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Chattanooga's Cotton Ball: The Early Years

Captain Joseph Baker and Elise Davis Hayes at the 1938 Cotton Ball

Captain Joseph Baker and Elise Davis Hayes at the 1938 Chattanooga Cotton Ball. They are the couple on the left side of the photo; others are unidentified.

The Chattanooga Cotton Ball is one of the premiere annual social events in Chattanooga. It began in 1933 as the Fall Fashion Show Floor Show Chattanooga Cotton Ball, to benefit the Children's Hospital Free Ward Fund and the Chattanooga Museum Association. Annually there were several smaller coming-out balls held for local debutantes, but Zella Armstrong, a local author and publisher, felt it would be more spectacular to combine them into one large affair and to include young women from the surrounding area. With the nation in the grip of the Great Depression, a colorful event such as the Cotton Ball might help cheer up the people of the area as well. In these images we get a glimpse into the early years of the Cotton Ball through photos of participants, pages from notebooks and correspondence used in organizing the balls, and some of the publicity in print. The display comes from two sources: the Cotton Ball manuscript collection and Miss Zella's publication The Lookout.

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