at Mayfair Gardens the previous evening, and was to compete as Miss Maryland at the national Beauty Pageant to be held at Atlantic City September 5 to 9. She was presented a watch, a bathing suit and other gifts. The article also mentions the two runners up.

Dorothy 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.

9/5/1933 Atlantic City - Dorothy is fourth from right
Caption on picture at right, which was featured in some newspapers nationwide: "Here are some of the beauties from the Middle Atlantic States enjoying a stroll along the boardwalk after they arrived in Atlantic City to compete for the title of "Miss America" in the annual Atlantic City beauty pageant. They are, left to right: Evangeline Glidewell, "Miss Virginia"; Geraldine Glassman, "Miss Pennsylvania"; Ruth Le Roy, "Miss Atlantic City" and Hostess to the Beauties; Elsa Donath, "Miss New York City"; Dorota Dennis, "Miss Maryland"; Gertrude Christman, "Miss New Jersey"; Victoria George, "Miss Delaware"; and Flo Myer, "Mss New York State." (reference reverse side of photo -- note that Dorothy's name is erroneously listed as "Dorota".)

Dorothy lost her mother in 1939. A clipping from the Snow Hill Democratic Messenger, dated Thursday March 16, 1939 (Snow Hill is 20 miles southeast of Salisbury, MD -- also on the Eastern Shore) -- "Mrs. Dennis, Native of Snow Hill, Died; Buried Last Week. Funeral services were held last week in Baltimore for Mrs. Lawrence M. Dennis, aged 45 years, who died in Johns Hopkins Hospital in that city. The deceased was born at Snow Hill and was the daughter of William T. Hales. Besides her husband, she is survived by two children, Miss Dorothy Dennis and Lawrence M. Dennis, of Baltimore; by her mother, Mrs. William T. Hales; by three sisters, Mrs. Elmer S. Matthews, Mrs. Harold W. Powell, and Mrs. Clyde Shockley of Salisbury, and three brothers, messrs John W. Hales, Reuben L. Hales and Herman R. Hales. [Note that her death age of 45 in 1939 does not match her census age of 32 just nine years earlier.] Note that by this article, Dorothy does not appear to be married in 1939, although her 2000 obituary states she married in 1938 (but also listed the date of the pageant as 1934 not 1933). Her father remarries, and died in 1955.

After the pageant, Dorothy graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art, and painted landscapes and portraits in her studio at her home, as well as working in ceramics. Her artwork was shown at galleries in Baltimore and on the Eastern Shore. She cannot be found in 1940; she is not home with her father, but she cannot be found married either. She died in 2000 at age 83 from complications after a fall, and was survived by her husband and three sons (obituary).

Social Security Death Index: DOROTHY D SCHULZE 07 Jul 1917 02 Dec 2000 (V) 21030 (Cockeysville, Baltimore, MD) (none specified) 212-05-1275 Maryland.

Research notes:
-- contacted Miss Maryland Scholarship; they did not reply to my request for information, but were pleased to have the final results of the search.
-- not the Dorothy Dennis on Broadway -- the Dorothy Dennis who was on Broadway in the 1930s and 1940s ("New Faces of 1943" in 1942, "All in Fun" in 1940) is not the Miss Maryland 1933 Dorothy Dennis. I spoke to the actress Dorothy Dennis' nephew who stated that "Dorothy Dennis" was strictly a stage name, and the acress lived in New York all her life.
-- not the Dorothy Dennis who was "Belle of Maryland" at the University of Maryland in 1939 -- this Dorothy Dennis was born in NJ in 1919, daughter of Showell Dennis, and was only 10 and living in NJ on the 1930 census.
-- Miss Maryland Dorothy Dennis' Hale cousins did not know of her participation in the Miss America contest: 4/16/2009 -- Reece G Hales Sr is the last Hales still alive, and remembered aunt Dorothy Hales Dennis, but did not remember her children. He was born in 1932, and remembered no stories about the Miss America contest. He did not stay in touch with his Dennis cousins. But his mother would likely not have approved of the contest, so may not have discussed it with her children (the bare arms and legs). His wife said the women were all good-looking! (I found the correct Dorothy Dennis in July, 2010, after locating her father's obituary online, using the Baltimore Sun archive search. AFter I found her married name, I was now able to search for her SSDI and obituary.)
-- SCHULZE, R BURT 28 Mar 1915 16 Oct 2006 (V) 91 21234 (Parkville, Baltimore, MD) (none specified) Ohio 280-18-6636
-- In 2010 I spoke with one of Dorothy's daughter-in-laws, who had no stories to add. Dorothy was very private and did not talk much about the pageant; the family did not know she was so beautiful and had participated at such a young age.