Birthplace of the Gerber Baby – Who Knew?
Newspaper coupon with a decorative border and a drawing of a baby in the middle

Gerber Baby Food coupon in the Hartford Courant, 1963 - Hartford Courant, Connecticut State Library


…that the inspiration for the iconic Gerber Baby trademark was born in Bridgeport and grew up in Westport?

Can with a white and blue wrapper. There is a label in front with white numbers

Modilac Gerber Baby Formula – Smithsonian National Museum of American History

In 1928, the new baby food company, Gerber, held a contest to find a face for their advertising campaign. Westport portraitist Dorothy Hope Smith submitted an unembellished charcoal drawing of a baby with a note promising to finish the sketch if she won the contest. Educated at the Art Institute of Chicago, Smith specialized in children’s portraits. In addition to her own work, Smith also colored covers of The New Yorker drawn by her colorblind husband, cartoonist Perry Barlow. She won the contest, but Gerber liked the simplicity of the illustration and requested that she not finish the embellishments. Smith’s drawing became one of the most recognizable product advertisements and later, trademarks of the 20th century.

While many people claimed to be the inspiration for the Gerber baby (and some even sued over the use of their likeness), Smith’s inspiration was one of her neighbors—Ann Turner Cook. Born in 1926 in Bridgeport, Ann Turner spent her early childhood in Westport. She had her own artistic connections—her father, Leslie Turner, was the illustrator of well-known, syndicated comic strips like “Wash Tubbs” and “Captain Easy, Soldier of Fortune.” Even though Cook was the true Gerber baby, fans wildly speculated anyone from Humphrey Bogart to Jane Seymour to themselves inspired the portrait. In 1951, Cook reached a settlement with Gerber for several thousand dollars, but she received no other royalties for her likeness. While Smith testified to the truth decades earlier in court, Cook did not reveal her Gerber baby identity until the drawing’s 50th anniversary in 1978. Almost a century later, Gerber continues to use Smith’s sketch on all of their products but also started a yearly baby contest in 2010 for a “Chief Growing Officer” to celebrate a diverse range of babies.

Learn More

Websites

Gerber. “Meet the Gerber Baby,” n.d. Link.

Newspapers

Fox, Margalit. “Ann Turner Cook Dies at 95; Her Face Sold Baby Food by the Billions.” The New York Times, June 4, 2022. Link.
The Hartford Courant. “Dorothy H.S. Barlow,” December 18, 1955.
Farber, M.A. “Perry Barlow, 85, a Cartoonist on The New Yorker for 30 Years.” The New York Times, December 27, 1977. Link.
Donnelly, Elisabeth. “There’s a New Gerber Baby and Some Parents Are Mad.” The New York Times, June 5, 2022. Link.

Sign Up For Email Updates

Oops! We could not locate your form.