Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Sun-Maid Raisin Girl

I was in a supermarket this week, when I spotted Sun-Maid raisins. Oh, the schoolboy memories - Mum used to put a small packet of those raisins into my little lunchbox every day!
The image on the packet, of the girl in the sun bonnet, has been around for a long time... she was Lorraine Collett Petersen.
In 1915, San Francisco (recovering from its major 1906 earthquake) celebrated its rebirth by hosting the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Lorraine attended this with some other girls as representatives of a recently-formed raisin company. They handed out samples while wearing white blouses with blue piping and BLUE sunbonnets. According to Sun-Maid:
"In May 1915, she was discovered drying her black hair curls in the sunny backyard of her parents’ home in California. She was asked to pose for a painting, holding a basket of fresh grapes. This striking image was first applied to packages of Sun-Maid raisins in 1916."
As Lorraine recalled: "It was only after we returned home that I was seen wearing my mother’s RED bonnet in my backyard, and it was the suggestion of the wife of an executive from the San Francisco Exposition that the bonnet colour be changed from blue to red, because red reflected the colour of the sun better."
The Sun-Maid brand and Sun-Maid Girl trademarks became widely recognised in a few short years after their introduction: there was even a calendar made. Sun-Maid raisins were the No.1 brand in America - trusted worldwide for their quality, good taste and freshness.
After modeling for the original trademark, Lorraine was given the watercolour - she kept it and her mother’s original red sunbonnet in her home until 1974, when she presented both to Sun-Maid. Her treasured red sunbonnet (by then faded to pink) was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC in 1988. A replica is on display in the lobby of Sun-Maid's California HQ. The treasured original watercolour painting is today kept safely in a concrete vault at Sun-Maid’s headquarters.
The classic trademark has been modernised several times through the years but has always stayed true to the original image of Lorraine Collett. 2012 is Sun-Maid's 100th year.
Lorraine Petersen went on to run a restaurant and later converted a hospital into a nursing home. She died in 1983, aged 90.

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