Many people want to know if a real person was the original “Sun-Maid girl.” The answer is “Yes,” and her name was Lorraine Collett Petersen. In May 1915, she was discovered drying her black hair curls in the sunny backyard of her parents’ home in Fresno, California. She was then asked to pose for a painting while holding a basket tray of fresh grapes. This striking image was first applied to packages of Sun-Maid raisins in 1916. Over the years, this image has been seen on millions and millions of packages and has been taken into homes throughout the world.
The treasured original watercolor painting is today kept safely in a concrete vault at Sun-Maid’s headquarters in Kingsburg, California.
Sometimes we forget that in 1915 there were no electric hair dryers, that television would not be invented for decades to come, and that automobiles were not in every home. Life was much simpler, more rural, a lot less hectic and sunbonnets were still part of women’s fashion in California.
San Francisco was still recovering from its 1906 earthquake and celebrated its rebirth by welcoming the international community by hosting the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Lorraine Collett Petersen attended this event with a number of other girls as representatives of the recently formed raisin company. They handed out samples while wearing white blouses with blue piping and BLUE sunbonnets. As Lorraine would later tell, “it was only after we returned to Fresno 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 color be changed from blue to red, because red reflected the color of the sun better.”
After modeling for the original trademark, Lorraine was given the watercolor in 1915 and she kept the painting and her mother’s original red sunbonnet in her Fresno home until 1974 when she presented both to Sun-Maid. Throughout the years Lorraine represented Sun-Maid well, including appearing on the syndicated television talk shows of the day. She passed away in 1983.
Her treasured red sunbonnet, by then somewhat faded pink, was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. in 1988. The donation ceremony was conducted in the offices and presence of then United States Secretary of Agriculture Dick Lyng, who served under President Ronald Reagan. A replica remains on display in the lobby of Sun-Maid’s Kingsburg, California offices.
While the Sun-Maid girl trademark has changed with the times, the design has always been based on the original pose by young Lorraine.
The name SUN-MAID was created by advertising executive E.A. Berg , who in 1915 believed that this brand name best reflected the true nature of sun-dried raisins simply “made” in the California sun from freshly picked grapes. Leroy Payne, a Sun-Maid company executive led the small group who discovered Lorraine drying her black hair in her backyard. To Payne, the sight of the red sunbonnet and the pretty girl in the morning sun was the ideal personification of E.A. Berg’s brand name SUN-MAID. It was artist Fanny Scafford who created the painting used for the original trademark design.
The “Sun-Maid Girl” Changes with the Times
The “SUN-MAID” brand and “Sun-Maid Girl” trademarks became widely recognized by consumers and the trade in a few short years after their creation and introduction in 1915 and 1916. SUN-MAID raisins were the number one brand in America and were trusted by consumers for their quality, freshness and good taste.
As the 1920s ushered in changing times and styles, the first of what would be three changes to the “Sun-Maid Girl” took place. These changes, the first made in 1923, helped modernize the trademark but never changed the character of the image that would always be based on the original pose – a smiling Lorraine Collett wearing that now world-famous red sunbonnet.
After being unchanged for 30 years and with the new prosperity in post-war America, efforts began to once again carefully update the Sun-Maid Girl to keep her current and in step with the times. This 2nd updating is shown in the 1956 version to the right.
The most recent update to the trademark took place in the late 1960s when further steps were taken to modernize the “Girl”. This version, finalized in 1970 is seen on all Sun-Maid packages today.
Other Sun-Maid Girls Further Legacy
During the 90 years that Sun-Maid raisins have been in the cupboards and pantries of raisin lovers around the world, other people have perpetuated the “Sun-Maid Girl” image by dressing in costume for parades, promotions and other events carrying on the legacy and original pose by young Lorraine Collett.
One of these people was a young woman named Delia von Meyer (Pacheco) who worked for Sun-Maid’s packaging supplier, Fiberboard Paper Products. In 1960 Delia was asked by her supervisor to pose for one of the Fiberboard artists while holding a tray of grapes. Delia spent an afternoon posing while the artist explained to Delia that he had been assigned the task of updating the world famous “Sun-Maid Girl”. He explained that while he was to modernize the “Girl” to keep the mark contemporary, he was to preserve the essence and tradition of the Sun-Maid mark known around the world.
Just as Lorraine Collett had posed with her tray of grapes in 1915 for a San Francisco artist, Delia von Meyer (Pacheco) struck a similar pose some 45 years later.
Soon after this sitting modest changes were made to the 1956 version that served through the 1960s. Like the other “Sun-Maid Girls” through the years, Delia’s posing provided inspiration for the changes in the early 1960s and ultimately the 1970 version that remains on Sun-Maid packages today.
The classic “Sun-Maid Girl” trademark has been modernized and changed several times through the years but has always stayed true to the original image of Lorraine Collett that has been trusted and cherished by consumers around the world for generations.
Although it has changed with the times, the Sun-Maid trademark design has always been based on the original pose by young Lorraine Collett.