Aside from the fact that Metamora; or, The Last of the Wampanoags, by John Augustus Stone, fulfilled the stated requirements of the playwriting contest—that the play be a "tragedy, in five acts, of which the hero, or principal character, shall be an aboriginal of this country"—it also fulfilled the unstated requirements of the sponsor of the contest, American actor Edwin Forrest.
Forrest began his acting career in 1820, when he was fourteen years old, at a time when the American stage was dominated by English actors. The United States itself was little more than forty years old and was still trying to find its cultural identity, independent of the still-considerable influence of Great Britain.
In 1826, Forrest had his first real success when he played Othello at the Bowery Theatre in New York City. By 1828, when the contest was announced, Forrest's reputation as an actor had grown considerably, but Forrest was still looking for a "star" acting vehicle which would give him the kind of success that other actors enjoyed, particularly English actors.
The contest was a masterstroke of self-promotion. Forrest tapped into the growing literary Romanticism movement in the United States. He tapped into "the Indian problem" in the United States and into the theatre-going public's interest in "Indian plays." He also tapped into growing American nationalism.
Forrest enlisted William Cullen Bryant, a renowned poet and soon-to-be editor of the New York Evening Post, to head the award committee and to add prestige, respectability, and free publicity in the Post to the contest.
The 1828 contest that was won by Stone's play, Metamora, was the first of several such contests that Forrest sponsored, and it proved to be one of the most successful. Metamora was an instant theatrical success when it was produced in 1829 and provided Forrest with a "star" acting vehicle to which he returned to time and again for the next forty years of his career. Future contests produced The Gladiator by Robert Montgomery Bird and Jack Cade by Robert T. Conrad, which also became mainstays of Forrest's acting repertoire.