Introducing Westport’s Most Famous 88-Year-Old “Baby”

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 original charcoal sketch of Ann Turner, and Ann Turner Cook today.

The original charcoal sketch of Ann Turner, and Ann Turner Cook today.

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.)

The Gerber baby at work -- and all grown up today.

The Gerber baby at work — and all grown up, some years ago.

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.

But now — at 88 — she’s been rediscovered. Oprah recently profiled Cook on her “Where Are They Now?” series. Huffington Post picked up the story.

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.)

16 responses to “Introducing Westport’s Most Famous 88-Year-Old “Baby”

  1. Bobbie Herman

    Interesting. I heard many years ago that Humphrey Bogart was the original Gerber baby, and always believed it, but I was wrong. See —

  2. Roberta Tager

    Dan, I con’t know how you come up with these ‘pearls of information’, however, they are wonderful! thank you…

  3. YAYYYYYY! Thank you, Dan (and Carol King), for writing about the Gerber Baby and the artist who drew her. That artist, Dorothy Hope Smith (Barlow), was my Grandmother. Her story, along with my Grandfather’s New Yorker cover & cartoon career, is part of the Barlow family fabulousness 🙂 I’m sure my father will write in and add some interesting tid-bits to fill out your story, but I am up before him, so I got here first 🙂 (gotcha there, didn’t I, Daddy?!) About 20 years ago, talk show host Sally Jesse Raphael did a “Where are They Now” show including Ann Turner Cook. Cook mentioned the artist and her son (my father) to the producers and they invited us to be in the audience. We got a little air time when Sally asked my father during the show for a little history! That was a good time…I’d rather meet Oprah than Sally, but I guess Cook and/or the producers didn’t consider us. CBS’s Sunday Morning did a segment on the Gerber Baby a few years ago and my father contributed some photographs and information to that show. This small corner of fame has provided some interesting stories to our lives!
    As always, Dan: you provide something interesting to wake up to each morning! Thanks!

  4. Another great story from Dan Woog. Roberta and Dorrie are right, checking out 06880 every day is a must. Remember folks, this blog is not littered with ads – in fact, there are no ads at all. Dan funds everything. Please consider hitting the amber “donate” button on the right side of the page.

  5. Such a beautiful face: then and now. Great story, Dan.

    Westport’s artistic presence is so inspiring…I love it! When we were first considering our move to New England from California, I found a home listed in the back of a Yankee Magazine. Historic; on water. Lovely. I inquired about it and was sent its brochure along with about a dozen others, including what would become our home.

    When I looked “Weston Connecticut” up on a map (pre-google), I found “Westport” right next door. I smiled broadly as I remembered that name from my childhood when I corresponded with the Famous Artists School of Westport, Connecticut!

    Home. 25 years this coming May 6th…and yet another delight in learning about the Gerber Baby. Thanks for that…

    • And boy, are we glad you, Jose and the “kids” are part of our “06880/06883” community. Thanks for all you do, for all of us!

  6. Scott E. Brodie


    A couple of years ago I mentioned to you that original, signed paintings by Hardie Gramatkey of “Little Toot” and “Sparky” hung in the Burr Farms School Library. Were you ever able to learn what became of them after the school was closed?

    • Detective Dan was onto this quickly this morning, Scott, so I replied to him with info about the Little Toot and Sparky chalk drawings, now in the Westport Schools Permanent Art Collection. I don’t know how to imbed images of them here so you can see if the ones are the ones you remember. 😉

      • Here is what Linda responded about those drawings:

        Dad would go to Westport schools pro bono to do a “chalk talk” of sketches from all his children’s books and encourage each child to do his or her own artwork, and then he would leave the art there for the school to have. For a long time they were hanging in Kings Highway School’s office. I remember seeing them there back around 1990, and didn’t Burr Farms close ca 1980? They are now owned by the Westport Schools Permanent Art Collection and are currently hanging in the Saugatuck Elementary hallway near Principal Beth Messler’s office. One WSPAC rep for that school recently offered all the Gramatkys to hang in another elementary school as a roaming exhibit. We are so fortunate that our town has 1,800+ pieces of original artwork hanging in all the schools and many town buildings. I bet no other town in the U.S. has that distinction.

  7. Love this story, Dan – great Westport stuff. An iconic baby image and one that everyone knows exactly what it means when a baby is said to look like the “gerber baby.” Who knew this too was connected to Westport! Westport touches many people in various ways. Tough about those royalties though. And Ann Turner Cook is still beautiful.

    • about those royalties: true, it’s unfortunate for both the artist and the model that royalties were not a part of the deal. Of course, they did each get payment…but to put it into perspective, Ann Turner Cook got $5000 in 1951, which is equal to about $50,000 in today’s dollars. According to the interview I saw with Ann many years ago, she said this $5000 payment bought her a car, paid off her and her husband’s student loans, and gave them a down payment on their house. In contrast, my grandmother, the artist, got $300 in 1928. That is equivalent to only about $4000 in today’s money.

      • Good to know, Dorrie– puts it more in perspective. Still –have to imagine what they would have gotten today with their work and image being used in this way — set for life I’d wager.

  8. Annelise McCay