THE little girl has been out in the rain with her umbrella and a container of salt for 75 years, demonstrating the slogan that helped make Morton Salt a household standby: ``When it rains it pours.'' Customers still occasionally write to Morton Salt Company claiming to know the child's true identity, but officials say she has none - she's the figment of a forgotten artist's imagination.
``Some people say they modeled for the illustration. Others swear it's their daughter or granddaughter,'' says Earl Thorne, advertising and promotion manager for the Chicago-based company.
The Morton Salt girl debuted in 1914. The first of her incarnations was as a chubby child with curly hair, standing in a downpour with a container of salt carelessly tucked under one arm and spilling to the ground.
She's been made over five times since, to update her dress, hair, and face. For a while she had pigtails. These days she has sleek, dark hair.
All but the original are taking a step with the right foot.
All are spilling salt, though the 1956 version and the current model, introduced in 1966, are losing just a sprinkle, rather than pouring it out in a stream.
And the slogan hasn't changed at all, though the scientific process it promotes has ceased to be a novelty. ``In the United States, it is one of the 10 best-known symbols,'' Mr. Thorne said.
In 1911, founder Jay Morton added magnesium carbonate to prevent the salt caking and designed the now-familiar moisture-resistant container with the patented spout.
The company went on to great success. In 1988, Morton Thiokol, then an aerospace and chemical company, reported about $2.3 billion in sales.
The company, formed seven years ago when Morton International merged with Thiokol Corp., recently split into two companies, restoring the old names.