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The David W. Moore Collection - Pageant of Pulchritude

Michael R. Moore

Silent | 1920s

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  •  Parade of contestants along the Seawall 
  •  Members of the Moore family spend time on a farm animals, including cows and chicks 
  •  Parade with “official cars” outside of the Galvez Hotel 
  •  A quick shot of a man riding a horse in a backyard 
  •  Pigeon coop 
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This 1920s home movie captures the parade of contestants during the International Pageant of Pulchritude. Originally known as the Bathing Girl Revue, the pageant was a Galveston tradition from 1920 to 1932. Contests for both “Miss United States” and “Miss Universe” titles were held, with bathing suit modeling as one of the main categories for judging. Women from as far as Holland, Austria, France, and Romania are featured. Heading downtown, the Moores witness a parade of several Ford Runabouts and Model A’s. The family is finally seen in a yard tending to cows, chicks, and pigeons.
Touted as the precursor to the Miss Universe Pageant and a Galveston tradition from 1920 to 1932, the Bathing Girl Revue (later known as the International Pageant of Pulchritude) signaled the beginning of the summer tourist season. 
To strengthen its tourism industry following the devastating Hurricane of 1900, the city of Galveston looked to organize regular waterfront events. In 1920, local promoter C. E. Barfield established the annual Splash Day event, with the Bathing Girl Revue competition as its main attraction. By 1926, the revue became an international contest known as the Pageant of Pulchritude. The following year, the event was split into two separate contests held over two days, awarding the title of “Miss United States” and “Miss Universe.” At its height, the pageant attracted so many spectators that it tripled the island’s population during the weekend when it ran.
Galveston stopped hosting the Pageant of Pulchritude after the 1931 event as a result of the Great Depression. Aside from a pair of contests held in Belgium in the 1930s, international beauty competitions were discontinued until 1952, when the modern Miss Universe contest began in California.