Progressive Jackpot: The "Mrs. Hush" contest, from the fall of 1947, was possibly the Trope Maker. In this promotion to help raise funds for the March of Dimes, listeners note (there was only the radio version at the time) were read a series of clues each week leading to the identity of a famous actress note , much in the same vein as the "Fame Game" of the much later Sale of the Century. A base prize package was started, and for each week that no one identified the mystery actress, more prizes were added; the clues at first were rather obscure but later clues made the answer easier to identify. Eventually, on Dec. 6, 1947, Ruth Subbie of Fort Worth, Texas, correctly fingered Clara Bow as "Mrs. Hush". For her good fortune, Ruth won a 1948 Hudson convertible, a camping trailer, a two-seat airplane, $2,000 cash, a $1,000 diamond-and-ruby-studded watch, a $1,000 diamond ring, a $2,000 Canadian beaver fur coat, a trip to Hawaii, a complete house-painting job, a radio-phonograph console, several appliances (including a gas-powered refrigerator, a range and a washer and dryer), a vacuum cleaner, electric blankets, venetian blinds and the newest novelty of the age: a television set. Total retail value of all those gifts: $21,000* about $225,000 in 2015 money, of which Uncle Sam asked for $5,000* about $54,000 in 2015 money. Read more about the contest at this link.
By the way, USA Today reporter Jefferson Graham, in his game show history book Come on Down!!! The TV Game Show Book, wrote about the contest, noting that the contest raised more than $350,000note about $3.8 million in 2015 money (or $400,000note about $4.3 million in 2015 money, depending on the source) for the March of Dimes note (contestants had to donate at least 50 cents to enter and give an acceptable explanation about why the March of Dimes was a worthy organization), and that organizers were able to make available large-ticket items (such as appliances and cars) that — more than two years after the end of World War II — were still scarce and in high demand.