History of the Umbrella Girl
One of the most successful and lasting idea sessions in the early days of advertising took place in 1911, shortly after the salt sales agency headed by Joy Morton was incorporated as the Morton Salt Company. From a routine advertising presentation came the exchange of ideas that resulted in the first Morton Salt Umbrella Girl and the slogan that is now recognized by most Americans.
Back then, the Company had decided to embark on the first national consumer advertising campaign for salt to promote its new product – a free-running salt in a round blue package with a patented pouring spout.
The advertising agency Morton selected, N.W. Ayer & Company, was asked to submit a series of 12 different ads to run in consecutive issues of Good Housekeeping magazine. The agency's account executive brought 12 proposed ads and three possible ad substitutes to the Morton offices for consideration.
Sterling Morton, Joy Morton's son and secretary of the newly formed company, was immediately interested in one of the substitute ads. It showed a little girl holding an umbrella in one hand to ward off falling rain and, in the other hand, a package of salt tilted back under her arm with the spout open and salt running out.
Years later, Mr. Morton explained his initial enthusiasm for the ad in this way: "Here was the whole story in a picture – the message that the salt would run in damp weather was made beautifully evident."
The graphic worked, but the planned copy ("Even in rainy weather, it flows freely") was appropriate but too long. "We needed something short and snappy," Sterling Morton remarked.
Other suggestions included "Flows Freely," "Runs Freely," "Pours" and then, finally, the old proverb, "It never rains but it pours." The latter was vetoed as being too negative and a more positive rephrasing resulted in the now famous slogan, "When It Rains It Pours®".
The Morton Salt Umbrella Girl and slogan first appeared on the blue package of table salt in 1914. Throughout the years the ageless girl has changed dresses and hairstyles to stay fashionable. She was updated in 1921, 1933, 1941, 1956, and 1968.
Her message and appeal to American consumers remains undiminished by fashion's fickle fads or changes in advertising techniques. Each year she appears in parades, at costume parties and in schoolrooms throughout the country, brought to life by creative youngsters and adults. She also is a favorite illustration for student science projects about salt.
Widespread curiosity about the Umbrella Girl's origin and history has prompted tons of letters over the years. She is so much a part of the daily lives of Americans that many people see a resemblance to a sister, cousin, or niece, and they often write us to ask the name of the real person who was the model for the Umbrella Girl (in fact, there never was a real model).
The Morton package also has been modernized through the years, although it still incorporates the two most prominent features of the original, the pouring spout and the dark blue label. The label, of course, has been redesigned a number of times.
The little Morton Salt Umbrella Girl is a registered trademark of Morton Salt, Inc.