Many Westporters know that “Little Toot” was born here, in the studio of longtime resident Hardie Gramatky.
Alert “06880” readers recall that the kewpie doll has a local connection: creator Rose O’Neill owned a 10-acre Saugatuck River estate.
But hardly anyone realizes that the Gerber Baby has Westport roots too.
In 1927, artist Dorothy Hope Smith made a charcoal drawing of her 4-month-old neighbor, Ann Turner. Ann’s father, Leslie, was an artist too; his comic strip “Wash Tubbs and Captain Easy” ran in 500 newspapers every day.
The next year, Gerber needed a face for its new line of baby foods. Smith entered her simple drawing in the contest. She competed with elaborate oil paintings — but the company loved it. By 1931, Ann Cook was the “official trademark.”
She’s been in every Gerber ad, and on every package, since.
But no one knew her. In fact — in an effort to appeal to both sexes — for many years Gerber did not even say if the baby was a girl or boy.
As years passed, several women claimed to be the Gerber baby. To end the discussion, Gerber paid Turner — by then married, named Ann Cook –$5,000 in 1951. That’s all she got — no royalties, nothing. (It’s better than Smith, though. She earned just $300 for her efforts.)
Cook left Westport long ago. She had 4 children, and spent 26 years teaching literature and writing in Tampa. After retiring in 1989, she wrote 2 mystery novels.
Neither Oprah nor HuffPo mentions Westport. Nor does the official Gerber website.
But this is “06880.” It’s “where Westport meets the world.”
Which we’ve been doing — with tugboats, kewpie dolls and baby food — long before there were even zip codes or blogs.
(Hat tip: Carol King. No, not that one.)