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12 Unusual Mid-Century Pageant Queens

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It is a centuries-old tradition for communities to pick a pretty girl to be the “queen” of their seasonal festivals. This was most often seen in the selection of a May Day Queen. The practice evolved into the beauty pageants that we’re all familiar with. In the mid-20th century, businesses and communities began to see the huge commercial possibilities of holding a contest where pretty girls would compete just for the honor of representing their product or main export. Thus there became a beauty pageant and crown for almost every saleable thing imaginable. Below are listed just a few. 

Images via Pinterest unless otherwise noted.

1. Sausage Queen

Ridiculously Interesting

In 1955, the Zion Meat Company declared Geene Courtney the Sausage Queen of their National Hot Dog Week. Miss Courtney, who once appeared as a bathing beauty in a Three Stooges short, is reported to have been a staunch Catholic who refused to pose nude for Salvador Dali. Because a girl has to keep her dignity.  

2. Apple Festival Queen

Although I can’t identify this particular Apple Festival Queen from the Festival’s comprehensive list, I can tell you she was part of the long tradition of Jackson, Ohio Apple Festival Queens dating back to 1937 (interrupted only for WWII). The Festival still produces sweet crisp apples and queens today. 

3. Peanut Queen

The Alabama National Peanut Festival began in 1938 (featuring key speaker George Washington Carver, of course.)  This photo was taken a year later, showing 1939 Peanut Queen Dot McArthur in a peanut swimsuit, presenting a prize to one lucky winner. 

4. Miss American Vampire

Before Johnny Depp and Tim Burton got their goth-and-glam all over it, Dark Shadows was a bizarre 1960s and '70s spooky soap opera. In a tie-in with the show, a Miss American Vampire contest was held. Above is regional winner Christine Domaniecki of Belleville, NJ. The guy crowning her was the original Barnabas, Jonathan Frid. The national winner—selected by a panel of judges that included Regis Philbin—was Sacheen Littlefeather, best known as the Native American woman who refused an Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando.  

5. Pumpkin Queen

Pumpkin Show

The Circleville Ohio Pumpkin Show began in 1903 when the city’s mayor decorated his office-front with a few jack-o-lanterns and corn shucks. It has grown considerably since then, and has crowned a Pumpkin Queen every year since 1933 (minus of course, the years of WWII.) Above, pictured becoming truly united with the spirit of pumpkinhood, is the adorable 1972 Pumpkin Queen Kathy Uland. 

6. Miss Polish Job 

The Muller Brothers Automotive on Sunset Blvd was a 4 acre paradise for cars. The goal of this service station was to fill any automotive need a man (yeah, probably a man) might have. Opened in 1920, by the time LIFE Magazine came to document Muller’s 3,000,000th car wash, there was no limit to what this piece of car heaven could provide. You could buy your car, get new tires, lube jobs, gas, carwash, and, as the lovely lady above testifies, a magnificent polish job. Miss Polish Job was one of many beauty queens Muller’s boasted, including Miss Infra-Red Paint Job, Miss Auto Accessory, and Miss Lube Rack.  

7. National Uranium Queen

This is the National Uranium Queen of 1956, Brook Robin. Precious little information could be found about Miss Robin and her radioactive achievement, which we sincerely hope has nothing to do with over-exposure and internal irradiation. At least uranium isn’t absorbed through exposed skin.

8. Donut Queen

Kris Nodland beat out 250 hopeful girls across America to be crowned Donut Queen of 1951. Here she poses with the Gingerbread Donut Boy to announce the opening of the 14th Annual National Donut Week, April 7 - 14, 1951. National Donut Day is still a holiday in America, claiming to have pre-WWII roots when women would bring donuts and coffee to wounded soldiers. 

9. Miss Idaho Potato

Miss Idaho Potato,1935. Again, little information is known about this photo. Teach your daughters to be skeptical if anyone wants to celebrate their beauty by stripping them down and burying them in large potatoes. 

10. Miss Sweater Girl

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The Miss Sweater Girl contest was sponsored by Wool Bureau and the Knitted Outerwear Foundation. Here we see Miss Jeanne Davis of Alabama being crowned Sweater Girl of 1952. A cute little junior miss was also crowned, and five years later a Mr. Sweater (“The Man We’d Most Like To Buy A Sweater For”) would be added. Otherwise it would just be a bosom-and-bullet-bra competition, which didn’t fit the family image of the sponsors. 

11. International Posture Queen

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If people think your profession doesn’t quite deserve the word “medical” in front of it yet, they you may be a chiropractor in the 1950s. So spread word of your legitimacy by bringing on the pretty girls with the well-aligned spines. Besides being pretty, girls who wanted to wear the Posture Queen crown would have to stand on scales, one under each foot. The goal was to have the same amount of weight distributed on each foot, proving perfect posture. Here we see the well-balanced Diane Stopky, the 1957 International Posture Queen. That girl has coccygeal vertebrae that just won’t quit! 

12. The Blueberry Queen

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The name of this 1955 Blueberry Queen is lost to history. But the name of the photographer is Hal Mathewson. He can be remembered either as a brilliant absurdist, or as the man who thought a naked woman in a hotel bathtub filled with food would make people want to eat that food.

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Courtesy of Freeman's
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History
For Sale: More Than 150 Items of Victorian Mourning Art, Clothing, and Jewelry
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Courtesy of Freeman's

Funeral fashion hasn't always been reserved for memorial services, judging from a massive memento mori auction that's being billed as perhaps the largest collection of mourning art ever offered for sale. Spotted by Atlas Obscura and sponsored by Philadelphia-based Freeman’s auction house, the online sale—which kicks off on Wednesday, November 15—features more than 150 works from a renowned private collection, ranging from clothing and jewelry to artworks.

During the Victorian era, people paid tribute to their loved ones by wearing black mourning garb and symbolic accessories. (The latter often featured jet or real locks of hair, according to a 2008 article published in the academic journal Omega.) They also commissioned death-themed artworks and objects, including paintings, as exhibited by Angus Trumble's 2007 book Love & Death: Art in the Age of Queen Victoria.

These items have long since fallen out of fashion, but some historic preservationists amassed their own macabre private collections. Anita Schorsch, who’s arguably the most famous collector of memento mori, used her historic treasures to launch the Museum of Mourning Art back in 1990. Located in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, the museum is—as its name suggests—the only institution in the nation devoted exclusively to mourning art. The museum has been closed since Schorsch's death in 2015, and the items featured in Freeman's auction are from her collection.

Check out some of its memento mori below, or view the online catalogue here.

Hairwork choker, 19th century-mori, from the Collection of Irvin and Anita Schorsch
Hairwork choker, 19th century-mori, from the Collection of Irvin and Anita Schorsch
Courtesy OF Freeman's


Hairwork shroud pin, 19th century, from the Collection of Irvin & Anita Schorsch
Courtesy of Freeman's

Gold, enamel and pearl "Stuart crystal" mourning slide, made in late 17th century England and part of the Collection of Irvin & Anita Schorsch
Gold, enamel and pearl "Stuart crystal" mourning slide, made in late 17th century England and part of the Collection of Irvin & Anita Schorsch
Courtesy of Freeman's

Group of 19th century ladies and gentleman's mourning costumes, from the Collection of Irvin & Anita Schorsch
Group of 19th century ladies and gentleman's mourning costumes, from the Collection of Irvin & Anita Schorsch
Courtesy of Freeman's


18th century iron and brass cemetery padlock from London, England, part of the Collection of Irvin & Anita Schorsch
Courtesy of Freeman's

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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Christie's Images Ltd. 2017
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History
Abraham Lincoln Letter About Slavery Could Fetch $700,000 at Auction
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Christie's Images Ltd. 2017

The Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, in which future president Abraham Lincoln spent seven debates discussing the issue of slavery with incumbent U.S. senator Stephen Douglas, paved the way for Lincoln’s eventual ascent to the presidency. Now part of that history can be yours, as the AP reports.

A signed letter from Lincoln to his friend Henry Asbury dated July 31, 1858 explores the “Freeport Question” he would later pose to Douglas during the debates, forcing the senator to publicly choose between two contrasting views related to slavery’s expansion in U.S. territories: whether it should be up to the people or the courts to decide where slavery was legal. (Douglas supported the popular choice argument, but that position was directly counter to the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision.)

The first page of a letter from Abraham Lincoln to Henry Asbury
Christie's Images Ltd. 2017

In the letter, Lincoln was responding to advice Asbury had sent him on preparing for his next debate with Douglas. Asbury essentially framed the Freeport Question for the politician. In his reply, Lincoln wrote that it was a great question, but would be difficult to get Douglas to answer:

"You shall have hard work to get him directly to the point whether a territorial Legislature has or has not the power to exclude slavery. But if you succeed in bringing him to it, though he will be compelled to say it possesses no such power; he will instantly take ground that slavery can not actually exist in the territories, unless the people desire it, and so give it protective territorial legislation."

Asbury's influence didn't end with the debates. A founder of Illinois's Republican Party, he was the first to suggest that Lincoln should run for president in 1860, and secured him the support of the local party.

The letter, valued at $500,000 to $700,000, is up for sale as part of a books and manuscripts auction that Christie’s will hold on December 5.

[h/t Associated Press]

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