front page 1953

On June 18, 2019, LNP celebrated its 225th anniversary. The earliest newspaper to which today’s LNP traces its roots was the Lancaster Journal, first published on June 18, 1794, by William Hamilton and Henry Willcocks from a news office located in a tavern building at the King Street site of the current LNP building.

To celebrate 225 years of Lancaster newspapers, we present this series of 52 front pages from the history of the newspapers which would eventually become LNP. 

Lancaster County's Miss America

In the nearly 100-year history of the Miss America pageant, only one Miss Pennsylvania went on to claim the crown at the end.

And wouldn’t you know it, she was from Ephrata.

Evelyn Sempier – then Evelyn Margaret Ay - was born on March 8, 1933, and attended Ephrata High School and then entered the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. It was during her time in Ephrata that she won several local pageants, including Miss Ephrata Fair and Tobacco Queen of Lancaster County, complete with a crown made to look like it was made of tobacco leaves.

Halfway through her schooling in Philadelphia, she entered the Miss Pennsylvania competition, reportedly on a lark to help a friend organize a pageant in Ephrata. She won.

The 1954 Miss America Competition took place Sept. 12, 1953, at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The judges included Grace Kelly, who in two years would become the princess of Monaco. This would be the last Miss America pageant not to be televised, so the contestants focused on impressing both the judges and the live crowd of 15,000 people.

“It’s so hard to express an emotion that’s so deeply set,” the 20-year-old Miss America declared after winning the competition and receiving her crown from the previous year’s winner, Neva Jane Langley of Georgia. Along with the obligatory regal accoutrements, Sempier won $50,000 in prizes, a new car and personal appearance fees.

Upon returning home to Ephrata days later, Sempier was given a hero’s welcome, complete with a parade, the keys to the city and a celebration with thousands of cheering onlookers. After the fanfare died down, Sempier put in the grueling work that accompanies a win of that stature. According to newspaper records, Sempier traveled 270,000 miles in 1954, making personal appearances all over the country. After her yearlong reign was complete, Sempier married Navy veteran Carl G. Sempier and had two children. She never gave up pageant life and would go on to judge numerous local competitions, as well as the 1981 Miss America pageant.

Evelyn Sempier died in 2008 at age 75. A few years earlier, Sempier visited her hometown and had this to say:

“The area is still a giving, caring place. I am glad I had the pleasure of growing up here. I think there are certain things in my life that I learned in Ephrata that have impacted my life forever.”