Did You Know…
This Week in Sapulpa History – Battle of the Banner “Subscription Drive” Ran Wild in 1929
Rachel Whitney, Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum
Announced by the Democrat News from November to December 1929: “WANTED–Man or woman, boy or girl for positions paying from $10 to $150 per week*. Two positions are worth better than $100 per week to those who qualify. Applicants please apply [to the] campaign department, The Democrat News. Just suppose for a minute that such an advertisement should appear in today’s paper. Wouldn’t there be a stream of people trying to connect with that job? Yet that is exactly what we [The Democrat News] are offering to live-wire workers in this short subscription drive…Someone in Sapulpa or surrounding territory will earn that amount; someone with no more opportunity than YOU!”
*Note: in 1929, $10/week would be roughly $150/week today; whereas, in 1929 $150/week would approximately be $2,200 today.
The subscription drive was similar to pyramid schemes. When a subscriber to the Democrat News runs the campaign to gain more subscribers, the original subscriber can earn points and cast votes; and the new subscribers can earn points and cast votes by gaining new subscribers for the paper. Also, the longer a person subscribed to the paper, the more points are earned. Anyone can participate, anyone can vote, and anyone could win.
“Are you going to be the one to finish triumphantly with an overwhelming number of votes to your credit? Or, are you content with what you now have and see the effort of these many weary weeks go to waste as the rewards of the others are wrested from your hands by more aggressive workers? It is up to you now, or let your opponents beat you to it.”
The entire month of December was buzzing with excitement over the campaign and the prizes being advertised for the winners. Each week that month the News announced who had votes coming in, who took the lead, and what the winners could possibly win.
“The Tenth Prize would win $10 in gold; the Eighth and Ninth Prize would win $15 in gold; the Seventh Prize would earn $20 in gold. The Sixth Prize winner would receive a Bulova Wrist Watch worth $24.75, either Ladies’ or Gentleman’s Model, purchased from Cornett Jewelry.
“The Fifth Place Prize won a 15-Jeweled Gruen Wrist Watch, worth $37.50, in either Ladies’ or Gentleman’s Model, purchased from Miller-Workman Jewelry. In Fourth Place, the prize would be a beautiful Diamond Set Dinner Ring, worth $60, ring set with three diamonds and seven sapphires, purchased from Seneker-the Jeweler.
“The Third Prize, purchased from Creek County Hardware, worth $167, was the Atwater Kent Radio. The Second Grand Prize was the Chevrolet Six Coach worth $712, fully equipped, delivered, purchased and displayed by Mack Motor Company. And the Grand Capital Prize winner earned the Chrysler Plymouth Sedan worth $835, fully equipped and delivered, purchased from and displayed by Kelso Motor Company.**”
**Note: in 1929, a $24.75 and a $37.50 watch would be worth $370 and $550 today; the $60 ring would be nearly $900 today; a $167 radio then would be around $2,500 today with inflation. The cars worth $712 and $835 would cost around $10,500 and $13,200 in today’s money.
Taking notes from the Democrat News articles, the excitement and drama came from the writers themselves. The description of the circulation campaign was filled with over-the-top flourishes and determination. The subscription drive drove the town mad wondering who would have the longest, loudest campaign, who would have the stamina to last throughout the month, who would be selected, not only the winner, but the “favorite” of the town.
“Every minute now is important. Finish is bound to be close; no one has won. Make your efforts to pile up the winning votes now while there is time.”
On December 12th, 1921, the Democrat News practically ran the entire paper of 16 pages for the Christmas Circulation Campaign. It had announced the subscription drive was running full blast and in just seven days, the contest would be over. “Remember: there are no bonuses or special vote offers of any kind during the last week of this campaign. Today and tomorrow will likely win or lose for you, which will it be?”
The candidates were announced every week with their scoreboard. It was all even score by mid-November:
Some participants dropped out or did not gain enough traction to carry over the few weeks. And some joined in on the race. On December 12, with the last announcement featuring the tallies, the race leader had pulled away from the pack, but it was still close for the others:
The candidates were always advised by the Democrat News: “Overconfidence has lost many battles. It seems likely to be a factor in this campaign. What is to be done must be done now. It would be better to win by a million votes more than enough than to lose by a mere handful of long-term subscriptions.”
Although it was not announced, the number of votes received for the winners by the end of the campaign, but here are the winners: (First) Mrs. JK Simpson, Sapulpa; (Second) Mr. Hugh Newton, Kiefer; (Third) Mr. WT Alexander, Bixby; (Fourth) Mr. GM Stansbury, Sapulpa.
Similarly, the town still has thrilling December sweepstakes: The Jingle Bell Sweepstakes presented by the Sapulpa Main Street and the many downtown events during the Holiday Season still get the blood pumping. And if you have the lucky ticket or tickets, be sure to claim your prize…or it’ll be lost to history.
The information found on this page has been researched through Sapulpa (and area) newspapers, Sapulpa Historical Society archives, books, and photographs, Sapulpa yearbooks, city directories, and other local authors. Any other sources will be labeled and named as the research continues. Any mistakes will be noted and adjusted as needed.