Grants Pass was once known in Southern Oregon as The Land of the Flaming Tokay, largely through the efforts of a timber and land dealer, W.B. Sherman.
In charge of the grape department for the Rogue River Orchard Company in 1909, Sherman’s marketing style soon got everybody thinking and talking about California’s big purple table grape known as Flaming Tokay.
The first thing Sherman did was order a carload of grapes from Lodi, Calif., and give vines to schoolchildren, promising prizes of up to $15 for the best growth of the season. He wanted to prove the grape variety would thrive in any soil or growing condition.
Next, he plastered signs on trees, outbuildings, barns and fence posts with just the word “Tokay” printed on them. When that got people curious, he took 600 businessmen on a tour of planted vineyards that ended with a party where Sherman predicted the Flaming Tokay grape would make Grants Pass bigger than Sacramento.
In October 1912, the city organized a Tokay Festival to celebrate the prosperity they hoped the grape would bring. Ultimately, the introduction of seedless grapes turned the Tokay boom into a bust in Grants Pass and California.
Source: Land of the Flaming Tokay." Rogue River Courier, 16 Apr. 1908 [Grants Pass OR] , p. 1, oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/sn96088281/1909-04-16/ed-1/seq-