The woman whose face inspired the Gerber baby drawing has opened up about what it has meant to be such an iconic symbol for nearly nine decades.
Ann Turner Cook, now 87, was just a few months old in 1928 when a charcoal sketch of her was selected in a contest to represent Gerber baby food.
Little did she know just how important that drawing would be, both for the company and for her. ‘I can’t think of anything nicer than to be a symbol for babies,’ the retired English teacher told CBS News. ‘And that’s what I think I became.’
Mrs Cook, now a great-grandmother, still has the same cheerful grin and sparkling eyes that she had as a baby when artist Dorothy Hope Smith, her neighbor in Connecticut, decided to sketch her.
‘I always had that expression with my mouth hanging open,’ laughed Mrs Cook. ‘Kind of a quizzical expression!’
She believes people have identified with the sketch for so many years because ‘it reminds them of their own babies. Everybody says, my baby or my grandchild looks like the Gerber baby. And it doesn’t matter the ethnicity. And I say, “Yes, I’m sure they do!”
Soon after her drawing won the contest, it was featured on every Gerber product and became a symbol of the happy, healthy baby.
In 1931, Gerber trademarked the picture, and in the early 1950s the company paid her a lump sum – ‘enough to make a down payment on a modest house and to buy a first car,’ she says – for her role in the company.
CEO Marilyn Knox said there is ‘little doubt’ that Mrs Cook’s face played an instrumental role in the company’s success.
‘You don’t even have to have the word Gerber on it. That face is honored as we’re doing the best for our child,’ she explained.
Indeed, the drawing adorns a flag at the company headquarters in Fremont, Michigan, and is etched in stone near the main entrance to the building.
Gerber kept Mrs Cook’s identity a secret until 1978, allowing myths to circulate that the sketch depicted Humphrey Bogart as a baby, or Elizabeth Taylor.
Read more: THE DAILY MAIL