June 4 (UPI) — Ann Turner Cook, the woman whose face has adorned billions of Gerber baby food products, has died. She was 95.
A charcoal sketch of Cook as an infant, drawn by Dorothy Hope Smith in 1928, was chosen during a contest by the Gerber Products Company as the official logo for its new line of baby food.
The drawing was trademarked in the 1930s and has been reproduced ever since on billions of baby food jars, becoming an internationally recognized logo, even as the identity of the baby remained a mystery for decades.
“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,” the company said in its statement.
“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.”
Smith made her drawing of Cook based on a photograph of her taken when she was about four months old, though she was about two years old when the sketch was made.
The artist had considered the sketch unfinished but submitted it with the promise she would make it more elaborate if she won the competition but it was chosen without changes. The company, now a subsidiary of Nestle, preferred the simple sketch to more elaborate drawings and paintings that had been submitted.
Smith was originally paid about $300 for the rights to her drawing and Gerber paid Cook a one-time cash settlement of $5,000 in 1951 which helped her place a down payment on her first home.
Gerber, Smith and Cook remained tight-lipped about her identity as the so-called “Gerber Baby” for decades as questions grew about the sex and identity of the model.
Cook only revealed herself as the model in the late 1970s when Gerber celebrated the 50th anniversary of the drawing.
Some of that speculation was fueled by the fact that Maud Humphrey, a commercial illustrator, used her son as a model for much of her work including ads for another baby food brand.
In her adult life, Cook earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Southern Methodist University in Dallas and a master’s from the University of South Florida before she went on to become a mystery novelist and English teacher.
Her husband James Cook, a criminologist with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in Tampa, died in 2004, The New York Times reported.
She is survived by their three daughters and a son, as well as eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.