OLD NEWS: Lovelorn’s men send 1,921 tons of mail to Arkansas beauty

Let’s read the fan mail that Edith Mae Patterson received 100 years ago.

Reader’s friend will recall that the 19-year-old Pine Bluff schoolteacher won the title of America’s Most Beautiful Girl in 1921 after an aunt sent her picture to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, without it. request.

On October 25, Old News saw the suddenly famous young woman baptize a hydroelectric power station (see arkansasonline.com/1122edith) and on November 22 we read how the little girls of Monticello threw flowers at her before she enters an oil well. (see arkansasonline.com/1206edith).

This fall long ago, the postman brought his bags full of unsolicited disclosures and typographical errors from loving admirers across the country and Canada. For example, here is part of a letter from Michigan:

“I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you didn’t start wondering who I am.” movies but still teach in school showing you are not too hyfuluten to be human i wonder if this is in the wastebasket now.

“Well, to continue on old man Spencer’s favorite son, I was born and raised in Texas, been there three months, I love everything but the cold, I smoke Camel cigarettes, I play poker, mandolin and guitar when I feel like it, sing a little bit when the pain hits me, I’ve been through Pine Bluff three times, I love fruit cakes and music, and I hear myself alright with brunets. it bothers me, this is how i gonna gain your interest? i tried to inoculate this letter with a bit of personality. the diary said you had a brain. right amazing. I always thought that a person’s head was to prevent their backbone from collapsing. … “


“My dear Miss Patterson: Believe you deserve the title, but doubt you should spend your sweet life in theatrical lines. Why not allow one of your admirers to insist that you form a two-party partnership? Don’t wait to become ‘fair’ and 40. ‘”


“I have your picture and I believe she is the prettiest girl I have ever seen. Now they are hoping that a blue eyed, dark haired man of about 30 summers will ever win your affection. ‘Please give me a little encouragement; 5 ½ feet, weight 125 lbs. This completes my description and heir to a millionaire. Since seeing the photo, I recently had a delightful reflection on the subject of love in Whoom which I have ever felt with sincere and tender regards. Please give me some definitions I have always wanted to come to Pine Bluff and now I think I will go to next spring to see the country and I would be more than happy to see you.


Even in this remote northwest corner of the good old United States, fame for your beauty has spread, and I am one of your humble admirers who would like to pay your respects. All I ask of you: l ‘will you agree? Please don’t. I don’t think I’m pretentious enough to hear from you personally. But like it or not, a reproduction of your photo graces the plaza. honor on my dresser. “The most beautiful girl in America.” Are you not proud? God bless you with all the luck and happiness and – true love for a worthy man. “


“I always wanted to know a girl as smart as she was beautiful, and now that I have found her I’m going to lose her because she is on a higher level than me, being the most beautiful girl and the most intellectual in the world. The United States and I a humble admirer of hers. … As you are a school teacher, you may perhaps read this writing. … “


“I am single and I would like to have a mate if I could have one that soothes me. You are a very good beautiful girl and I guess she is a good girl. I am 32 years old and I am 5 feet 6 inches tall. , I have blue eyes black hair and I am a blacksmith by trade. I don’t think that would turn you on, but I’m not going to say no to you, but I guess that’s it. Please answer that- here anyway.


“Now please don’t be shocked to death, or lift your nose and say ‘Well this man must be out of his head’ because I’m not. I just saw your picture in the diary and noticed your address & thought it would be exciting & something new to open a correspondence with someone so far away. I hope you will agree with me. Now that you are a school teacher, I’m afraid you are horribly cranky, but your photo doesn’t look like this at all. … Now please don’t fail to reply to this dear teacher and I’ll be good . “

â–  â–  â– 

Wedding invitation in the Arkansas Gazette for September 26, 1926 for Deronda Rhea of ​​Nashville and Dr. Olva Wilson Kopp. Rhea placed third in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat National Beauty Pageant in 1921. (Democrat-Gazette archives)

These excerpts from her fan mail appeared in the Gazette on December 4, 1921, with the news that she and her friends were having fun making fun of them. Meanwhile, that day’s Arkansas Democrat reported that – oh, by the way – another Arkansan placed third in the same national beauty pageant.

Deronda Rhea, 21, of Nashville, was a student at the University of Arkansas and was 5 feet 6 ½ inches tall. She had brown eyes, curly golden brown hair, and had graduated “AB from Brenau College in Gainesville, Georgia”. That is, she had a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts.

On December 6, The Gazette reported that Patterson had resigned from Lakeside Grammar School and accepted an offer to take the stage, possibly in Dallas.

For starters, she appeared at the Crystal Theater in Little Rock to a gathering of auto owners. On the program were the mayor, governor, and a black and tan Republican lawyer who was also the exalted Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan’s recently formalized Little Rock chapter, James A. Comer.

A second-generation Klan was in full swing in Arkansas and elsewhere.

About a week before The Gazette shared Patterson’s mail, the Little Rock KKK gave Police Chief Burl Rotenberry $ 1,000 to support – among other things – “protecting our womanhood” and “preventing violence. crowds and lynchings ”. The money was intended to fund awards for information about non-Americans that might smear pure femininity.

Although he ultimately rejected the Klan, Rotenberry was happy with the money at first, because in November and December 1921 the Klan looked like such a fun social club, and the local chapter was made up of bankers, men of business, officials and preachers.

His support for prohibition and costumed entertainment has been embraced by civic-minded Arkansans, including members of some Sunday school classes whose modern descendants would, I think, be quite shocked.

Pick up a copy of Kenneth C. Barnes’ new book, “The Ku Klux Klan in 1920s Arkansas: How Protestant White Nationalism Came to Rule a State” (University of Arkansas Press, $ 34.95). And hold on to your hat.


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Photo Edith Mae Patterson of Pine Bluff, from an Arkansas Gazette December 4, 1921 article about the amount of mail she received from potential suitors. (Democrat-Gazette archives)

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