Yule Handbill Spreads Wartime Alarm through Medford, Ore.

Date: 

Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018

Author: 

Kernan Turner

Episode: 

3 386

Alarm spread through Medford, Ore., one morning in 1917 when residents found small cards on front porches or slipped under their doors with the message, “You Will DIE This Christmas,” with DIE in capital letters.

World War One was raging in Europe, and people had been warned about possible enemy subversives in their midst.

It turned out that Paul’s Electric Store inadvertently caused the alarm by distributing the cards, using the initials “D.I.E.,” as an abbreviation of the store’s advertising slogan, “Do It Electronically.”  The card failed to carry the name of the store and dropped the periods between the letters “D,” “I,” and “E.”

The Medford Mail Tribune of Dec. 18, 1917, wrote, “… it seems that not one person in this city read the … (store’s intended) meaning, but that all on reading the card interpreted it to mean that that household was threatened with death before Christmas.”

The Justice of the Peace served a warrant ordering the store owner, B.W. Paul, to trial on a charge of disorderly conduct, based on a complaint that C.W. Conklin’s daughter-in-law became hysterical when she found one of the cards tied to the front door.

Source: “'YOU WILL DIE THIS CHRISTMAS' INTENDED AS AD." Mail Tribune, 18 Dec. 1917 [Medford, Ore.] [Re-published 18 Dec. 2017. local ed., p. A3]

 

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