The Sun-Maid Girl
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.