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Here's Looking at You, Kid
Claim: The Gerber Baby is a likeness of Humphrey Bogart as an infant.
Origins: Humphrey Bogart
was not the model for the Gerber Baby, nor was the Gerber Baby drawn by Bogart's mother, a commercial illustrator. A drawing of Humphrey as an infant was made by his mother and was used in advertisements for a different brand of baby food many years before Gerber was founded, however.
Bogart's mother, Maud Humphrey Bogart, enjoyed a successful career as a commercial illustrator. As described by her grandson Stephen Bogart:
Her long career as an illustrator of calendars, greeting cards, fashion magazines, and more than 20 story books, and as a portrait painter of socialite children, flourished from the 1890s through the 1920s. She worked in the sentimental Victorian tradition, painting stylized cherubic children with round faces, chipmunk cheeks, curly blond ringlets, large eyes, button noses, rosy lips, frilly collars, and long white dresses. Her work promoted Prudential Insurance and Ivory soap, appeared on the covers of Harper's and Century magazines, and was exhibited in New York and Boston.
And Maud Bogart did create and make good use of sketches of her baby Humphrey:
Maud made drawings of her chubby-cheeked, sparsely-thatched infant, who became famous when he appeared in a national advertising campaign for Mellin's baby food. A celebrity soon after his birth as "the original Maud Humphrey baby," Bogart said, "There was a period in American history when you couldn't pick up a goddamed magazine without seeing my kisser in it."
The connection here is obvious: Bogart's mother was both a commercial artist and a portrait painter of children, her drawings of baby Humphrey were used in national advertisements for a brand of baby food, and Gerber is the most well-known brand of baby food in America. Mix these facts together, shake well, and you've got the makings of a baby food legend.
But Gerber did not begin marketing baby food until 1928, by which time Humphrey Bogart was nearly 30. When the company put out the call for baby face images to use in advertising campaigns for their newly-developed baby foods, they chose Ann Cook (née Turner) of Westport, Connecticut, the daughter of cartoonist Leslie Turner. A charcoal drawing of four-month-old Ann had been prepared and submitted to Gerber by her neighbor, a New England artist named Dorothy Hope Smith:
Cook was about 4 months old in 1927 when family friend Dorothy Hope Smith sketched the now-famous image in charcoal. Using a neighbor's baby as a model wasn't so unusual in the artist enclave of Westport, Conn., where they lived at the time, and nobody thought too much about it. Least of all Cook's dad, who for 27 years wrote and drew "Wash Tubbs and Captain Easy," a daily comic strip that ran in 500 newspapers.
Ann Cook's image began appearing on Gerber
products in 1928, and it became the company's official trademark in 1931. The famous "Gerber baby" has appeared in every Gerber advertisement and on the packaging of every Gerber product ever since.
The next year, when Gerber put out the call for images that could be used in ads for its new baby-food products, Smith submitted the drawing, and the company bought it.
The identity (and even the sex) of the Gerber Baby has been the subject of much speculation over the years. The Humphrey Bogart tale has been the most prominent rumor, and more than a few woman have come forward and claimed to be "the" Gerber baby (or the mother of said baby) over the years as well. To settle any lingering identity and ownership issues, Gerber paid Cook a one-time cash settlement of $5,000 in 1951. (Dorothy Hope Smith was originally paid $300 for the rights to her drawing; neither she nor Cook were paid royalties for the use of the image.)
As an adult, Ann Cook raised four children of her own and taught literature and writing in Tampa, Florida,schools for 26 years. Since retiring from teaching in 1989, she has penned two mystery novels, Trace Their Shadows and Shadow Over Cedar Key.
Last updated: 9 August 2007
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