Ann Turner Cook died at the age of 95; her image was used to sell billions of dollars worth of baby food.

 Ann Turner Cook died at the age of 95; her image was used to sell billions of dollars worth of baby food.

Cook, who earned no royalties for the use of her photograph, made a profit of $5,000 over the course of 90 years.

Ann Turner Cook died at the age of 95; her image was used to sell billions of dollars worth of baby food.

The list of suspects had been growing for years:

Bogart, Humphrey Shirley Temple is a well-known actress. Elizabeth Taylor is a well-known actress. Brooke Shields is a well-known actress. Bob Dole is a Republican presidential candidate. Nixon, Richard M.

According to urban mythology, any one of them may have been the inspiration for the world's most recognisable baby image: the charcoal sketch of the endearing newborn that has graced the labels of every Gerber product for more than 90 years, from infant formula to baby food to bottled juice.

But the one name no one thought to mention — because for half a century no one knew it — was that of Ann Turner Cook, a retired schoolteacher who died Friday at her home in St. Petersburg, Florida, her family confirmed Saturday. She was 95.

Cook was the bona fide Gerber baby, 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 around the world.

In 1990, The New York Times described the sketch, by artist Dorothy Hope Smith, as being “among the world’s most recognizable corporate logos.”

As a baby, 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.

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.

The daughter of Leslie and Bethel (Burson) Turner, Ann Leslie Turner was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on Nov. 20, 1926, and spent her early childhood in nearby Westport, Connecticut. Westport in those years was something of an artist’s colony: Cook’s father was a well-known illustrator who drew the syndicated comic strips “Wash Tubbs” and “Captain Easy, Soldier of Fortune.”

Smith, a commercial illustrator who specialized in babies and children, was a neighbour. (Smith, who died in 1955, also coloured scores of New Yorker covers drawn by her husband, artist Perry Barlow, who was partly colourblind.)

In 1928, Gerber, a Michigan canning company that had introduced a line of baby foods that year, put out the call for a portrait of a baby to be used in its advertising campaigns.

Cook was about 2 by then, but Smith submitted a simple sketch she had made in early 1927 when Cook was 4 or 5 months old. She considered the sketch unfinished and told Gerber that she would embellish it properly if she won.

Smith’s sketch was competing against lavish paintings done in oils, but Gerber’s judges were captivated by its innocent immediacy: The dewy-eyed Cook gazes straight at the viewer, her lips pursed as if in wonder.

Insisting the sketch not be altered, the judges declared it the winner. Gerber trademarked the image in the early 1930s.

“I have to credit Dorothy with everything,” Cook told The St. Petersburg Times in 1992. “I was really no cuter than any other baby, but she had wonderful artistic talent and was able to draw a very appealing likeness.”

For decades, Gerber chose not to identify its flagship baby, or even to disclose its

sex: The very universality of the sketch — in it, any mother could glimpse her own child — was a marketing boon.

As a result, rumours flew. The one fingering Bogart, who was in his late 20s when Smith made her drawing, was so persistent that for years Gerber kept a Bogart-denying form letter on hand to send to inquisitors.

(Those inquisitors were at least partly right: Bogart’s mother, Maud Humphrey, was a renowned commercial illustrator who used little Humphrey as a model for much of her work, which included ads for Mellin’s Infant’s Foods, a turn-of-the-20th-century brand.)

The long anonymity of the Gerber baby also ensured that there was at least one pretender to the throne. In the 1940s, one family sued the company, claiming that its child was the baby on the label. Testifying in court, Smith disclosed her model’s identity, and the suit was decided in Gerber’s favour.

Cook, who had been aware of her role since early childhood, kept her own counsel. After moving with her family to Orlando, Florida, in the late 1930s, she earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, followed by a master’s in the field from the University of South Florida. She taught junior high and high school English, becoming the department chair of Hillsborough High School in Tampa, Florida.

As a young teacher, Cook, fearful of the exquisite brand of disdain at which adolescents excel, chose never to disclose her infantile identity. Only in the late 1970s, with Gerber’s commemoration of the drawing’s 50th anniversary, did she publicly reveal herself as to its subject. Her students, she later said, were intrigued.

Cook’s husband, James Cook, a criminologist who was a major with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in Tampa, died in 2004. Her survivors include three daughters, Jan Cook, Carol Legarreta and Kathy Cook; a son, Clifford; eight grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

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