Obit of the Day: Creator of Mr. Clean
In 1957, Procter & Gamble held a contest to create a character for their new cleaning product, Mr. Clean. Twenty entries were received but the winner was the bald, tanned man, with an earring and white eyebrows drawn by Dayton, Ohio illustrator Richard Black.
The company’s new Mr. Clean was paired together with a jingle by Thomas Scott Caden* and an advertising legend was born. (Click here to see a 1958 Mr. Clean commercial.)
Mr. Black was quite accomplished by the time he entered the Procter & Gamble contest. Trained in art in Philadelphia, Mr. Black served in the Army Air Corps during World War II and was stationed at Dayton’s Wright Field. His was assigned to draw various aircraft which were then sent to D.C. and used as illustrations during funding hearings.
Following the war he remained in Dayton and opened his own studio in 1950. Working mainly freelance he created advertisements for Shell Oil and Frigidaire, among many. In 1956 he illustrated several covers of the Saturday Evening Post (best known for featuring the art of Norman Rockwell).
That last assignment earned him notice from the Department of the Interior which hired him to paint the Forest Service’s iconic mascot, Smokey Bear^. Created in 1944, Mr. Black was Smokey’s lead artist from 1956 to 1976.
Richard Black, who also taught art at the University of Dayton from 1967 to 1982, died on March 30, 2014 at the age of 92.
(1959 Mr. Clean ad is courtesy of Birminghamrewound.com which has the contents of an entire 1959 newspaper on its page. It’s copyright of Proctor & Gamble)
* The Mr. Clean jingle is the longest running in the history of advertising.
^ His name is actually Smokey Bear not Smokey THE Bear.
Other advertising posts on Obit of the Day:
Michael Roarty - The man who coined “For all you do..this Bud’s for you.”
Phyllis Robinson - A real-life Peggy Olson
Leo Greenland - Co-founder of the controversial ad firm Smith/Greenland
Edie Stevenson - Wrote the “Mikey likes it” Life cereal ad
Howard Fishlove - Star of Wendy’s Soviet-style commercials