“First Baby” contests were not unique to Transylvania County, but awarding the first baby born in the New Year was a fun way for local businesses to advertise their products and celebrate new births in the area. Sometimes called “Baby Derbies,” these required families to submit entries (generally within the first week of the new year) to win an array of prizes.
In 1948, the prizes included a portrait of the baby from Austin’s studio, a brush and comb set from Slack’s, two theater tickets to the parents from the Co-Ed and Clemson theaters, one $3 item at Belk’s, a one-year subscription to the newspaper, a $7.95 pair of baby scales from Varner’s Drug Store, a solid gold ring from Parson’s, a quart of milk for two weeks from Southern Dairies, and a permanent for the mother from the Modern Beauty Shop. Such advertisements give insight into both the local businesses and the pricing of merchandise during that time period.
The Transylvania Times baby contests appear to have started in 1942, but other publications like The Echo (from Ecusta Paper Corporation) often conducted their own contests. In 1945, the Ecusta “first baby” prize went to Harold Pearson Nicholson, and included a $25 war bond.
Later Ecusta baby contests announced details of the births, including the parents and where they were employed, attending physicians and “interviews” with the infants. In one 1948 “exclusive,” The Echo reported that newly-born “Beecher Carl [Allison] refused to comment on life, but was definite in his stand that food and sleep are the inherent rights of infancy. […] He was noncommittal when accused of closely resembling his father.”
Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. Sources are available upon request. This article was written by Local History Associate Erin Weber Boss. For more information, comments, or suggestions, contact NC Room staff at [email protected] or 828-884-1820.