Making a Cereal Real Estate
November 15, 2007 7:40 PM   Subscribe

In 1954, the producers of the radio show Sergeant Preston of the Yukon needed a gimmick to make sure its radio audience would watch the TV version of the show. Meanwhile, the show's sponsor, Quaker Oats, needed a follow-up to their ad campaign about how Quaker Puffed Wheat is shot out of guns. So Chicago adman, Bruce Baker (later the creator of Captain Crunch), dreamt up a wildly successful PR stunt for both Sgt. Preston of the Yukon and Quaker Oats by buying up one-inch plots of land in the Yukon (with legal assistance from future British Columbia senator George van Roggen) and giving away deeds to the land for free in copies of Quaker Oats cereal. (For a picture of the deed, click here and here)

Although the ad campaign was phenomenally successful in the short term, it also had some long-term blowback. While looking at land in the Yukon, Bruce Baker developed minor frostbite injuries that later led to his leg being amputated. As for the land itself, it reverted back to the Canadian government in 1965 after nonpayment of $37.20 in taxes, but that doesn't stop owners of the Quaker Oats "deeds" from pestering the Yukon government about their land claims. Filmmaker David McDonald made the documentary, Cereal Thriller about the whole bizarre saga, which also raises interesting questions in property law. Ironically, although the Quaker Oats deeds have zero value in terms of property rights, their value as collectibles proved to be several times more than the stock price of Quaker Oats when it was bought by PepsiCo in 2001.
posted by jonp72 (14 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
There was also a good Carl Barks Uncle Scrooge story with this promotion at its base, but I haven't seen a copy in years.

Sorry, I'll read the links now.
posted by yhbc at 7:58 PM on November 15, 2007

Let's not forget his wonder dog Yukon King. I mean, Preston's ass would have been grass many times over without the intervention of that mutt.

This is a great post. I used to listen to the nostalgia reruns of this show on KNX in Los Angeles. Got to love that old time radio.
posted by Mercaptan at 8:00 PM on November 15, 2007

Bruce Baker developed minor frostbite injuries that later led to his leg being amputated.Yipes. Hate to see the result of major frostbite, then.

Love the Cereal Thriller and Captain Crunch links.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:01 PM on November 15, 2007

I was somehow hoping that "wheat shot from guns" was at least a glancing reference to the method of its production, but it's not. I did find this cool cereal production page in the process, however, which solved my longstanding questions about where shredded wheat comes from. Turns out it's shredded!
posted by damo at 8:01 PM on November 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Metafilter: A nut like flavor that hit's the spot.
posted by delmoi at 8:04 PM on November 15, 2007

it's always the Quakers and their guns.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 8:09 PM on November 15, 2007

This case is closed, King.
posted by dersins at 8:09 PM on November 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

We have rural land... I wonder what would stop me from selling square-inch plots of Texas on the Internet.
posted by rolypolyman at 8:34 PM on November 15, 2007

His dog was Yukon King, and then his horse was named Rex, which, when I was a child, always struck me as supremely unimaginative (I got up really early and they showed reruns of the television series right before "Great Space Coaster")
posted by padraigin at 8:51 PM on November 15, 2007

As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could --

wait, this is actually kinda cool. I think I want to buy one of those deeds on Ebay just so I can pester the Yukon government, too.
posted by dreamsign at 9:12 PM on November 15, 2007

Fun post, jonp72 - thanks!
posted by madamjujujive at 10:27 PM on November 15, 2007

I have always wondered what happened with these. Now I know.

Thanks for a great post jonp72.
posted by briank at 6:55 AM on November 16, 2007

The story I was thinking of was "Faulty Fortune", first published as a secondary story in Uncle Scrooge #14 (which also included
"The Lost Crown of Genghis Khan") in June, 1956, so Barks did the story pretty quickly after the promotion in 1954.

Thanks as well for a great post!
posted by yhbc at 10:57 AM on November 16, 2007

damo -- don't give up hope quite yet!
posted by goingonit at 11:42 AM on November 16, 2007

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