February 2008 Newsletter
Catalina Swimwear and the Miss America Pageant
Catalina has proved to be an ever evolving brand over the decades. Founded in 1907 by John C. Bentz as Bentz Knitting Mills, renamed Pacific Knitting Mills (1912), Catalina Knitting Mills (1928), and Catalina, from 1955. In the 1930s and 1940s the company had a symbiotic relationship with Hollywood. Warner Bros. costume designer Orry Kelly and film color consultant and makeup man Perc Westmore designed for Catalina. Starlets and stars like Ginger Rogers, Joan Crawford, Ronald Reagan, and Marilyn Monroe were photographed in Catalina sportswear for advertising and publicity purposes. Catalina's influence was also intertwined with the Miss America Beauty Pageant.
The Miss America Pageant began in 1921 as a gimmick by Atlantic City businessmen to extend the summer tourist season. Two local Atlantic City, NJ reporters suggested having a newspaper convention, in which editors could increase circulation by holding contests where readers could send in photographs of beautiful girls in bathing suits. The winners of the photographic contests would then compete against each other live in Atlantic City and the winner would be crowned "Miss America".
In the early years of the pageant, a beauty competition of the women wearing bathing suits was the main event,
and for a while all contestants had to wear the same suits. Catalina swimwear began sponsorship of the Miss America pageants and this is when we begin to see Catalina swimwear on all contestants.
This picture shows a bevy of beauties from the 1949 Miss America swimsuit line-up. Jacque Mercer (far right) from Arizona, was crowned Miss America 1949. The pageant contestants were able to wear 'off the rack' Catalina swimsuits except that pageant suits had the flying fish logo on both hips instead of one. This is the last year that Catalina pageant swimsuits were seen in the Miss America pageant.
There is no 1950 Miss America winner. Since Miss America reigns for a year following her September victory, and most of that year falls into the next calendar year, in 1950, pageant officials decided to call the winner "Miss America 1951," and have followed this practice ever since.
Yolande Betbeze, Miss America 1951, refused to pose for publicity pictures while wearing a swimsuit, citing that she wanted to be recognized as a serious opera singer. In response to the dispute, Catalina swimwear, one of the Miss America sponsors since the 1940s, withdrew sponsorship of the Miss America Pageant and created the Miss USA/Universe pageants.
This is one of Catalina's 'Miss Universe' ads from 1952.
Who doesn't still hear Bert Parks singing ~ There she is Miss America....