Tuesday, July 24, 2012

White Rock's Psyche: A pioneer of boobies in advertising

White Rock was once one of the biggest mineral water bottlers in the United States. In the first half of the 20th century, they ran a series of ads featuring "Psyche, Goddess of Purity" as their mascot. And amazingly, for that prudish age, she appeared topless (and usually, nippless).

Intrigued, I rounded up a few examples of these ads from around the internet. They are weird and wild.

Via Flickr

Via Flickr
Via Mixer
Via Esquire

So, why was this type of nudity in ads okay? The fact that a topless woman was showing up in polite society was not exactly glossed over:

Via Today's Inspiration.

And in some cases, she was even anatomically correct:

Via Uncommon Citizen

Female sexuality used to advertise unrelated products is nothing new. But current White Rock President Larry Bodkin told NPR that there was nothing lewd or suggestive about that Psyche logo when it debuted around the turn of the 20th century: "In those days, a bare breast was like almost the ultimate sign of purity".

From their site:
The story of how Psyche came to represent the White Rock Company starts at the World’s Fair in Chicago. White Rock executives were awestruck by the beauty, youth and purity depicted in a painting titled “Psyche at Nature’s Mirror” by German artist Paul Thumann. They purchased the rights to the painting and adopted Psyche as their logo. 
Psyche was a mortal princess in Greek mythology and was an allegorical personification of the human soul. According to mythology she is mistaken for Venus because she is so beautiful. Venus gets jealous and has her son Eros (Cupid in Roman mythology) involved in a plot to make her life miserable. Eventually she marries Eros and becomes immortal but not before going through a lot of hardships.  
Psyche has the wings of a butterfly to depict immortality. Her story represents the pre-existence of the soul suffering in this life, going astray but remaining faithful to her ideals. She accepts her fate while showing courage and counting on love to lead her to life. 
Over the years, depictions of Psyche have changed slightly. The 1947 model was estimated to be 2 inches taller but 15 pounds lighter than the original model. The 1975 model added another 2 inches but dropped 7 pounds and now stands at 5 foot 8 inches with a weight of 118 pounds. 
Psyche continues to stand for the pure, vital refreshment of all White Rock products. 

Yep, White Rock is still around. And so is Psyche. Ironically, they covered her up in the swinging '70s:

But these days, they're attempting to crowdsource the mascot online.

Now, that could get interesting.


  1. i think that white rock should sue disney for copyright infringement.

    great piece, btw!