Unique Gerber baby food collection now at the Holliday-Dorsey-Fife House Museum in Fayetteville

Tue, 02/12/2008 - 5:19pm
By: The Citizen

By Joe McKaughan

Simply Southern Tourism Association, Inc. and MainStreet Fayetteville are proud to feature one of the largest private collections of memorabilia from Gerber Baby Foods on display at the Holliday-Dorsey-Fife House Museum in Fayetteville, Georgia, February 1st through March 31, 2008.

Admission to the vast collection, with over 700 hundred pieces of rare-seen memorabilia, reflecting the history of the legendary maker of baby products, is free with the purchase of a ticket to the Fayetteville museum at 140 Lanier Avenue West.

The 1855 home is open Thursdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Adult tickets are $5; senior and student tickets are $4.

The World's Best Known Baby Exhibit:

"This is the one of the largest displays of collectables in the seventy year history of the illustrious company," says Griffin resident, Matthew Stafford, curator of the collection. "I developed the idea of starting the collection when my son, River, was born in November, 1996. I know how we relied on Gerber, as did so many other couples raising their first child. Their products were indispensable in getting us through those formative years for new parents."

The collection is divided into three sections: the Gerber food case, the Gerber toy case, and Gerber corporate promotional items. The collection dates from the founding of the company in 1928 and continues with new and innovative items found in grocery stores around the world today.

Highlights of the collection are a container of Gerber Baby food still sealed in its original metal can; a glass baby-bath thermometer; a birthday card given to a Gerber executive by founder Dan Gerber; and the last item produced by the Gerber family before Gerber merged with Sandoz Ltd. of Switzerland, part of Novartis.

Background of Gerber:

The Gerber story began in 1927 in Fremont, Michigan in Daniel Gerber's kitchen while he was watching his wife, Dorothy, straining solid food for their seven-month-old daughter, Sally. Trying the job himself, but covering himself with strained peas, Dorothy suggested that the family company might do the job better in their canning plant.

The idea worked, and by the next year, not only strained peas, but also prunes, carrots, spinach and vegetable soup, were ready for the national market.

Thanks to the famous advertising campaign that featured the Gerber Baby, grocers were enthusiastically placing orders and Gerber products were soon on grocery shelves across America. In 1943, Gerber proclaimed: “Babies are our business…our only business.”

Today, nearly 190 products are labeled in 16 languages and distributed to 80 countries.

Origin of the Gerber Baby:

The face behind the Gerber Baby is Ann Turner Cook, a retired school teacher now living in Florida. Cook was the subject of a simple charcoal sketch by Dorothy Hope Smith, an artist who specialized in drawing children.

In 1928, Gerber was seeking a baby face for its nationwide introductory ad campaign. Smith submitted a drawing of Cook with the understanding that she would complete the sketch into a finished oil painting if the initial sketch was approved by the company. The Gerber executives were so taken with Smith's original work in sketch form they accepted it “as is.”

Gerber adopted this now legendary sketch as its official trademark in 1931. Since then, the Gerber Baby has appeared on all Gerber packaging and in every Gerber advertisement, making her the world's best-recognized baby.

In December 1996, Ann Turner Cook herself was present at the unveiling of Gerber's first new label in more than 40 years.

One of Fayetteville's finest historical attractions, the Greek revival antebellum house was built by the Holliday family. The house derives its full name from the three main owners that dwelled there. The Holliday-Dorsey-Fife House Museum is a cooperative project of the Fayetteville Downtown Development Authority and Fayetteville Main Street Program.

The Baby Collection is a joint effort of Main Street Fayetteville and Simply Southern Tourism Association.

For more information, please visit manager@hdfhouse.com or call 770-716-5332.

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