The Morton Salt Girl
How A Little Girl Grew Up To Be An Icon
She’s lived for over a century. And she doesn’t look a day over 8-years-old. A true barometer of our culture, the Morton Salt Girl has seen a lot in her time – from motion pictures and the miracle of flight – to the first moon landing and music videos. She’s seen fashion fads come and go and come back around. And she’s heard everything from rock-and-roll to rap. She’s even into social media.
She’s also done a lot in her time. She’s flavored our food for generations, softened our water, melted ice and snow, improved industrial processes, made pharmaceuticals more effective, and so much more . All this from one little girl.
SO WHERE DID THIS GIRL WITH THE CAN-DO ATTITUDE COME FROM?
She emerged from a routine advertising presentation in 1911, shortly after the salt sales agency headed by Joy Morton was incorporated as the Morton Salt Company.
It was the early days of advertising and the company boldly decided it was time for its first national consumer advertising campaign to promote a true breakthrough – Morton’s free flowing salt in a round blue package with a patented pouring spout.
Advertising agency 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 twelve proposed ads and three possible ad substitutes to the Morton offices for consideration.
From this meeting came the exchange of ideas that resulted in the first Morton Salt Girl and the slogan that is now recognized by most Americans.
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.
Her First Appearance
Other suggestions included “Flows Freely,” “Runs Freely,” “Pours” and then, finally, the old proverb, “It never rains but it pours.” The latter was rejected 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 girl has changed dresses and hairstyles to stay fashionable. She was updated in 1921, 1933, 1941, 1956, and 1968. In 2014, the Morton Salt Girl was refreshed one more time in celebration of her 100th year as the face of the brand.
Her message and appeal to 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 alike. She also is a favorite illustration for student science projects about salt.
Widespread curiosity about the Morton Salt Girl’s origin and history has prompted countless 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 inspiration for the little umbrella girl (in fact, there never was a real model for the original Morton Salt Girl).
The famous Morton table salt package has also been modernized through the years, although it still incorporates its most prominent features – the pouring spout, the dark blue label and of course, the Morton Salt Girl.