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As It Was: Contest Boosts Medford, Ore., Newspaper Subscriptions

In 1908, the Medford Daily Tribune came up with a popularity contest to boost its dwindling circulation, and that of the bi-weekly Southern Oregonian.

The six-week contest promised Oregon women, married or single of any age, a certain number of points for collecting new subscriptions to either of the two newspapers. The one with the most points would win the grand prize, a new REO roadster.  Other prizes included a building lot and several gold watches, business school scholarships, and $100 piano certificates.

During the six-week contest, women from Central Point, Ore., to Siskiyou County, Calif., brought in subscriptions.  Some women must have taken subscriptions for every member of the family, including grandparents and newborn babies, to improve their chances of winning.  Many residents bought five-year subscriptions to back their favorite candidate.

A woman from Jacksonville, Laura Neuber, was the grand prize winner.  A photograph shows her smiling in the driver’s seat of her new car.  The second prize, a building lot in a fashionable Medford neighborhood, went to 7-year-old Brownie Purdin of East Medford. 

The owner of the Tribune and Southern Oregonian couldn’t have been happier.

Sources:  "The Great Popularity Contest - 1908." The Table Rock Sentinel, vol. 3, no. 2, Feb. 1983, pp. 18-22. "The Voting Contest of Daily Tribune Favorably Received." Medford Daily Tribune, Jan. 1908, p. 1+.  

Sharon Bywater of Ashland, Oregon grew up in Southern California. She taught English literature and writing at Syracuse University in New York, where she also wrote and edited adult literacy books and published freelance articles in local media. Later, she lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked as an international telecommunications policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has Master’s degrees in English and Communications Management.