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The Winner: Della Carson and the rise of the Photo Beauty Contest
by David for group historicalziegfeld Nov 22, 2010

In 1907 the Chicago Tribune had a brainstorm. Seeing how pictures of stage beauties how swollen the subscriptions of national magazines, and having installed new printers capable of a fair degree of tone fidelity in reproduction, the editors announced the great local beauty contest. Local women would submit photographs of themselves and a panel of beauty experts would select a winner. Until this time the beauty contest had been a event in which contestants stood physically before a panel of judges. The flood of submissions informed the Tribune that its intuition had been correct. After much deliberation, the winner was selected--Della Carson, a working girl earning a $12 a week salary as secretary to the Head of the University of Chicago's Divinity School. The newspaper had Della do several professional sittings. Though the copyright notice indicates them as Chicago Tribune photos, they were probably taken by Jens Rudolph Matzene, who had been interviewed 4 years early about female photogencis for the Trib. When published, the selection created a sensation, and multitudes of female subscribers wrote in asking about beauty tips and how to maintain oneself while in the work-place. Della proved a popular and powerful columnist, developing her celebrity into a beauty aid business. The Tribune meantime challenged other newspapers to discover their own metropolitan beauties to vie for national honors, and the great wave of periodical-drive beauty photo contests began. In the 1910s, a movie contract was usually the reward in first rank contests. But praise, fame, and a little cash were what went to the first great winner of a newsprint beauty war. David S. Shields

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  • historicalzg - 1Reply
    Note: Links for vlad's comment are no longer available.

    ohikkoshi wrote on Nov 23, '10
    “...they were probably taken by Jens Rudolph Matzene...”(c)

    Chicago Tribune, 3 March 1907.

    ...and one unpublished:

    Thanks, David.
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