In a 1947 Jimmy Stewart movie, "Magic Town," pollsters discovered that a Midwest town was exactly average. In the resulting bonanza, hucksters tested their wares, politicians sought to butter up the common man, and townspeople peddled opinions and interviews, commanding top dollar for their marketable mediocrity. Of course, it was no longer an average town and the bubble collapsed.
Tulsa, Okla., is today's "Magic Town." Donnelley Marketing Information Services, working from 1990 census data, says the erstwhile "oil capital of the world" -- population 337,000 and no longer dependent on oil rigs and cows -- is the city that most mirrors the national average for age distribution, racial mix and housing prices.
It was a repeat victory for Tulsa, which was also most-average in 1980. Other towns in the top 10 included Charleston, W.Va.; Midland, Texas; Springfield, Ill.; Lexington-Fayette, Ky.; Wichita, Kans.; Bloomington, Ill.; Oklahoma City, Okla.; Indianapolis, Ind., and Rockford, Ill. Peoria -- immortalized in the slogan, "Will it play in Peoria?" -- ranks only 29th. Some other traditional test-market cities -- Green Bay, Wis.; South Bend, Ind., and Rochester, N.Y. -- aren't even in the top 200.