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Miss Illegible: 1921

Miss Illegible: 1921

        UPDATE: This is the lovely Miss Nellie Orr!

Washington, D.C., circa 1921. "Nellie [Illegible], Miss Philadelphia." Perhaps someone out there can put a last name to this winsome face. View full size.


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Nellie Orr at Miss America 1921

Here she is in her black taffeta swimsuit.

What Happened to Miss Philadelphia 1921 Nellie Orr?

Does anyone know what became of Nellie Orr? I am researching all eight of the 1921 Miss America Contestants from the first contest and located info on all except for Nellie. Looking for her parents names, Nellie’s married name and when she passed away. Many thanks! You can contact me at

Equipped Just Fine

Miss Nellie is actually built perfectly for the standards of the day. By 1921 the flapper era was in full swing, emphasizing an almost boyish look with bobbed hair, flattened breasts and few visible curves. It was a reaction to the Victorian style of very long hair and fairly extreme curves accentuated by a corset. It's no surprise she would finish second in the "bathers' revue."

(Full disclosure: my grandmother was a flapper. Her hair had never been cut until 1919 at age 12, when she got a bob. She told me her father didn't speak to her for weeks!)

I hope Heaven is far away

Otherwise, she's still embarrassed every time someone looks at this picture. She's probably saying something on the order of, "Of all the photos taken of me, how did this get to be the one people are still looking at? Now that it is on Shorpy, I will never live it down!"

Nellie Orr

Nellie was my mother's older sister. My mother is 82 and still lives in Haddon Heights, NJ.

Her name

Yes it was Orr, and she was my great-grandmother on my mom's side. From what my grandfather has told me about her, she was very spunky and outspoken. He used to tell me I reminded him of her!

Like some kind of sea creature

What a fantastically weird hat.


she's the cutest beauty pageant contestant ever.

Literally winsome

Nellie didn't have much equipment even by the standards of that day (teeth didn't matter, shape did!) but something in her look tells me she would have been a formidable competitor in anything she chose. She certainly didn't get the scarred lip and broken tooth from tea parties or knitting.

Up in Here

"Why are ya'all up in my grill?"

Prosthodontically speaking

Miss Orr seems to be sporting a none too artfully fashioned porcelain jacket crown. Or is it an inlay?

Poor Philadelphia

Flat as a pancake, foul teeth! My God! I wonder what her contenders looked like.

Heeere she is

In the Racine Journal-News, same great hat

Near Miss

In 1921 Nellie Orr competed as Miss Philly in what would soon become known as the Miss America Pageant, where out of 500 contestants in the "bathers' review," she finished second. Something must have been stuffed -- either the ballot box, or ...

Miss Orr: 1921

Looks to the future and tells herself: "I'm gonna be the best Miss Philadelphia ever and with my winnings I'm gonna buy another letter or two for my pathetically short last name!"

Whoa Nellie


1921 September 7
8 entries

1 WASHINGTON DC - Margaret Gorman

CAMDEN (NJ) - Kathryn M. Gearon
HARRISBURG (PA) - Emma Pharo
NEW YORK CITY (NY) - Virginia Lee
NEWARK (NJ) - Margaret Bates
OCEAN CITY (NJ) - Hazel Harris
PITTSBURGH (PA) - Thelma Matthews

Miss Illegible: 1921

The girl was Nellie Orr. See this link for list of Miss Philadelphia winners.

Miss Nellie Orr

The Coshocton Tribune (Ohio), 10 September 1921 (via

Miss Nellie Orr of Philadelphia was chosen in the recent beauty contest to represent the Quaker City in the beauty review to be held in Atlantic City some time in September.

Miss Nellie Orr

Miss Nellie Orr, Miss Philly 1921 and one of only eight contestants in the first (1921) Miss America pageant in Atlantic City.

Nellie looked "spunky".

Nellie Orr

I think it was Orr.

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