In the 1950’s North American advertising was highly competitive for kids’ attention. Cereal companies created colourful cereal boxes with great toys inside them, or the chance to redeem box tops for a special item that would be mailed to you.
But one of the most successful cereal campaigns actually offered child land moguls their first piece of real estate~ a square inch of land in The Yukon. A kid could actually get a certificate for their land stake in a box of Quaker Puffed Rice.
As documented in “the Klondike Big Inch” which sadly does not have the author’s name the Great Klondike Big Inch land Caper was “one of the most successful sales promotions in North American business history.For long after all the rocket rings and plastic submarines arid other cereal-box prizes were lost, millions of those official-looking, legal-sounding, gold-embossed deeds to a square inch of Yukon land remained in drawers, albums, safe deposit boxes, scrapbooks, vaults and, more importantly, in the memory of a generation of men and women not so young anymore.”
It’s no surprise that a half century later many of these “former children” still have those deeds and assumed that the square inch would be worth something, and wrote the cereal company looking for current valuations.
Sadly the Klondike Big Inch Land Company which dealt with the land title is defunct, and the Federal Government repossessed the land in 1965 for $37.20 in back property taxes.
The 19 acre piece of land on the Yukon River is still there, and Yukon government workers regular receive letters (there are thousands) from cereal box title owners inquiring on their property.
The whole idea of selling square inches of land came from Bruce Baker who pitched Quaker Oats cereal on issuing 19 MILLION “deeds” for square inches in the Yukon. Of course there was a radio program tie-in with advertising done during the radio show “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon”. The promotion was a tremendous success with children jockeying parents to eat Quaker cereals for the land titles.
The company was set up to acquire 19 acres in the Yukon Territory which was purchased for $1,000. This enabled Quaker Oats to issue 21 million official looking deeds through the company. Each deed entitled the holder to one square inch of land in the Yukon Gold Rush Country. In 1955, deeds were put into boxes of Quaker Puffed Rice and Puffed Wheat and were a promotion for the radio show “Sgt. Preston of the Yukon.”
Advertising campaign or not, it’s always important to read the fine print of a land title in a cereal box and there was the catch that would thwart a future generation of potential title holders.
As a spokesman for Quaker Oats stated “The deed indicates that the deed holder is responsible for paying taxes. Of course, the taxes went unpaid and the land ultimately reverted back to the Canadian government.”