TAMPA, FL (WFLA) — Ann Taylor Cook — the real, honest-to-goodness Gerber baby — turns 90-years-old today.
Ann Turner Cook is originally from Tampa Bay and spent her lifetime teaching English and becoming an Amercian Mystery Novelist. But Cook will no doubt always be best known for her picture on the Gerber labels.
Cook was about 4 months old in 1927 when family friend Dorothy Hope Smith sketched the image in charcoal. Using a neighbor’s baby as a model wasn’t so unusual in the artist enclave of Westport, Conn., and nobody thought 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.
The next year, Gerber put out the call for images that could be used in ads for its new baby food products, and Smith submitted the drawing.
“She wrote me (later) that she had thought it was kind of unfinished, and if they liked it she could finish it properly,” Cook said of the sketch. “But they were smart enough that they didn’t want anything done to it.”
Her likeness started appearing on the products in 1928 and became the official trademark in 1931.
“The logo is the essence of who we are,” said David Yates, vice president of Gerber’s North America operations. “It is the epitome of a happy, healthy baby and the symbol of trust we have with parents. It’s everything to our company.”
Cook didn’t have much contact with Gerber after the label came out, although around 1950 the company paid her a lump sum to settle any ownership issues after someone else came forward and claimed to be the Gerber Baby. She wouldn’t say how much, but it was enough for her and her husband to buy a car and put a down payment on a house.
She participated in the 50th-anniversary celebration in 1978, then reconnected with the company again in the ’90s, flying to its Michigan headquarters for anniversary celebrations.