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April 8, 1915: Judges select acceptable women’s bathing suit for municipal beach

On this day in Duluth in 1915, judges selected the winner of a contest to design women’s bathing suits that would be rented at Duluth’s new municipal swimming beach at Indian Point at the foot of Fairmount Park. The contest, as well as the bathing beach, were the ideas of 71-year-old park superintendent Captain Henry “Gramps” Cleveland. Cleveland had previously declared that “The bathing beach will be so divided that families, young women, young men, and juniors will have the use of their portions of the beach, safe, untrammeled and care free.” He had also banished “form-fitting” bathing suits, but was willing to consider public opinion on what type of suit would be acceptable. He told the Duluth News Tribune, “Personally, I think all bathing suits must have skirts, but let’s hear from the people.” The contest, with a $10 prize, asked contestants to “send in just the kind of costume you think would look the ‘nicest’ and still ‘get by.’ But don’t make your drawing too bold.” For the next two weeks, sketches of bathing suit designs filled the newspaper. To evaluate the fifty entries, Cleveland put together a judging committee of nine women who represented all sections of the city, from Lakeside to Fond du Lac. On April 8 committee chair Miss Jean Poirier announced that they had chose as the winner a “statuesque” design from Mrs. M. P. St. Pierre. The committee reported to the News Tribune that the swimsuit “was the most practical and artistic design, commensurate with modesty, of all costumes submitted.” Cleveland planned to have several hundred of the bathing costumes made in Duluth by local knitting mills for renting to bathers who did not have their own. Learn more about Duluth’s remarkable park system here.

Just some of the entrants of Duluth’s 1915 bathing suit contest, including at far right the “Statuesque,” the winning entry from Mrs. M. P. St. Pierre. (Image: Zenith City Press)