Valley Rewind: Womanless beauty pageants

Ezra Maille
Black Mountain News
The Black Mountain Fire Department utilized beauty pageants as a means to raise money in the 1930s.

This photograph from the Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center’s extensive photograph archives shows participants in a womanless beauty pageant in Black Mountain on Aug. 3, 1933. 

For much of the 20th century, womanless beauty pageants were used as a popular form of fundraising and entertainment and the Black Mountain Fire Department (BMFD) was one of several organizations in the Swannanoa Valley that hosted such events. In its early years, the BMFD, which is the focus of a new exhibit by the Swannanoa Valley Museum, made consistent efforts to raise funds for its new firehouse on State Street as well as for safety gear and first aid equipment. The BMFD’s Women’s Auxiliary Club served as the main fundraising arm for the organization, helping to host popular forms of entertainment in order to raise money including plays, blackface comedies, womanless weddings and mock trials. The new exhibit looking back at 100 years of the Black Mountain Firehouse and the BMFD can be viewed at the Swannanoa Valley Museum now through Dec. 31.