A Capital Campaign: The Orleans County Monitor Circulation Contest

We’re nearing the end of newspaper page collation for Phase II. Our final title that our team of Michael Breiner, Mary VanBuren-Swasey, and Karyn Norwood, have been hard at work examining issue by issue on microfilm is the Orleans County Monitor, a weekly published out of Barton, Vermont, serving Orleans County from 1872-1953 (we’re only digitizing up to 1922, as it is the cut-off date for copyright).

While examining a reel from 1910, I stumbled upon a fascinating  and innovative marketing campaign by the Orleans County Monitor that by all accounts was a huge success. “Monitor’s Great Popularity and Prize Contest,” was a popularity contest for the ladies of Orleans County–prizes included a grand prize of a $500 Brush automobile, four $50 diamond rings, a couch, dresser, 112-piece dish set, and a center table. The premise of it was very simple: write down the name of a lady that you think should win (and it could be yourself) on a voting certificate and turn it into the Monitor office.  The trick of it was, of course, you needed to buy (or get your friends to buy) to a copy (or  better yet, a subscription) of the paper to get the certificate to vote. You could, of course, vote as many times as you wanted; men could also certainly vote–but it had to be cast for a woman. The contest went on for seven weeks between September and October 1910.

Click to enlarge image. Published in the September 21, 1910 issue.

In the next week’s paper, the contest reportedly heated up to a “Contagious Fever.” Each week, the leading contestants in each district were published.

contagious fever

And the next week, October 1, 1910–a double vote offer and a cute story of a lad voting for his teacher:


From October 19, 1910:


In that same issue, the leading ladies and the contest’s managers are highlighted.


The grand winners were announced in the October 26, 1910 issue. The amount of votes that the leaders accrued is absolutely astounding. Miss Theda Wellman won the grand prize with a total of 905,972 votes. The other winners were also in the six digits for votes, which means a WHOLE lot of newspapers were purchased–and this is proudly proclaimed by the Monitor staff: “Most Stupendous Undertaking in Annals of Vermont Weekly Newspaper Journalism Marks a New Epoch in Circulation Contest,” and, here, quite unabashedly: “It was not a charitable undertaking but a business proposition pure and simple.”

The article is below. contestwinners

On another page from that issue celebrating the great success of the contest, the Monitor’s young staff and the two professional contest managers that led the campaign are shown.


These newspaper pages are not yet available on                                   Chronicling America–but they will be soon enough!

-Karyn Norwood, Digital Support Specialist