Miss America, Not Once, But Twice

There She Is, Mary Campbell, The Only Two Time Miss America

Miss America 1922 1923 winner Mary Campbell

Growing up I have slight memories of the Miss America Beauty Pageant: mostly of the perennial emcee Bert Parks singing the “There She Is, Miss America” song, while some young woman was given flowers and started crying.

The Miss America Beauty Pageant and all beauty pageants are generally a bore. They are really thinly disguised T & A shows.

But back in the 1920’s when the Miss America Beauty Pageant began, things were set up a little differently.

In 1922 Mary Campbell was named the winner of the second Miss America Beauty Pageant. Nothing extraordinary in that. As you can see in the above portrait and below that Mary Campbell was not breathtakingly beautiful, but still an attractive girl.

But what caught my attention was that this 17-year-old was not just the winner of the Miss America Beauty Pageant in 1922, but also the winner of the pageant in 1923!

Miss America 1922 winner Mary Campbell on beachHow Mary Campbell became the only two time Miss America winner is an amusing story.

Mary Campbell did not even consider herself the least bit good-looking. In 1922 when Campbell was watching the preliminaries for an Ohio beauty contest, a judge suggested she enter the contest. She did and surprisingly won the contest becoming “Miss Columbus.”

Later she was told she won because of her figure, which was 35-26-36. Being self admittedly  very naive, Campbell did not even know what a “figure” was. She asked her mother who replied, “It’s none of your business.” From that local victory she entered the Miss America contest. Campbell’s auburn hair and peaches and cream complexion were fitting with the All-American girl image that the judges were looking for.

The pageant judges used a literal breakdown of female features in calculating who should become Miss America. The young lady who was closest in adding up to 100 points would win. The categories were:

Construction of Head:      15 points
Eyes:                                     10 points
Hair:                                       5 points
Nose:                                      5 points
Mouth:                                   5 points
Facial Expression:              10 points
Torso:                                    10 points
Legs:                                      10 points
Arms:                                    10 points
Hands:                                  10 points
Grace of Bearing:                10 points

Many of the judges were noted artists and illustrators such as Norman Rockwell, James Montgomery Flagg, and Howard Chandler Christy. These men were considered authorities on beauty.

Competing against 56 other girls from around the country, Campbell won the 1922 Miss America pageant.

There was no rule that previous contestants could not enter into future pageants. So after Mary Campbell won the Miss America competition in 1922, she entered again in 1923. Against a field of 73 other women the judges decided that no one could measure up to the five foot six, 136 pound Campbell’s beauty and was once again declared the winner.

Joseph Cummings Chase, one of the judges said, “Miss Campbell is possessed of great vivacity and an inherent shyness that constitute a wonderful combination. She is typically American and altogether an ideal type. Her forebearers for ten generations have been American born.”

Offers poured in for Campbell to appear in the Ziegfeld Follies, vaudeville, the movies and the circus. All opportunities of fame were turned down at the insistence of her mother.

Amazingly in 1924 Campbell entered the pageant again and almost won. She was named the runner-up.

Rule changes soon followed in 1925 and it was decided that you can only win the Miss America Pageant once and not return to the competition.

After her pageant days Mary Campbell went back to Ohio to take care of her mother who  was ill. Campbell got married moved to San Francisco and lived a rather mundane life taking care of her husband who later suffered from severe depression. Campbell died June 7, 1990 in San Francisco at the age of 84, the only two time winner of Miss America.

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1 thought on “Miss America, Not Once, But Twice

  1. Larry Weaver

    I didn’t realize that rules were made in 1925 that restricted winners of the Miss America pageant from only winning once. My daughter is interested in entering a pageant with the hopes that she can one day use this opportunity for a pageant to help out a charity. I’ll be sure to let my daughter know about the current rules to beauty pageants so she can follow the right procedures and have a great time achieving her dream.


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