Celebrate National Soup Month with Campbell’s Soup

January is National Soup Month.  Let’s celebrate with some Campbell’s Soup.


by Grace Drayon, from American Magazine, December 1923

The Campbell’s Soup Company was founded in 1869 (under a different name, the Joseph A. Campbell Preserve Company) and was originally focused on canning tomatoes, soups, and other products.  In 1897, a process was invented to remove the water from the soup, which made shipping less costly and reduced the price of a can of soup from 30c to 10c.  Campbell’s started to shift its focus more towards soup – they originally had five soup varieties: Tomato, Vegetable, Chicken, Oxtail, and Consomme.

In 1898, the classic red and white soup can label was created, based on the colors of Cornell University.  A company executive had attended a Cornell football game and was so impressed with the vibrant colors, he convinced the company that red and white should be the new colors of the soup label.

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By Grace Drayton, from Delineator, December 1917

In 1904, Campbell’s added another significant marketing change, after seeing an advertising submission with sketches of children on it.  Children’s book illustrator Grace Wiederseim had sketched some round-faced children on the advertising layout that her husband,  Theodore Wiederseim, had been working on.  The Campbell’s executives loved the addition of children to the advertisements, and the Campbell’s Soup Kids were born.

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By Grace Drayton, from Delineator, September 1918

The Kids first appeared on streetcar advertisements, but eventually were on advertisements found in all the major magazines, including American Magazine, Delineator, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Saturday Evening Post.  Originally, the children behaved and dressed as ordinary children.  Eventually, the children acted more like adults, giving the consumers advice about health and saving money.  They also started playing “dress-up,” often appearing in uniforms as chefs and policemen.

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by Grace Drayton, from Saturday Evening Post, June 29, 1918

During World War I, the Kids started dressing as Uncle Sam.  They reminded consumers, housewives in particular, that by feeding the family Campbell’s Soup, they were helping the country in its conservation efforts, and staying healthy as well on the homefront.  By this time, there were 21 soup varieties.

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by Grace Drayton, from Ladies’ Home Journal, January 1919

After the war, Uncle Sam continued to appear in advertisements, stressing how patriotic and economical it was to continue to feed one’s family and war heroes with Campbell’s Soup.

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by Grace Drayton, unknown publication and date

By this time, Grace Weiderseim had already divorced her husband (in 1911) and married W. Heyward Drayton III.  She then signed her artwork Grace Drayton.  When she divorced Drayton in 1923, she continued to use the name Drayton for her artwork.  Little is known about Weiderseim’s art training.  She is listed in Philadelphia’s School of Design for Women class list for 1893, but does not appear on the graduation list.  She did register for artist Robert Henri’s class on drawing antiques.

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by Grace Drayton, from Delineator, November 1918

Campbell’s made the Campbell’s Soup Kids a trademark. The company would feature them at the bottom of advertisements that weren’t drawn by Weiderseim (Drayton).

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by unknown artist, from Ladies’ Home Journal, February 1911

Modern Graphic History Library hopes you enjoy these last days of January with some Campbell’s Soup, courtesy of the Campbell’s Soup Kids.


The images featured here are from Modern Graphic History Library’s Periodicals Collection and the Walt Reed Illustration Archive.

Information for this blog came from:

Bellis, Mary. Hmm Hmm Good : The Trademarks and History of Campbell’s Soup. About.com, date unknown.

McGrath, W. E. Grace Drayton, a Children’s Illustrator Who also Painted Young Women–a Biographical Sketch. 2006

Spotlight on Golden Age Advertising : Campbell’s Soup.  Digital Deli Online, date unknown.

About the author

Andrea Degener is the Visual Materials Processing Archivist in the department of Special Collections at Washington University Libraries.