Real estate has always been a potentially-lucrative investment tool. Thanks to an unlikely realtor, more than 21 million children were given the opportunity to become landowners in the Yukon Territory and begin their journeys to become wealthy real estate barons — one square inch at a time.
Looking for a unique marketing approach, the Quaker Oats company purchased 19.11 acres of Canada’s Yukon Territory. The company spent $1,000 on the transaction. It then created the Great Klondike Big Inch Land Company and transferred the property to the new company and prepared for the launch of its marketing endeavor.
In January 1955, 93 newspapers proclaimed Quaker Oats’ exciting opportunity. “Get a real deed to one square inch of land in the Yukon gold rush country.” The advertisements promised, “You’ll actually own one square inch of Yukon land.”
Quaker Oats was the sponsor of the popular radio show Sergeant Preston of the Yukon (listen to one of the episodes here). Building from the success and theme of the program, children were encouraged to have their parents purchase Quaker Oats cereal and then send in the box top. That box top would be redeemed for a deed for one square inch of land in the Canadian Klondike.
One month into the promotion, the Ohio Securities Division blocked the company from the box top exchange until it received a license for the sale of foreign land. From that point forward, the company simply provided a deed in every box of cereal.
It is unknown how many of the 21 million deeds that were printed actually made it into the hands of potential real estate investors. None of them were actually registered with the appropriate land office, however. Despite the very official-looking nature of the deeds, they did not truly convey any right, title, and interest in the property in question. Even so, the land office in the Yukon continues to receive inquiries from individuals wanting to check on the status of their one-inch piece of property. The correspondence file regarding the promotion is 18 inches thick.
Even if the deeds had been legally binding, intervening factors have since nullified any ownership rights from cereal aficionados. By 1965, unpaid taxes on the real estate totaled $37.20. Because of that, the Canadian government seized the land and resold it. Visitors who wish to see their real estate claim will actually find themselves on property owned by the Dawson City Golf Course.
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