How Gerber Immortalized Marketing Forever—The Original ‘Gerber Baby,’ Anne Turner Cook Turns 93

Published on November 21, 2019

Whether you are a Baby Boomer, Gen X, Gen Y (Millennials), or Gen Z, you all have probably seen Anne Turner Cook’s face before, you just didn’t know her by name. You knew her by her face.

Cook’s face is perhaps the most recognized baby face in the world—that happy, wide-eyed Gerber Baby looking up from the endless labels of Gerber baby food. That’s right, Cook was the very first Gerber Baby!

In the likelihood that you didn’t know her real name, don’t feel bad because her identify was kept private until she joined the company for its 50th-anniversary celebration in 1978.

Monday marked 93-years for Cook, who has 93 reasons to celebrate her being the very first face of more than just Gerber’s baby products, but the face of immortalized marketing forever. And Gerber certainly shared its excitement and appreciation for Cook with a Facebook post.

How Gerber Immortalized Marketing Forever

Cook, whose image on Geber products became famous when she was just four (4) months old back in 1928. And now 93-years later, Cook is still kickin’ it and living life to the fullest!

Despite her iconic status, Cook never capitalized on her fame, according to her grandson Chris Colin.

It was a funny bit of trivia, never made her rich or got us free strained peas or anything,” he said in a 2018 tweet:

So how did Cook at just four-months old, end up being the face for baby products far and wide?

The Birth of ‘Gerber Baby’

In the summer of 1927, Dorothy Gerber was tediously hand-straining solid food to feed her seven-month old daughter, Sally. Turning to her husband, Daniel, Sally believed the task could be handled internally, at the Fremont Canning Factory, where the Gerber family business produced canned fruits and vegetables.

In 1928, the first Gerber baby food batch was extensively tested and ready for distribution later that year. To help attract grocers and introduce mothers of young children to its new baby product line, the Gerber’s began advertising Gerber baby food coupons featuring an angelic face of the Gerber baby, which ultimately as you know, became extremely successful and everlasting. In just six months, Gerber baby food was being distributed nationally, and over 590,000 cans were sold in the first year alone.

But, a year prior to the product line’s launch, the company invited artists to submit different renditions of Gerber babies to be considered for use in the company’s advertising campaign. While some submitted elaborate oil paintings, one artist who specialized in children’s portraits, did something unheard of.

In 1927, Dorothy Hope Smith, a Gerber family friend, sketched a charcoal drawing of a cherubic-faced infant, offering to elaborate more on it if the drawing was to be accepted. Ultimately, the executives at Gerber were unable to resist the face and chose Smith’s drawing as it was. The company trademarked Cook’s sketch in 1931.

Source: Facebook | Gerber

Little did Smith know that she just helped contribute to the massive success Gerber was about to endure and continue enduring for the next 93 years. But why did it take so long for Cook’s identity to be revealed to the public?

Over the years, there were many rumors and speculations as to who the face of the baby was, ranging from Humphrey Bogart to Elizabeth Taylor. But, as the public came to discover at the company’s 50th-anniversary, it was Cook.

From a marketing standpoint, Gerber’s art contest was pure genius. And it’s easy to see why.

I was a happy, healthy baby and I think that’s why the drawing has been so appealing to people,” she told WTVT in 2013. “Because everybody wants their baby to be happy, healthy-looking.”

And hey, it certainly brought students to her English class at Tampa’s Hillsborough High School, where Cook taught for over 26 years. At the beginning of each school year, Cook would begin class by answering questions about the ‘Gerber Baby.’

Now a retired teacher and novelist, Cook will continue to be the loving face for companies to come. Grit Daily has reached out to Cook for a more in-depth interview to follow this piece.

Andrew "Drew" Rossow is a former contract editor at Grit Daily.

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