Highlight: Old Gold Beauties


Beauty contests and pageants have been around for centuries, but did you know we used to have our very own competition here at UNI? 

Crowd of students gathered to place their ballots in Old Gold Beauty contest

The “Old Gold Beauties” officially started in the 1929-1930 school year as a popular vote contest, although there had been some form of popularity/beauty contest on campus since at least 1925. For voting, a ballot box would be set up and all UNI students were encouraged to come and cast their vote for the nominee they thought was the most beautiful (College Eye 1930). Women on campus could be nominated by any student or organization and many sororities and women’s groups on campus took the opportunity to nominate and promote one of their members with posters put up around campus (College Eye, Dec. 20, 1935). At the end of the voting the women who received the most votes would have their photographs sent to a selected judge who would make the final decision on the winners (College Eye, Dec. 13, 1935). 


While this final decision was generally made by a member of the UNI faculty or one of the Old Gold editors, there were a few years where a notable personality was asked to do the honor. Most notable among these guest judges were Broadway impresario Flo Ziegfeld (College Eye, Jan. 17, 1930), who judged the first Old Gold Beauties contest in 1930, and American singer Bing Crosby who was asked to judge in 1934 (College Eye, March 23, 1934 and Old Gold 1934).

Old Gold Beauties contestant walking the runway during the pageant


During the 1956-1957 school year, the Old Gold Beauties would officially shift from being a typical popular vote contest to a full pageant, held in the Lang auditorium on campus. In this new setup, women who were nominated would be judged on different categories by a panel of judges made up of UNI students and staff who would select up to 25 finalists. After the finalists had been chosen the final vote would be made by UNI students (College Eye, Sept. 28, 1956).


Old Gold Beauties contestants posing for a group photoOld Gold Beauty Pageant contestants on stage

















Contributed by Eliza Mussmann, SC&UA Graduate Assistant, May 10, 2022

“Bing Crosby Will Select T.C. Beauty.” College Eye, March 23, 1934. Pg 2. https://indexuni.library.uni.edu/articles/184375. 
“Future Teachers Gaze In Mirror; Ziegfeld And Students Choose.” College Eye, January 17, 1930. Pg 1. https://indexuni.library.uni.edu/articles/190341. 
“Harlan Miller to Select Old Gold Beauties.” College Eye, December 13, 1935. Pg 1. https://indexuni.library.uni.edu/articles/171499. 
Iowa State Teachers College, 1934 Old Gold (UNI Yearbook). Pg 103-113. https://scholarworks.uni.edu/uni_yearbooks/35/.  
List of Old Gold Beauties, #17/01/02/09, Folder Old Gold Beauties, University Archives, Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa.
Lounsberry, Barbara. “What Became of the Editors?”. Alumnus, September, 1969. Pg 6-9. https://indexuni.library.uni.edu/articles/31079
“Old Gold Inaugurates Beauty Pageant At TC.” College Eye, September 28, 1956. Pg 1. https://indexuni.library.uni.edu/articles/145596.  
“Sponsoring Groups Pick Campus Beauties For Old Gold Contest.” College Eye, December 20, 1935. Pg 1. https://indexuni.library.uni.edu/articles/171727
“Students Flock To Vote For Eight Beauties.” College Eye, January 24, 1930. Pg 1. https://indexuni.library.uni.edu/articles/190413.