The Sun-Maid Raisin Girl
December 9, 1892
Today is the birthday of the American model Lorraine Collett, born on this day in 1892 in Kansas City, Missouri.
At the age of 23, Lorraine worked as a Sun-Maid Raisin girl and wore a blue bonnet with a white blouse and blue piping. Lorraine and the other Sun-Maid girls handed out raisins. In a spectacular marketing stunt, Lorraine even hopped aboard a small plane every day of the festival and tossed raisins into the crowds of people.
One Sunday morning, after her mom had set her hair into eight long black curls, Lorraine was outside drying her hair in the warmth of her sunny backyard in Fresno. That afternoon, Lorraine had swapped out her blue bonnet for her mother’s red one. The combination of her silky black curls and the red bonnet in the sunshine made an arresting sight. Coincidentally, a group of raisin coop executives and their wives walked by at that very moment, and they asked Lorraine about the red bonnet.
After that day, all the Sun-Maids wore red bonnets, and Lorraine agreed to pose for a watercolor painting. Lorraine and her mom had to rent an apartment in San Francisco for a month to work with the artist Fanny Scafford. All month long, Lorraine posed every day for three hours a day. She held a wooden tray overflowing with grapes while wearing the red bonnet. The portrait ended up as the symbol for the company and was included on the cover of every box of raisins. One newspaper article about the story in 1978 had the headline “Hair A-glinting in the Sun Made Girl an Emblem.”
After many years, the painting ended up in Lorraine’s possession. Later on, Lorraine returned the watercolor to the company. Today, the portrait hangs in a conference room at the Sun-Maid Growers plant. And the faded red bonnet was donated to the Smithsonian by the company in honor of Sun Maid's 75th Anniversary.