Tuesday, March 17, 2009
A Popularity Contest
Update: Working on Page Proofs until March 23.
The photograph here was taken at a social gathering of young people in 1909. Center is my grandparents.
From the Frederick News Post, March 17, 1909.
In a contest held in Taneytown last week, Miss Agnes Hagan, well known here, won a handsome lamp for being the most popular young lady of the town. The prize was given by a medicine man in the town during the week. There were 23 young ladies in the contest, and Miss Hagan received over 900 votes more than her largest competitor.
Taneytown is a small town in central Maryland, and back in 1909 it had to have been even smaller. So, judging by the size of what the town would have been like, Ms. Hagan had to have been among a small group of competitors. The article has some interesting points. She wins a lamp. By 1920 only 35% of homes had electricity and these were in urban areas mostly. Only 2% of farms had electricity. So it is safe to say the lamp Ms. Hagan won was an oil lamp. Why a medicine man gave it to her is unknown. Perhaps he made the lamp.
She was voted the most popular young lady in town, but it does not say why. It makes me wonder was it due to beauty and poise. Or was she know for charitiable contributions to the community, her kindness and generousity?
Or was this a town beauty paganant of sorts? Whatever caused her to win a lamp, she won it by a landslide. I can just see these 23 young ladies dressed in all white cotton spring dresses with large bows, their locks flowing over their shoulders and down their backs, their buttom-top shoes clicking along the floorboards. Were there opposing whispers after the winner was announced, scowls and frowns, jealouse looks?
The age of the contestants is not known either, nor where the contest was held. Imagine for a moment the difference this story would make if it were held in the church hall or the local tavern.
We will never know, but a writer can only imagine that is the way it may have been. Writers love drama.
Posted by Rita Gerlach at 9:19 AM