A trainload of 17 beautiful single ladies arrived in New York City on July 5, 1906 via the Southern and Pennsylvania Railroad. They were winners of a contest sponsored by the Chattanooga News.
The innovative newspaper limited those selected from the states of Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky. They subdivided the territory into 17 districts, allowing contestants to compete within their respective locations. The winners were those receiving the most votes based on the number and length of subscriptions to the paper.
Eight of the 17 young ladies were from Tennessee: Hattie Hunter (Johnson City), Flora Copeland (Soddy), Flossie Blackburn (Cleveland), Margaret Erwin (Lookout Mountain), Alice Magill (Dechard), Blanche Allison, Pauline Hancook and Catherine Robinson (all from Chattanooga).
The much sought-after plum was a two-week outing to the Big Apple, with two-day side-trips reserved for Boston, Philadelphia and Washington. After initially rendezvousing in Chattanooga, the group attended a ball and banquet in their honor at Lookout Inn, slept in the Pullman car that had been provided for the trip, left the city on Tuesday morning at 5:30 a.m. and arrived in Manhattan later that day. They were escorted to Hotel Flanders at 137 West 47thStreet where they lodged during their visit.
Before the train departed Chattanooga, the local merchants loaded it with “soda pop, ice cream, orangeade, and other frothy and harmless things for young ladies.” Mr. Hudiberg, the head chaperone, noted that there were 1,700 bottles of soft drinks on the train. The body of the Pullman was so full of drinks that the porters could hardly make up the berths. Consequently, the ice cream freezers were moved to the rear platform of the train to give more room. All members of the party were cheerful and in good spirits when they arrived in New York. Fortunately, not one suffered a mishap or experienced an illness.
The party rode up 47thStreet until one of the girls exclaimed, “Stop. There is the hotel. It’s just like the picture we saw of it.” They all went into the lobby and settled in the parlor while they waited for their rooms to be assigned. They then took the elevator upstairs. The contest winners, chaperons and guards had intended to go to the New York Reef Garden the first night, but at dinner it was learned that their trunks hadn’t arrived from the train preventing them from putting on new dresses. The consensus was that they would not go to the theater.
During dinner, they were informed that a photographer was outside and wanted to take pictures of them. One girl made a hasty jaunt to her room where she quickly refreshed herself and returned in time for the group photo. The ladies decided not to go to the theatre. Instead they opted to walk up and down the Great White Way (Broadway, so named because of all of the white lights). Most of them had never seen it before, although not all were strangers to the Big Apple. One girl, it was learned, had won a prize offered by another afternoon paper in a previous contest.
The next morning, the party observed the massive skyscrapers from the top of a large sightseeing automobile, followed by a shopping spree that afternoon. In the evening, they were treated to a theatre performance. Managers of the Proctor-Keith Vaudeville Company offered all their playhouses to the popular young women whenever they wanted to attend. The various Coney Island and other seaside attraction managers also asked to be hosts of the youthful beauties.
Two weeks came and went that included side trips, leaving the attention-getting beauties excited but fatigued and ready to return to their respective homes by train. They had something to dream about for the rest of their lives.