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March 7, 1907: A very popular optician

Posted by: Ben Welter under Minnesota History, Minnesota newsmakers Updated: March 6, 2012 - 6:41 PM

 

Dozens of valuable prizes, including an East Coast trip, new automobiles and three "high-grade" pianos, were up for grabs in the Minneapolis Tribune's "popular vote contest" of 1907. The catch: A purchase was most definitely necessary. Readers were invited to nominate friends to compete for the prizes, and winners were determined by the number of votes each nominee received. To vote, you had to pay for a newspaper subscription or classified ad coupon book. Ten bucks spent with the Tribune counted for 6,000 votes.

The 10-week contest appears to have been a grand success. Hundreds of people throughout the Upper Midwest were nominated, drawing millions of votes and generating tens of thousands of dollars in revenue for the paper that fall. Dr. Gertrude Stanton, an optician, won the grand prize for Hennepin County: a 1907 Oldsmobile. Coincidentally, perhaps, Stanton was the subject a few months earlier of a glowing profile in the Tribune, republished below.

 

With daughter Sadie along for the ride, Gertrude Stanton took a spin in her new Oldsmobile. The vehicle, described in contest materials as a "$3,000 Palace touring car," cost the Tribune the equivalent of more than $68,000 in today's dollars. But the expense made financial sense: Stanton alone drew about 2.3 million votes, generating revenue of more than $90,000 in today's dollars.

 

WOMAN AND HER CAREER

11. – The Woman Optician

Dr. Gertrude Stanton, one of the most successful woman opticians in the country, and one who monopolizes the field in this city, is the possessor of all of woman’s characteristics. She is not above being loquacious and has more than a likeness for jewelry and dress, and therein lies the secret of much of her popularity, for there is nothing that forms a stronger argument against woman’s entering upon business than that she becomes masculine and loses the charm that should be distinctly hers.

 
  Gertrude Stanton
Dr. Stanton is of English parentage and was born in Lime Springs, Iowa. Twelve years ago her husband died and she was forced into business by having to support herself and three children. Being somewhat of a mechanic, she decided upon entering the Northern Illinois College of Ophthalmology and Otology which is in Chicago, where she then resided. She was one of the few women who were first to graduate from the school. Through the advice of a physician she traveled. She visited all the small towns, where she practiced until she became quite efficient. Four years ago she came to this city and established herself on Seventh and Nicollet, with a prominent dry goods firm.

Dr. Stanton says: “In the city a woman optician is a drawing card, but in the country, being a woman was a great disadvantage.”

She is one of the first woman opticians of any note and today owns the finest equipped optical parlors in town.

To look at Dr. Stanton one would get nothing of the trials that she has suffered. Her good common sense and her practical and optimistic view of life have tended to preserve her wonderfully. She says she has always been so busy that she had no time to worry, no matter how wrong things went, and when bedtime came she was so tired that she was thankful for the opportunity of sleeping soundly and normally.

In her kind and gentle way and with her woman’s intuition she cures cases that have been given up as hopeless by some of the most noted specialists. Her mother heart makes her a favorite with children and the aged, and one can do no less than congratulate Dr. Stanton on triumphing over difficulties such as she encountered and becoming such a master of her profession.

Check this handbill: The "prominent dry goods firm" mentioned in the profile was none other than Dayton's.

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