Beauty queens of the New York City subway

Today’s subway ads are a depressing lot: medical malpractice law firms, Dr. Zizmor, MTA warnings about the dangers of traveling between cars. 

Not so from 1941 to 1976. Back then, one young New York woman per month was crowned “Miss Subways,” her name and face plastered above the seats on thousands of subway cars for millions of commuters to see.

An ad agency, not the MTA, nominated the winners; residents then voted for a top candidate over the phone. The winners came from all backgrounds and boroughs and comprised a surprisingly diverse group over the years.

All had a few things in common: they were wholesome, had aspirations . . . and rode the subway, of course. Some information on what became of some winners can be found here.

Perhaps a revival of Miss Subways should duke it out with a new version of Miss Rheingold, the beauty pageant that gripped New Yorkers in the 1940s and 1950s.

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24 Responses to “Beauty queens of the New York City subway”

  1. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    As a kid I had to go uptown to Haaren HS (which no longer exists) on 59th Street and 10th Avenue. There was nothing like Miss Subways to drool over and in those years we didn’t think of marking her up with obscenities as they would in later years. Another kid Zeno, was in love with a Miss Subways and said he was going to marry her. We laughed and called him names… But nowadays Miss Subways doesn’t look like the dream as she once did but I suppose in those times she was a real beauty.

  2. Alice Beebe Says:

    I used to love Miss Subway and my girlfriends and I used to dream that we would be up there someday. Our brothers used to drool over them and we wanted someone to drool over us. Ha.

  3. Laila Says:

    your blog is quite… euro-centric view of New York history – where is the history of other ethnic groups? and why the distorted over excess of glorification of the europeans history in New York while missing the cost and price of what this settling was – that is the colonizing and genocide to the original and first inhabitants i.e. the Natives and the poverty of the projects (who you claim were rightfully named after the “great” lincoln and washington”).

  4. wildnewyork Says:

    I don’t know who you are but it appears you ripped off an image I posted here in 2008 of 19th century bathing suits and put it on your blog. You didn’t even change the name of the file from the name I gave it.

  5. Laila Says:

    Why cant I share it with others too? Didnt you find it on online as well?

  6. wildnewyork Says:

    No, I didn’t find it online—I bought it and scanned it in.
    When you “share” an image you ripped off another website, you provide a link to the original site as a courtesy. You don’t comment on the blog you stole it from and complain that it’s too Eurocentric!!!

  7. Laila Says:

    I still stand by my opinion on eurocentrism, but I would not mind providing the source of your blog to the advertisement. I just assumed that it has been travelling along the internet for years!

  8. m Says:

    Hey, little Abe Relis here! Don’t fret over this laila person. I’m thinkin she’s what my old man used to call ignorant. But God made all things great and small. It’s best to forgive the small.

  9. Sean S Says:


    I see nothing Euro-centric about Miss Subways, nor anything else in this blog, which I have been enjoying for years. Why do you? it is mostly about signage, buildings, old news stories, architecture, etc.

    FYI, one of these Miss Subways above, Ms. Maureen Walsh’s relative,Thomas Francis Meagher, who was a Union general and a Montana governor, as noted in the poster. What the poster omitted was that prior to that, Meagher was an Irish nationalist rebel, who was exiled to Australia by the Brits for his revolutionary activities. He escaped and went on to greatness.

    What is so Euro-centric about Australia? Meagher was a revolutionary; you are just revolting.

    On the other hand, you are absolutely correct: we stole the land from the Indians.

    You should live by the principles and move back to the land of your ancestors, whether it be Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia or Mars.

  10. Laila Says:

    wildnewyork, i have made a link to your blog from the photo, i hope people do visit your blog as it is resourseful.

    i still stand by my criticism, it is to be constructive – it is obvious in my perspective that it is missing a diversity of other ethnicities contributions to New York besides the underlying historic roots of the Americas.

    I shared that contstructive critisim as a progressive insight, take it or leave it. I hope it helps to build better, thats all.

    The aboriginals want to live in peaceful co-existence, I know how too, do you Sean S? If not, you can go back to your ancestors land – i am very much welcome here as I work to try to promote the rights and awareness of the First Peoples struggle.

  11. m Says:

    Little abe relis here again. I want you guys to stop pickin’ on lala. I had a cousin like her growin up we all called Butter Bottom. They used to pick on him cause his head was lumpy and too big for his hat. He had what my old man called twice the tongue and half the brain, but he was a sweet kid. His mother used to say he cried himself to sleep every night. So please don’t pick on this girl. Maybe her hat don’t fit.

  12. Laila Says:

    Im really not surprised not that there is mostly indecent and immature people on this blog, these are the silliest comments I have ever read in response to a productive criticism. Goodbye, the blind see what they want to see. Peace…

  13. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    Laila you’re screwy. You hear what you want to hear and belittle the rest. You will learn much, I can set that…

  14. Sean S Says:

    Laiala, I on on vacation in Arizona now, not far from an Indian reservation, as I have done often in the past. I have learned that Indians happen to be quite patriotic, as contrary as that might be to your limited life experience.

    The Indians want nothing to do with you or your Loony Leftism.

    For example, NPR this week had a story about a Navajo from Arizona who couldn’t wait to join the Marine. He was killed in Iraq. Hundreds of Indians came out to pay their respect to his coffin, draped in a US flag, as it traveled through two states, New Mexico and Arizona.

    Save yourself before you save others.


  15. Laila Says:

    This is not about patriotism. It is about truth.

    In the example you are trying to persuade yourself with is actually a poor one, only because ONE marine who happens to be a Native does not mean he represents the political views of ALL Natives.

    The Iraq war was an unjust war that should have not happened, it was unncessary costing the lives of innocent civilians and young men and women of the military. I dont blame the Native for not knowing the anti-war movement that is so strong here in Canada by the Natives. The American education system is mis-educative.

    Obviously people are going to attend his funeral! And it would be his own family, who obviously will be Natives too.

  16. Sean S Says:

    Canada? You live in Canada?? ROTFL!!

    Don’t make us laugh. Now we know you are truly loony.

    – You live in a Federal Monarchy where the Queen of England is the Head of State and you have the balls to preach to us!
    – Where they still play “God Save the Queen” at many public events!
    – Canada, which is still a member of the British Commonwealth, along with all the other British colonies?
    – At least the other colonies fought for and won their independence. Canada has steadfastly remained a British stronghold.
    – Canadians are such monarchists and lickspittles, who cling to their little Queenie and refuse to breath the air of freedom, that they have always supported the Royals, bowing their heads and bending their knees to a feudal monarch – to this very day.

    Yet you dare preach to Americans who overthrew the crown three centuries ago?

    Before you worry about whether this blog doesn’t feature enough of your pet projects of the month, do what Meagher, mentioned at 7:43 above, did:
    First free your own country from colonialism and the rule of the Crown – and stop your hypocrisy.

    (Out of respect for this blog, which is a NY blog not a blog on Imperial colonialism and its sycophants and apologists, this is my last comment, no matter what further nonsense and obfuscation. I don’t feed trolls!)

  17. Laila Says:

    Thanks, those are great examples of why over emphasizing european achievements is one-sided and mis-educative because of their continuation of monarchy and colonialism foundation.

    All those examples if why social justice movements continue, a revolution is needed. Im glad we are both on the same side on that one!

  18. Laila Says:

    Good bye, and continue to stoop yourself to a newer low with your unnecessary name-calling. How noble of you!

  19. Laila Says:

    And only because America is “independent” from monarchy on paper, isn’t actually so in reality.

  20. Jess Says:

    Bring back Miss Subway!

  21. LR Says:

    Haha! “plugging for a B.A. but would settle for M.R.S.” I guess beauty queens weren’t expected to be the over-achievers they are today.

  22. BrooklynKnight Says:

    In the classic 1949 MGM musical, “On the Town” a sailor on leave in NYC (played by Gene Kelly) is in love with “Miss Turnstiles.” I thought “Miss Turnstiles” was fiction until I attended college in Brooklyn. There, my first day on the GG Train I “met” Miss Subways via the posters above the windows of the noisy, rattling subway cars.

  23. Noreen Says:

    My mother was one.

  24. Who was crowned Miss Brooklyn in 1939? | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Miss Subways, which existed from the 1940s to the 1970s, was huge […]

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