Last week one Ann Turner Cook passed away at the age of 95. You probably don’t recognize the name, but you might have seen this drawing of her as a baby:
Most likely in a context like this:
Says the NYT:
Ms. Cook was the bona fide Gerber baby, the winner of a nationwide contest in 1928 that has since seen her portrait reproduced on billions of jars of baby food and other items sold round the world.
In 1990, The New York Times described the sketch, by the artist Dorothy Hope Smith, as being “among the world’s most recognizable corporate logos.”
As a baby, Ms. Cook was in very much the right place at the right time. As an adult, however, fearing ridicule for her long-running role as a princess of puréed peas, she did not disclose her identity for decades.
Ms. Cook, who received no royalties for the use of her image, profited from it by precisely $5,000 over some 90 years. That sum — a settlement she accepted from Gerber in 1951 — let her make the down payment on her first home.
$5000 may not sound like much, but at least she got a house out of it. Spare a thought for poor Elden Spencer, a.k.a. the “Nirvana baby,” whose parents received a flat fee of $250 for the use of his image on the cover of Nevermind. It must be weird having your little baby dong plastered on millions of album covers through no choice of your own. Over the years he has made many attempts to wring some kind of profit from the situation, culminating in a desperate lawsuit alleging child porn, which prompted this scathing response from Nirvana’s lawyers:
Elden has spent three decades profiting from his celebrity as the self-anointed “Nirvana Baby.” He has re-enacted the photograph in exchange for a fee, many times; he has had the album title Nevermind tattooed across his chest; he has appeared on a talk show wearing a self-parodying, nude-colored onesie; he has autographed copies of the album cover for sale on eBay; and he has used the connection to try to pick up women.
Even so, I can’t help feeling some sympathy for him, deserved or not. According to his lawyer, “He hasn’t met anyone who hasn’t seen his genitalia.” And when his time comes to appear in the obits, there it will be again.