Photograph of First Miss Kansas Donated to Pratt Museum

Deanna Bonn
Times-Gazette

The first “Miss Kansas” was crowned in 1933, and her name was Pauline Sayre. Sayre was an El Dorado High School graduate of 1928 and attended El Dorado Junior College in 1929-1930.

Pratt County Historical Museum curator Charmaine Swanepoel, left, receives a photograph of the first Miss Kansas, Pauline Sayre, from Sierra Marie Bonn. The photo will be added to the Miss Kansas exhibit on the wall of fame highlighting former Miss Kansas’.

El Dorado Junior College was originally founded in 1927, and is now known as Butler Community College (BCC). Sayre is pictured in the 1929 Grizzly Growl Yearbook where she is listed as a member of the class of 1930. Sayre was working at Montgomery Ward, in the summer of 1933, when she won a Bather’s Review in El Dorado and went on to compete in Wichita for the title of “Miss Kansas.”

Almost immediately following her crowing, she began a “Whistle Stop” tour with other midwestern titleholders on their way to Atlantic City to compete at Miss America. She was the first person to wear the “Miss Kansas” sash at Miss America. Her first runner up, Drusilla Morgan, also assumed the title of “Miss Kansas” and became the Kansas representative at the Chicago World’s Fair, which occurred around the same time as Miss America.

While Sayre was the first “Miss Kansas'' to wear the sash, she was not the only woman from El Dorado to receive the title. In 1960, Miss El Dorado Gayla Leigh Shoemake went on to be crowned “Miss Kansas 1960” and was also given the title of “Miss Kansas Centennial 1961” and served the state during its centennial year celebration.

Sierra Marie Bonn hopes to be the next “Miss Kansas'' from El Dorado.  She currently holds the title of Miss Southwest and is competing for the job of “Miss Kansas 2021.”

Sayre’s connection to El Dorado and her identity as the first “Miss Kansas” to wear the sash at Miss America had been recently rediscovered during research for El Dorado’s sesquicentennial celebration, “Celebrating 150 Years in El Dorado.”

Sayre’s college yearbook photo was digitally restored, thanks to Sierra Marie Bonn. “I knew I wanted to present copies of the photograph to Butler Community College and the Pratt Museum to be included in the Miss Kansas exhibit,” Bonn said. “It is such an important piece of our heritage and history and it was unknown to many people in El Dorado,” Bonn said. 

“During this historic year, I really wanted to do something special to commemorate it.” Not only is it the 150th birthday of Bonn’s hometown of El Dorado, it is also the 100 year celebration of the Miss America Organization. Follow Bonn’s journey during this historic year on her YouTube channel: Sierra Marie Bonn