99 44/100% Adorable: Girls in Vintage Soap Ads, Pt. 1 (Ivory Soap)

There is no shortage of vintage advertisements with adorable little girls in them, but those old soap ads seem to be particularly charming. And it so happens that there are tons of them from the major soap brands like Sunlight, Packer’s, Fairy, and most prominently, Pears, easily found on the web. We’ll get to all of these in upcoming posts, but today’s post is devoted exclusively to one of the biggest soap brands of all time, Ivory.

Ivory Soap was first manufactured by the J.B. Williams Company in 1840 under the name Ivorine, but this didn’t last long. The company soon sold its rights to the soap to Procter & Gamble, who eventually changed its name to Ivory. Ivory Soap is known for two famous slogans, “It Floats” and “99 44100% Pure.”  The latter was especially popular for years.  In the ’50s and ’60s their main slogan became “That Ivory Look”, which was associated with the smooth skin of infants and considered the ideal for women.

Most of the early ads were of course illustrated, often by some of the most notable names in the business. One of those was Irving Ramsey Wiles. While he later became a successful portraitist, his early career was largely devoted to magazine and ad illustration, such as the following two variants of the same piece:

Irving Ramsey Wiles – Baby’s Ivory Bath ad (1898)(1)

Irving Ramsey Wiles – Baby’s Ivory Bath ad (1898)(2)

Another major illustrator who did illustrations for Ivory Soap was the ever-prolific Jessie Willcox Smith.  Here are three from her all done right around the turn of the twentieth century.  Note: a full-color illustration by Smith also featured in an ad for one of Ivory’s major competitors, Pears.  It’s already been posted here once, but I will likely link to it again when I make the Pears post.

Jessie Willcox Smith – Ivory Soap ad (1)(1902)

Jessie Willcox Smith – Ivory Soap ad (2)(1902)

Jessie Willcox Smith – Ivory Soap ad (3)

This next piece, although labeled as a Smith illustration when I found it, is not actually her work.  The artist’s name in the bottom left-hand corner, although difficult to make out, appears to be Albert Herter, which makes sense as Herter was definitely a contemporary of Smith and is known to have been a prolific illustrator in his own right.  And although all of the advertising info has been cropped out, you can see that the theme of the piece is the children’s bath.  The young woman here looks to have her hands full with all the kids waiting to be scrubbed clean by her.

Albert Herter – Ivory Soap ad

Yet another highly productive illustrator who did several pieces for Ivory Soap was Alice Beach Winter.  Although no dates are given for any of these, we can judge from the style, and from what we know of Winter, that these are either from the Edwardian period or slightly later.

Alice Beach Winter – Ivory Soap ad (1)

Alice Beach Winter – Ivory Soap ad (2)

Alice Beach Winter – Ivory Soap ad (3)

I do not know the artist for this next illustration, but again, it’s from the same time period.

Artist Unknown – Ivory Soap ad (1916)

Our final Golden Age illustrator is Clara Elsene Peck.  Like Jessie Willcox Smith, Peck focused primarily on the lives of women and children, which made her a natural fit for illustrating Ivory Soap ads.  I especially like this first piece, which I’m posting two different versions of.

Clara Elsene Peck – Ivory Soap ad (1)(1918)

Clara Elsene Peck – Ivory Soap ad (2)(1918)

Clara Elsene Peck – Ivory Soap ad (3)

And now we move on to the era of photography with a trio of ads featuring images by unidentified photographers.  By the ’50s it became fairly commonplace for advertisers to stop displaying the names of artists, especially photographers.

Photographer Unknown – Ivory Soap ad (1951)

Photographer Unknown – Ivory Soap ad (1959)

Photographer Unknown – Ivory Soap – You can have That Ivory Look in just 7 days

But here is one of the exceptions.  Francesco Scavullo’s work was so well-known and prestigious in the ’60s and ’70s that he has been identified as the photographer in these ads.  The idea of mothers competing with their little daughters to look youthful would later become controversial with feminists, of course.

Francesco Scavullo – Ivory Soap – Can you compete with your daughter’s “Little Girl Look”? (1)

Francesco Scavullo – Ivory Soap – Can you compete with your daughter’s “Little Girl Look”? (2)

Edit: I had intended to add this to the post originally, but it was not yet ready. So I am adding it now.  I had another commercial I wanted to post but its size exceeds the limit for upload so I will simply link to it. – Pip

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Ivory Soap Commercial (1960)

 

The Quintessential American Illustrator: Jessie Willcox Smith

Jessie Willcox Smith was born in Philadelphia on September 6, 1863 to Charles Henry Smith and Katherine Dewitt Smith. At the age of sixteen she was sent to Cincinnati to live with her cousins and complete her education. The artist did not have any interest in drawing at this time, therefore she studied teaching and taught at a kindergarten in 1883. By the end of the year she realised that teaching would be an unsuitable occupation. Jessie discovered her talent for drawing by accident. One of her cousins was an art tutor and this cousin asked the artist to chaperone her to and participate in a private art lesson. At the end the lesson it was noticed that her drawings were very good and when her friends saw the drawings they strongly encouraged her to study art.

In 1884 Jessie moved back to Philadelphia to study at the School of Design for Women, now called Moore College of Art and Design, however she found this school to be unsuitable for her interests and transferred to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. While there she had her first image, entitled ‘Five Little Maidens All in a Row’, published in St. Nicholas Magazine.

Jessie Willcox Smith – Five Little Maidens All in a Row (1888)

Jessie graduated in 1888 and took a position in the advertising department at Ladies’ Home Journal where she finished rough sketches, prepared advertising art and designed borders. While working there she was also actively approaching publishers with her illustrations. The publisher Lee and Shepard accepted some of these images and they appeared in a book entitled New and True, by Mary Wiley Staver. Wishing to improve her drawings the artist enrolled in Saturday afternoon classes at Drexel University, where she was taught by Howard Pyle. She studied there from 1894 to 1897, during which time her illustrations became much more realistic looking. Pyle would actively go out and get commissions for the students that he considered to have good artistic abilities and he did this for Jessie when he secured her the job of illustrating, in partnership with Violet Oakley, the book entitled Evangeline, which was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1897.

After graduating from Drexel Jessie was offered a teaching position there, however, due to her teacher’s help in finding illustration contracts she had achieved some success, so declined the offer. Her new-found financial stability allowed her to leave the Ladies’ Home Journal in 1898. At the turn of the century the artist’s work was in high demand; she was freelancing for several publishers and magazines, including completing a series of covers for Colliers. The artist knew that she could get recognition and contracts by displaying her works at exhibitions. Her artworks received national attention at the Charleston Exposition where one received the Bronze Medal for painting; this would be her first of many awards. Advertising commissions were another source of income and she produced a series of advertisements for Ivory Soap, Kodak and Cream of Wheat. Displayed below is her advertisement for Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company.  This charming image was so well received it was reprinted in many of the popular magazines across America.

Jessie Willcox Smith – Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company Advertisement (1924)

One of Jessie’s most important works during this period was a calendar called The Child, published in 1902. The calendar was a collaboration with Elizabeth Shippen Green and featured some of their most beautiful child-based images. Almost immediately after publication Stokes, a New York based publisher, asked to reprint the works as a book. Mabel Humphrey was commissioned to write a series of poems and short stories to match the illustrations and The Book of The Child was published in 1903. It became so popular that both artists would be guaranteed illustrating contracts well into the future. More recognition followed later that year when the artist exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts and subsequently won the Mary Smith Prize.

The majority of Jessie’s works can be found in magazines which, due to their low sales price, were a popular form of entertainment at the time. As women were the main readership of magazines, editors would seek out women artists who could produce the images that these readers desired to see. The artist’s sentimentalised and idealised illustrations neatly fitted into this requirement and she was constantly in demand. An example of this demand can be seen in 1905 when she was commissioned to work exclusively for Colliers. However she felt that this was a restriction on her art, as she had to decline several other projects because of this work agreement; therefore in 1907 she ended the contract and went back to freelancing. The decision to go back to freelancing was a good idea as she received a commission from Good Housekeeping magazine, which eventually lead her to create every cover image for this magazine from December 1917 through to April 1933, becoming the artist with the longest consecutive run of magazine covers. Some of these covers can be found at the Good Housekeeping website.  She also produced a series of Mother Goose drawings for this magazine, which were then reproduced in the book entitled The Jessie Willcox Smith Mother Goose, published by Dodd, Mead, and Company in 1914.

Jessie Willcox Smith – Good Housekeeping Cover (1929)

Jessie Willcox Smith – Mother Goose (1914)

Book illustrations were a major source of income for Jessie with about fifty books known to contain her images. Her most well-known book illustrations appeared in The Water-Babies. Published in 1916 by Dodd, Mead, and Co., the book was of high quality and the images, printed on glossy paper, displayed her technical abilities and proficiency at using mixed media more than any other published works. The artist must also have considered these to be some of her best works as she bequeathed all twelve of the originals to the Library of Congress, which are now viewable online. Many of the books by Jessie were produced for a global market and there was such high demand for some that many reprints occurred, even now you are able to find some of these reprints. As she was being paid royalties for all these re-releases and wanting to spend more time on private portraiture commissions, she largely stopped producing images for books in 1925. The books containing her illustrations that did appear after 1925 would only have a few images, usually as a frontispiece or dust wrapper. I also suspect that old age—she was sixty-two in 1925—and the demands of having to create multiple original illustrations in a short amount of time would also be a reason for stopping book contracts.

Jessie Willcox Smith – A Childs Garden of Verses (1905)

Jessie Willcox Smith – Summer Passing (1908)

Jessie Willcox Smith – Merry Christmas (1917)

Having rarely travelled, the artist was eventually convinced by friends to go on a European tour, accompanied by a trained nurse. Rather than having a positive affect, this journey simply made all her health problems worse and two years after returning she died on May 3, 1935, at the age of seventy-one.

Smith’s style changed a lot through her career. At the start of her working life she would create black and white images in charcoal and her colour images were mostly watercolours with pen and ink outlines to highlight objects and people in a style often described as “Japanesque”. In later works she became skilled in mixed media, overlaying watercolour and oils on charcoal to get the desired effect. The artist would rarely use professional models and greatly disliked them. When talking about professional models in an interview she expressed the opinion that

Such a thing as a paid and trained model is an abomination and a travesty on childhood – a poor little crushed and scared, unnatural atom, automatically taking the pose and keeping it in a spiritless and lifeless manner. The professional child model is usually a horribly self-conscious, overdressed child …

 

Instead she would use the children of friends and from some of the wealthy families of Philadelphia, she also adapted or reused paintings from her portraiture work, as these children created highly natural and realistic images. She would also photograph and do quick sketches of the children as they sat and played in her studio and gardens which would become part of a large file of images to use when she did not have models available. It is not known why most of her images featured children, though it can be presumed that she did have an intense love for them, based on her first career choice of teaching young children. Having children as models could also have filled in for the lack of her own children. Additionally, she was not creating drawings due to market demands, as all magazine illustrators prior to Jessie’s appearance produced images of women engaged in household work, yet these painters kept receiving contracts despite the absence of children.

Jessie Willcox Smith – Ann and Mary Leisenring (1922)

Jessie Willcox Smith – Jeanne C. Flood (1929)

When compiling this work, I extensively used two books these are: Jesse Willcox Smith: American Illustrator (1990) by Edward D. Nudelman, printed by Pelican Publishing and Jessie Willcox Smith (1977) by S. Michael Schnessel, printed by Studio Vista. Both books have several dozen images by the artist and extensive biographies with Schnessel’s book containing the most written information. I also found that at least twelve of her books have been digitised on archive.org, this includes some of her most well-known works. Lastly, when referencing her first published illustration many sources say it is ‘Three Little Maidens’, however, I have said five as this was the number mentioned in both biographies and the accompanied image clearly shows five children.

Few images from The Book of the Child appear on the internet.  Two of the images appear on Pigtails’ 5th Anniversary post, one from Smith and one from Green.  The remaining images will be published on this site as time permits.  -Ron

Pigtails’ 5th Anniversary: Two Great American Illustrators

Looking back at Pigtails in Paint’s history, it really is remarkable that we should be here now. There were so many things that could have gone wrong and, thanks to a number of guardian angels, we have been able to persevere. But apart from all that, the most remarkable quirk of fate was the partnership between Pip and me. Remove one of us from the equation and, almost certainly, there would be no Pigtails today. I never intended to run a website like this and if Pip had not invited me to join him, I probably never would have. And if I had not come along when I did, the site may never have developed its chorus of contributors—both visible and invisible. Even though Pip is officially gone, I must assure our readers that he keeps an ever vigilant eye on his baby and his influence will continue to be felt for a long time. Now for the present: I would like to thank Christian for his meticulous work as Editor and the multitude of others for their leads, materials, research, feedback, translating services and technical services that have kept things going.

On that note, I would like to present two images and stories by arguably the United States’ best child illustrators: Elizabeth Shippen Green and Jessie Willcox Smith. One day, both of these artists will get the full coverage they deserve but, for now, I would like to offer this tantalizing sample. There is a rare book featuring illustrations by these two women called The Book of the Child (1903) with text written by Mabel Humphrey and published by the Frederick A. Stokes Company. Because the book does not cover the more popular children’s tales, it is virtually unknown and has not received the recognition it deserves. It also distinguishes itself by having the stories inspired by the illustrations instead of the other way around. When I saw the title of the first story, it was a signal to me that this book should be the cornerstone of this anniversary post.

Elizabeth Shippen Green - A Tale of a Pigtail (1903)

Elizabeth Shippen Green – A Tale of a Pigtail (1903)

A Tale of a Pigtail

 Snip, snip, snip, squeaked the shears; down to the floor slipped a thick braid of soft brown hair; and Mary gave a startled gasp as she looked down at it. A sob rose in her throat as she glanced at herself in the mirror.
“I don’t care,” she sniffed, which really meant that she cared very much; “now the boys can’t call me ‘pigtail’ and ‘cowstail’, cause I haven’t any tail at all.”
“Hey, Jimmy!” she called from the window, “who’s a pigtail now?” and shook her short locks savagely.
The answer came quick and clear, “Bobtail! Bobtail! Bob—”; but the rest of the word was lost in the bang of the window and a burst of tears.
At that moment Auntie Brown came hurrying into the room, and, seeing the poor shorn lamb sobbing her small heart out gathered her lovingly into comfortable arms.
“Never mind, Sweetie.” she cooed soothingly. “Auntie won’t scold about the hair, dear heart”, (this, as the small hands clutched wildly at the docked head), “though she is sorry. Jimmy shan’t ever call you names again,” and very gently Auntie coaxed the small visitor back into smiles.
All day long Mary lingered near her aunt, however. The grey branches beckoned gaily to her from the golden sunlight, and the bright flowers nodded encouragingly; but these held no temptation for her while the boys were outside and a possible “Bobtail” rang in her ears.
Searching for something with which to amuse herself she came at last upon Uncle’s set of beautiful chessmen and soon had a small ivory family in the midst of dinners, dances and many gaieties. In her excitement Mary forgot that the chessmen were forbidden to her small fingers—forgot, too, that the books she had used for the houses were Uncle’s choicest. Everything in fact was lost in the “fun” she was having.
“Come on, Mary,” called Jimmy, peering through the long window. “Come play horse,” but Mary shook her head.
“Lemme play with you, then.”
The head shook harder than before, and Jimmy turned away cross and hurt. If Mary only couldn’t play with the chessmen, perhaps she might come out and play with him. “Couldn’t,” and suddenly remembering his father’s command, the little boy rushed eagerly off to find him, a plan—rather selfish, I fear, stirring busily in his small brain.
A few moments later Jessie was startled by her Uncle’s voice stern and cold. “Mary!” was all it said, but it was enough; she remembered now.
“Oh, Uncle Jim,” she wailed, “I won’t ever do it again, but my hair—” she faltered. “I quite forgot!”
There was no doubting the earnest little face upturned to him, and remembering the sorry tale of woes Auntie had told him not long before, Uncle Jim turned away with a smile, only telling Mary to put the chessmen away carefully.
Having done so, Mary, with flashing eyes, marched out on the piazza, and, spying the object of her search, her wrath took shape.
Jimmy Brown!” and Mary’s voice trembled with rage. “You called me pigtail, which I wasn’t, an’a cowstail, which I wasn’t. Then when I wouldn’t come out to an’ play, you ‘membered about the chessmen, an’ told! An’ that’s a—telltale!”
With a break in the angry voice Mary turned to go; but at a bound Jimmy was at her side. “I’m drefful sorry, Mary,” he began—
“Nem mind, Jimmy,” said the little girl. “So am I. Let’s play horse.”

Some of you may note that Humphreys made a continuity error in mentioning the name “Jessie” instead of “Mary”. I believe it was her intent to use the illustrators’ names in the stories and she got a little mixed up. An interesting coincidence is that this book should arrive at my doorstep only one day after publishing the ‘Chess’ post. The next story—the last in the book—may seem out of place in February but I do find myself humming Christmas carols at all times of the year.

Jessie Willcox Smith - A Real Santa Claus (1903)

Jessie Willcox Smith – A Real Santa Claus (1903)

A Real Santa Claus

 “O dear!” sighed Elizabeth. “I don’t b’lieve Sandy Claus’ll ever come.”
She pressed her round little nose against the cold window pane and peered up and down the street, as if she half expected to see Mr. Santa himself under the gas lamps.
Very quietly she had crept into the dark drawing-room this Christmas eve, for perhaps—one of those exciting chances it was!—perhaps Nursey would’nt find her. And then? Well, then she would sit up and see Santa Claus come down the chimney.
Nursey did find her, however, and very soon Elizabeth was snug in bed, though not by any means asleep. As soon as she was alone in the dark, up popped her head like a lively”Jack-in-the-box,” the little white-clad shoulders following. And Elizabeth waited.
It was very still in the dark room, and once or twice the drowsy eyelids drooped; but she propped them up with two chubby fingers and kept the brown eyes turned anxiously toward the fireplace.
Could he crawl down it, she wondered. He was fat and had a pack, a great large one with dolls, an’ candie, an’ ev’thing. Yes, an’ kittens! He might break the dollies if he should squeeze. S’posen he couldn’t
Suddenly Elizabeth’s heart gave a quick thump as the door opened softly, letting in enough light to show a grey head peeping through the crack. The head had a beard, too, just like the pictures, and the broad shoulders wore a great coat white with snow.
“Creak,” said the door, while it opened wide enough to let all of the large figure slip into the room.
At the sound, Santa Claus—for it must be he thought Elizabeth—jumped, as she did when Mother caught her taking lumps of sugar, and looked cautiously around to see if she had heard. All was quiet, however, and after stopping an instant to make sure she had not wakened, he stole quietly over to the chimney-place, carrying in each hand a small stocking, stuffed to the toe and bulging in the queerest of shapes. These he hung in front of the chimney; then tiptoed out into the hall again.
As he closed the door Elizabeth heard him whisper: “she didn’t wake,” and he called her mama “Lil” and kissed her.
“Hm,” she mused drowsily, “I knowed he couldn’t get down that little chimney. Guess he didn’t see I was awake; must have lef’ his pack an’ cap downstairs, I fink.” The sleepy eyes closed, and Elizabeth drifted softly away into Dreamland.
The next morning early, a bright voice chirped: “Merry Christmas, Mudder. I saw Sandy Claus! Bolstered up in Mother’s bed she told her story, between squeals of delight at the treasures Santa had left.
At breakfast she found a new grandfather, arrived the night before from his home in San Francisco, and such fun as they had all day together. At dinner Grandfather carved the great turkey, and gave her both fat “drumsticks” and the wish-bone. In the afternoon they had a sleighride, and Elizabeth “drove” the horses with the jingling sleighbells, almost by herself.
In the evening they made merry over the twinkling Christmas tree, and before bed-time she told Grandfather “she loved him, an’ he looked jes’ like her Sandy Claus.” When he answered that he “wondered” if little owls could see in the dark, his eyes twinkled so merrily, like the pictures again, the she almost thought he must be Santa Claus.
And sometimes when Christmas comes around, bringing her many beautiful gifts, she thinks so still.