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BRECK GIRLS COLLECTION, ca. 1936-1995
#651

(6.5 cu. ft.:  9 DB, 6 F/O)  (188 pieces of original artwork)

by: Mimi Minnick, July 1998

History /Biography

Dr. John Breck is credited with developing one of the first liquid shampoos in the United States, in Springfield Massachusetts in 1908; Breck is also credited with introducing the first ph-balanced shampoo, in 1930. During the early years of the business, distribution remained localized in New England, and the product was sold exclusively to beauty salons until 1946. Advertising for the brand began in 1932, but appeared only in trade publications, such as Modern Beauty Shop.

Edward Breck, son of the founder, assumed management of the company in 1936. Breck became acquainted with Charles Sheldon, an illustrator and portrait painter who is believed to have studied in Paris under Alphonse Mucha, an artist noted for his contributions to Art Nouveau style. Sheldon had achieved some measure of fame for his paintings of movie stars for the cover of Photoplay magazine in the 1920s, and had also done idealized pastel portraits for the cover of Parents magazine. He created his first pastel portraits for Breck in 1936, launching what would become one of America's longest running ad campaigns. When the company began national advertising (and mass distribution) in 1946, the campaign featured Sheldon's 1937 painting of seventeen-year old Roma Whitney, a spirited blonde. Ms. Whitney's profile was registered as Breck's trademark in 1951. When he retired in 1957, Sheldon had created 107 oil paintings and pastels for the company. Sheldon was known to favor "ordinary women" over professional models, and in the early years of the campaign, the Breck Girls were Breck family members, neighbors or residents of the community in which he worked; company lore holds that nineteen Breck Girls were employees of the advertising agency he founded in 1940. A Breck advertising manager later described Sheldon's illustrations as "illusions, depicting the quality and beauty of true womanhood using real women as models." The paintings and pastels form a coherent, if derivative, body of work which celebrates an idealized vision of American girlhood and womanhood, an ideal in which fair skin, beauty and purity are co-equal.

Ralph William Williams was hired to continue the Breck Girls campaign after Sheldon's retirement. Between 1957 and his death in 1976, Williams modified the Breck Girl look somewhat through the use of brighter colors and a somewhat heightened sense of movement and individuality. The advertising manager during his tenure recalled that "at first Williams continued in Sheldon's manner, but in later years, as women became more independent, he would take care to integrate each girl's particular personality; he studied each girl and learned her special qualities." During these years, Breck Girls were identified through the company's sponsorship of America's Junior Miss contests. Williams' work includes pastels of celebrities Cybil Shepard (1968 Junior Miss from Tennessee), Cheryl Tiegs (1968), Jaclyn Smith (1971, 1973) , Kim Basinger (1972, 1974) and Brooke Shields (1974) very early in their careers.

By the 1960s, at the height of its success, Breck held about a twenty percent share of the shampoo market and enjoyed a reputation for quality and elegance. Ownership of the company changed several times (American Cyanamid in 1963; Dial Corporation in 1990). The corresponding fluctuations in management of the company and in advertising expenditures tended to undermine the coherence of the national advertising campaign. In addition, despite William's modifications, the image had become dated. Attempts to update the image misfired, further limiting the brand's coherence and effectiveness. Finally, increased competition and an absence of brand loyalty among consumers through the 1970s and 1980s helped push Breck from its number one position into the bargain bin. The Breck Girl campaign was discontinued around 1978, although there have been at least two minor revivals, first in 1992 with the Breck Girls Hall of Fame, and again in 1995 when a search was begun to identify three new Breck Women.

Scope and Content

The 188 pieces of original advertising art (62 oil paintings on board, 2 pencil sketches on paper, and 124 pastels on paper) and approximately 5 cu. ft. of related photographs, correspondence and business files in this collection document the development and evolution of the Breck Girl, a highly successful and long-lived advertising campaign whose hallmark was its vision of idealized American womanhood. The collection is a perfect fit with other 20th century Archives Center collections documenting the efforts of American business to reach the female consumer market. The Estelle Ellis Collection (advertising and promotions for Seventeen, Charm, Glamour and House & Garden and many other clients) the Cover Girl Collection (make-up), the Maidenform Collection (brassieres), and the Tupperware Collections offer a prodigious body of evidence for understanding the role women were expected to play as consumers in the 20th century. These advertising images also offer fertile ground for research into the evolution of popular images of American girlhood and womanhood. The research uses of the collection derive primarily from its value as an extensive visual catalog of the ideal "types" of American women and girls, arising and coalescing during a period in which 19th century ideals of womanhood were being revisited (the depression, the war years, the immediate post-war period) and continuing, with slight modifications and revisions, through several decades during which those historical ideals were being challenged and revised.

Series Descriptions

The collection is arranged in four series as follows:

Series 1:  BUSINESS RECORDS, ca. 1946-1995

subseries A: Company history, 1946-1990Various sources, including company newsletters, creative strategy documents. Of special interest is a set of radio scripts for the American Girl Philharmonic, a music program sponsored by Breck during World War II.

subseries B: Ralph William Williams, 1933 ; 1941-1945; 1969; 1976.  Williams also worked as an artist for the U.S. Navy during World War II, and some of this work is represented here, as is correspondence with Mary Pickford and former First Ladies Pat Nixon and Betty Ford,. regarding portraits he painted of them.

subseries C: Appraisal and management of artwork, 1984-1992

subseries D: Breck Girls Hall of Fame, 1992. Of special interest in this subseries is correspondence from former Breck Girls with regard to their experience as Breck models. This material was collected 1992 as part of the Breck Girls Hall of Fame opening.

subseries E: Breck Woman Search, 1994-1995.

Series 2, , ca. 1960-1995. Includes some photographs of company personnel and packaging, but consists primarily of color or b/w reproductions of artwork or finished advertisements.

Series 3, Print Ads, ca. 1946-1980.

Series 4, Original Artwork, ca. 1936-1994. For access to the oversized and somewhat unwieldy original portraits material, researchers should consult the 1992 Breck appraisal in series 1, which includes a color photograph and description of every image in this series.

Related Materials

Several items of packaging, 1930s-1980s are held in the former Division of Community Life; an 18k gold Breck insignia pin is in the former Division of Costume.

Provenance

The collection was donated to the Archives Center of the National Museum of American History by the Dial Corporation in June 1998.

Container List

Box Folder
SERIES 1: BUSINESS RECORDS

subseries A: Company History, 1946- 1990 (not inclusive)

1 1 company history (secondary sources), n.d.
2 Breck Gold Box company newsletter:

July-August 1958

May-June 1959

3 radio scripts: "American Girl Philharmonic", 1946
4 telescripts, 1967; 1971
5 model release and consent agreement, 1976
6 creative strategy, October 14, 1977
7 brand promotion, 1977
8 product promotion, 1989
9 Investment Proposal: Acquisition of Breck Hair Care Products, August 1, 1990
10 press release re purchase, September 4, 1990
11 press clippings re purchase September 10, 1990
12 KCSA Breck Public Relations Overview, 1990
13 KCSA public relations: Breck Good Will, November 5, 1990
12 1 "Who is a Breck Girl?", ca. 1960s


Subseries B: RALPH WILLIAM WILLIAMS, 1933; 1941-1945; 1969, 1976

1 14 correspondence with Mary Pickford, 1933
15 U. S. Navy, Art Training Department, ca. 1941-1945
16 correspondence with Pat Nixon, 1969
17 correspondence with Betty Ford, 1976

Series 1: BUSINESS RECORDS

Subseries C: APPRAISAL OF ARTWORK, 1984-1992

2 1 correspondence re management of artwork, 1984-1992
2 Dial Corporation Breck Girl "picture inventory", n.d.
3 Appraisal of the Breck Girl Collection for the Dial Corporation, November 1992 (inventory sheets)
4 Appraisal of the Breck girl Collection for the Dial Corporation, November 1992 (photographs)

SERIES 1: BUSINESS RECORDS

SUBSERIES D: BRECK GIRLS HALL OF FAME, 1992

3 1 press clippings, 1992
2 correspondence re Hall of Fame, 1992
3 Breck Girls' addresses, 1992
4 certificate of award, 1992
5 Roma Whitney Armstrong, 1937
6 Olga Nelson Atkins, 1935
7 Janet Moore Barney, 1965-1966
8 Olga Bogach
9 Karen Ann Kane Brooks and Patricia Kane Melgaard, 1963
10 Jacqueline Lancioux Carroll, 1947
11 Cathey Benton Colella, 1959
12 Faith Ann Williams Clairmont, 1972
13 Pamela Cew, 1989
14 Carol Toby Cheek, 1955
15 Bobbi Kingsley Conroy, 1960
16 Peggy Cullen, 1948
17 Kaye Davis, 1975
18 Gretchen Macarthy Eilertson
19 Lettitia Bellantoni Fraedrich, 1971
20 Erin Gray
21 Barbara Clement Gould, 1962, 1975
22 Sonia Nertin Grassi, 1966
23 Bonnie Grey, Heidi Grey Niblack, 1957
24 Hope Whitehouse Guersey, 1946
25 Ginny Guild, 1963
26 Joan Bowes Hammill
27 Carole Fitzsimmons Harris, 1962
28 Rebecca Holden, 1977
29 Cindy Harrell Horn
30 Janice Carlson Herbert, 1941
31 Carolyn Hemingway, 1958
32 Sue Houle, 1955
33 Hannah Howarth, 1949
34 Jean Dernago Joy, 1958
35 Betty Keith, 1962
36 Willi Koopman, 1965
37 Cheryl Bates Lord, 1963
38 Carol Ann Williams Lyons, 1972
4 1 Carol Rachel Marino, 1967
2 Linda Lawrence MacDonald, 1956
3 Eileen Mckenna, 1960
4 Mary Lou Emmons Mehrtens, 1950
5 Carol Evans Mende, 1957
2 37 Elizabeth Hathaway Husson, 1934-1938
4 7 Karen Morris, 1974
8 Roberta Collins Moorhouse, 1955-1956
9 Joan Young Morrissey, 1957/1960
10 Zacki Murphy, 1987
11 Elaine Cusick Nash, 1963
12 Judy Neuman
13 Andrea Ormston, 1974
14 Brita Ohberg Reed, 1938
15 Kim Reid, 1975
16 Susan Hood Rima, 1977
17 Carol Ryan
18 Susan Berr Sager, 1964
19 Martha Branch Salonika, 1963
20 Wilma Jacqueline Smith, 1952
21 Barbara Sarantitis, Elizabeth Sarantitis Latham, 1963
22 Joanne Knight Smith, 1951, 1955
23 Tiffany Westover Smith, Mary Compton Smith, Tegwin Smith, 1969
24 Doreen Stenzel, 1967
25 Ann Staffanson, 1957-1958
26 Jean Ivory Stevens, 1947-1953
27 Julie Gosselin Stout, 1960
28 Linda George Test, 1974-1975
29 Julie Hart Sumption, 1964
30 Alice Thomas
31 Peggy Putsche Thornton, 1957
32 Julie Ann Forshee Thurber, 1976
33 Judith Tunstall, 1961
34 Marie Kelly Hynes, 1962
35 Laraine and Louise Petterson, 1958
36 Adrienne Tillotson
37 Nina Plumb Twining, 1953-1954
38 Carole Valencia, 1940
39 Berge Wathne, 1967
40 Margeurite Mitchell Wigham, 1948
41 Helen Whitaker, 1955
42 Mrs. Ralph William Williams
43 Linda Smith Williams, 1953
44 Gay Dixon Witten, 1973
45 returned postcards


SUBSERIES E: BRECK WOMAN SEARCH, 1994-1995

5 1-4 press clippings, 1994
6 1 press release: historical information, 1995
2 press release: biographical infromation, 1995
3 press release: prouct, 1995
4-6 press clippings, 1995
7 press clippings:Sandi Miller, 1995
8 correspondence: Sandi Miller, 1995
9 correspondence: Tiffanie Palmer, 1995
10 correspondence: Page Elledge, 1995
11 correspondence, 1995
10 9 Arizona Woman magazine, 1995 including article about Breck Women 1995

SERIES 2: PHOTOGRAPHS,CA. 1960-1995
11 1 Charles Sheldon
2 Ralph William Williams
3 John Breck
4 Ed Breck
5 Tiffanie Palmer, 1994
6 Page Elledge, 1994
7 Sandi Miller, 1994
7 1 ads
2-4 artwork
5-6 packaging
7 product
8 television stills
9 Breck executives, ca. 1960
10 Dial executives, ca. 1990
11 Breck Girl Hall of Fame search, 1992
12 Breck Girl Hall of Fame pin, 1992
13 Breck Girls Hall of Fame, 1992
14 Breck Girls 1995: Page Elledge
15 Breck Girls 1995: Sandi Miller
16 Breck Girls 1995: Tiffanie Palmer
17 Breck Girls 1995: Elledge, Miller, Palmer
18 Breck Girls 1995: pastels
19 Breck Girls 1995: studio shots
20 Breck Girls 1995: candid shots
21 Breck Girls 1995: six finalists
22 Breck Girls 1995: three finalists with CEO
23 Breck Documentary, 1995 (Rebecca Holden, Erin Gray, John Teets)
8 1 Breck Girl Hall of Fame Search press release, 1992
2-3 negatives: Breck Girls 1995: three finalists
4-5 negatives: various, n.d.
6 negatives: Smithsonian magazine article, Jan. 2000
7 slides: Breck Girls, A-D
8 slides: Breck Girls, G-R
9 slides: Breck Girls, S-W
10 slides: Breck Girls 1995
11 slides: trademark artwork
12 slides: product
13 slides: Dial Corporation executives, 1993
14 slides: television stills, ca. 1985
15 slides: Hall of Fame, 1995

SERIES 3: PRINT ADS, ca. 1946-1980
9 1 Breck Girls, 1955
2 Breck Girls, 1968-1969
3 Breck Girls, 1971
4 Breck Girls, 1973
5 Breck Girls, 1974
6 Breck Girls, 1975
7 Breck Girls, 1976
8 Breck Girls, 1977
9 Breck Girls, 1978
10 Breck Girls, n.d.
11 print ads (product only), 1965
12 print ads (product only), 1966
13 print ads (product only), 1968
14 print ads (product only), 1969
15 print ads (product only), 1971
16 print ads (product only), 1974-1974
17 print ads (product only), 1978
18 print ads (product only), n.d.
10 1 Breck Girls, 1951-1956
2 Breck Girls, 1963; 1966
3 Breck Girls, 1967
4 Breck Girls, 1968
5 Breck Girls, 1969
6 Breck Girls, 1970-1974
7 Breck Girls, 1976-1978; 1980
8 Breck Girls, n.d.
12 2 Cheryl Tiegs (brunette), 1968
3 Cheryl Tiegs (blonde), 1968
4 Diane Harris, 1973
5 Donna Alexander, 1974
6 Julie Ann Forshee, 1976
7 Rebecca Holden, 1977
13 binder Breck Girls, 1946-1978
13 1 Breck Girls, 1965-1966
2 Breck Girls, 1967
3 Breck Girls, 1968-1969
4 Breck Girls, 1970-1971; 1974-1975
14 1 Cybil Shepherd, 1968
2 Cheryl Tiegs [misidentified?], 1968
3 Jaclyn Smith, 1971
4 Jaclyn Smith (storyboard), 1971
5 1 Ann and Kim Basinger, 1972
15 2 Brooke Shields, 1974
15 3 Kim Basinger, 1974
15 4 Erin Gray, 1976
Location Number (as assigned by Dial Corporation) SERIES 4: ORIGINAL ARTWORK, 1936-1994

unless otherwise noted, originals are located in the Vault, National Museum of American History

F=Fullerton storage facility, Silver Hill, Maryland

SM=awaiting apporval for transfer to Springfield Museum, Springfield, Massachusetts

V 188 Deborah Ann Armstrong, n.d.
V 189 Nila Anderson, n.d.
V 105 Olga Nelson Atkins, 1936
F 158 Olga Nelson Atkins, 1936
V 83 Jean Ayers, 1961
V 85 Cheryl Bates, 1963
V 154 Elaine Marie Bordua, n.d.
V 1 Martha Branch Salonika, 1963
V 195 Martha Branch
SM 3 Connie Breck, 1947
F 35 Gertrude A. Breck, n.d.
V 62 Jay Breck, n.d.
F 40 Judy Breck with her mother Gertrude Breck
F 41 Judy Breck with her mother Gertrude Breck
F 36 Judy Breck with her mother Gertrude Breck, 1945
F 38 Judy Breck with her mother Gertrude Breck
F 39 Judy Breck with her mother Gertrude Breck, 1946
SM 28 Judy Breck with her mother Gertrude Breck, 1946
F 171 Judy Breck with her mother Gertrude Breck, n.d.
F 167 Judy Breck Kiliein, n.d.
SM 30 Nancy Breck O'Connor, 1945
SM 42 Nancy Breck O'Connor, 1945
F 24 Nancy Breck O'Connor, 1945
F 27 Nancy Breck O'Connor, 1945
F 21 Nancy Breck O'Connor, 1946
F 20 Nancy Breck O'Connor, 1946
F 34 Nancy Breck O'Connor, 1947
SM 17 Nancy Breck O'Connor, 1947
F 37 Nancy Breck O'Connor, n.d.
V 59 Nancy Breck O'Connor, n.d.
F 2 Nancy Breck O'Connor, n.d.
F 169 Nancy Breck O'Connor, n.d.
V 60 Nancy Breck O'Connor, n.d.
F 31 Nancy Breck O 'Connor, n.d.
F 29 Nancy Breck O'Connor, n.d.
V 156 Donna Burlinger, n.d.
V 141 Kathy Caravello, 1964
V 93 Margo Carpenter, 1964
V 80 Rosemary Cea, 1964
V 87 Carol Toby Cheek
V 88 Carol Toby Cheek
V 118 Diane Christie, n.d.
V 64 Lee Clark, 1964
V 70 Jessie Clark, 1967
SM 53 Barbara Clement, n.d.
V 157 Barbara Clement, 1975
V 56 Barbara Clement, n.d.
V 79 Barbara Clement Gould, 1975
V 127 Jean Collier, 1956
V 97 Janet Collier Millard
F 170 Janet Collier, n.d.
V 9 Roberta Collins, 1947
V 69 Mae Connelly, 1955
V 203 Carol Conway, n.d.
F 22 Peggy Cullen
V 95 Peggy Cullen, n.d.
V 165 Peggy Cullen, n.d.
V 144 Mary Culver, n.d.
V 67 Claire Cummings
V 51 Elaine Cusick, n.d.
V 86 Sandra Dahlgren, 1961
V 155 Chama de la Perira, n.d.
V 66 Donna DeGroot, n.d.
V 104 Jean Durango, n.d.
V 142 Jean Dernago Joy, 1958
V 72 Jane Doe (a composite), n.d.
V 197 Page Elledge, 1995
F 25 Mary Lou Emmons, 1950
V 124 Mary Lou Emmons, n.d.
V 138 Pam English, 1964
V 120 Jean Falvey, 1947
F 33 Jean Falvey, 1947
SM 179 Jean Falvey, n.d.
V 55 Lora Fuad, 1976
V 90 Julie Gosselin, 1960
V 84 Gini Guild, 1963
V 194 Kim Haley, n.d.
V 132 Joan Hamill, n.d.
V 159 Cindy Harrell, 1977
V 77 Diane Harris, 1973
V 129 Sheryll Hayes, n.d.
V 50 Sheryll Hayes, n.d.
V 75 Kathy Hays, 1961
V 73 Carolyn Hemingway, n.d.
F 11 Marlene Hewins, 1948
V 81 Susan Houle, 1960
V 74 Rosemary Howard, 1966
V 137 Rosemary Howard, n.d.
V 63 Hannah Howarth, n.d.
F 110 Jean Ivory, 1944
V 76 Jean Ivory, n.d.
V 102 Jean Ivory, n.d.
V 121 Jean Ivory, n.d.
V 125 Jean Ivory, n.d.
V 130 Jean Ivory, n.d.
V 134 Jean Ivory, n.d.
V 143 Jean Ivory, n.d.
V 149 Jean Ivory, n.d.
F 175 A. Judy, n.d.
V 116 Betty Keith, 1964
V 92 Joan Knight Smith, 1951
F 173 Jacqueline Lancioux, n.d.
V 7 Jackie, 1947
SM 46 Linda Ann Lawrence, 1956
V 47 Linda Ann Lawrence, n.d.
V 187 Linda Ann Lawrence, 1956
V 101 Betsy Lee, n.d.
V 204 Bernadette Leedy, 1963
V 153 Betty Lewis, n.d.
V 108 Kathleen Lochary, 1972
V 205 Anne Magennis, n.d.
V 78 Karen Massberg, 1968
V 133 Peggy McCafferty, 1967
V 94 Gretchen McCarthy, 1961
V 199 Sandi Miller, 1994
V 65 Virginia Monroe, n.d.
V 106 Betty Nolan, n.d.
V 163 Britta Ohberg Reed, n.d.
V 198 Tiffanie Palmer, 1994
V 196 Joan Paulson, n.d.
140 Carol Patten, n.d.
V 181 Nina Plumb Twining, 1953
V 183 Nina Plumb Twining, n.d.
V 184 Nina Plumb Twining, 1954
V 117 Ruth Roberts, 1964
V 126 Marian Roode, 1961
V 193 Ann Rutenber, n.d.
136 Carol Ryan, 1969
V 107 Yvonne Schneider, 1977
V 57 Yvonne Schneider, 1977
V 54 Gloria Shearer, n.d.
V 89 Marilyn Skelton, 1948
V 99 Marilyn Skelton, n.d.
V 103 Marilyn Skelton, n.d.
V 123 Marilyn Skelton, n.d.
V 147 Marilyn Skelton, n.d.
V 151 Marilyn Skelton, n.d.
V 152 Marilyn Skelton, n.d.
V 180 Marilyn Skelton, n.d.
V 6 Marilyn Skelton, 1948
V 186 Linda Smith Williams (infant), 1953
V 8 Diane Starks, n.d.
V 131 Debbie Swanson, 1961
V 52 Gloria Taggart, 1963
V 109 Carol Tetreault, 1963
113 Cindy Taud, 1976
V 82 Janice Vaughan, 1962
V 148 Kay Wallace, 1962
V 96 Phyllis Warner Kingsley, n.d.
V 5 Roma Whitney, 1937
4 Roma Whitney Armstrong, 1937
26 Roma Whitney, 1945
V 139 Roma Whitney, 1946
F 100 Roma Whitney, 1946
V 164 Roma Whitney, n.d.
V 91 Pat Williams, 1961
V 71 Pam Woodworth, n.d.
V 146 Marie Worsham, n.d.
V 145 Jean Young, 1958
V 98 Jean Young, 1960
V 61 sleeping infant, n.d.
V 185 sleeping infant, n.d.
V 45 unidentified, 1979
V 48 unidentified, n.d.
V 49 unidentified, n.d
V 58 unidentified, n.d.
V 112 unidentified, n.d.
V 114 unidentified, n.d.
V 115 unidentified, n.d.
V 119 unidentified, n.d.
V 122 unidentified, n.d.
V 128 unidentified, n.d.
V 135 unidentified, n.d.
V 150 unidentified, n.d.
V 160 unidentified mother and daughter, n.d.
V 161 unidentified mother and child, n.d.
V 182 unidentified bride, n.d.
V 190 unidentified, 1990
V 191 unidentified, n.d.
V 192 unidentified, n.d.
V 201 unidentified, n.d.

Mimi Minnick, July 1998

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Revised: January 20, 2012