Ann Turner Cook, a writer of mystery novels and retired literature and creative writing teacher passed away on Friday at her home in St. Petersburg, Florida. She was 95. In 1990, The New York Times described the sketch by artist Dorothy Hope Smith, as being “among the world’s most recognizable corporate logos.” Cook was the daughter of syndicated cartoonist Leslie Turner, who drew the comic strip Captain Easy for more than 30 years.
In an Instagram post, the Gerber company announced Cook’s passing on June 3rd: “Gerber is deeply saddened by the passing of Ann Turner Cook, the original Gerber baby, whose face was sketched to become the iconic Gerber logo more than 90 years ago. Many years before becoming an extraordinary mother, teacher and writer, her smile and expressive curiosity captured hearts everywhere and will continue to live on as a symbol for all babies. We extend our deepest sympathies to Ann’s family and to anyone who had the pleasure of knowing her.”
“The image of this happy, healthy baby was soon to become the face that launched a brand, a face recognized and loved across the globe,” as stated on the company website. The Gerber company is best known for its production of baby foods and formulas, but it also offers a variety of other products, including life insurance and children’s wear. In 1928, the newly founded Gerber company was poised to launch their baby food advertising campaign and needed a face to sell their brand. The artist Dorothy Hope Smith, a neighbor of Ms. Cook’s family at the time, entered a simple charcoal sketch of a 5-month-old Ann, specifying in her entry of the sketch that she would complete it should it win the nationwide contest – and it did. With overwhelming positive response to the sketch from the judges that fell in love with that baby face, they even insisted that the illustration remain in its original form — as a sketch. In fact, as part of its genius move in brand identity, the company never disclosed the gender of the baby, sparking debates throughout the country as to the identity of the infant: from Humphrey Bogart to Elizabeth Taylor, to Shirley Temple and Brooke Shields, even Richard Nixon and Bob Dole. The identity of the Gerber baby was kept secret for 40 years, until 1978.
First used in a baby-food advertisement in Good Housekeeping in 1928, the illustration became so popular that the Gerber company adopted it as its official trademark in 1931, and since then the baby face that became its brand ambassador around the world has been in every Gerber advertisement and on all its packaging. Cook never received any royalties for the use of her image and profited only $5,000 from it over the course of 90 years.