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In 1930 Dr. John H. Breck, Sr. (June 5, 1877 – February 1965) of Springfield, Massachusetts, founded Breck Shampoo. Advertsing that "every woman is different," by the 1950s, the shampoo was available in three expressions, color-coded for easy identity:
In 1936, son Edward J. Breck (1907 - 1993) assumed management of Breck Shampoo and hired commercial artist Charles Gates Sheldon (1889 – 1961) to draw women for their advertisements. Sheldon's early portraits for Breck were done in pastels, with a soft focus and halos of light and color surrounding them. He created romantic images of feminine beauty and purity. He preferred to draw "real women" as opposed to professional models.
In 1957 Ralph William Williams succeeded Sheldon as the Breck artist. Unlike Sheldon, he often used professional women. Breck advertisements ran regularly in magazines such as Ladies Home Journal, Woman's Home Companion, Seventeen, Vogue, Glamour, and Harper's Bazaar. They were most often on the back cover of the magazine. During these years, Breck Girls were identified through the company's sponsorship of America's Junior Miss contests. After Williams' death in 1976, the advertising tradition stopped.
In 1963, Breck was sold to Shulton Division of American Cyanamid, a chemical company based in New Jersey.
In 1990, Breck was sold to the Dial Corporation. Martin Himmel Inc. acquired Breck in 2001, which unveiled the "Breck is Back!" campaign.
In 2006, Breck was acquired by Dollar Tree of Chesapeake, Virginia. It continues to sell the variety of shampoos, plus moisturizing body washes and bubble baths in a variety of fragrances, such as "Lavender Lily" (2006) and "Vanilla Melon" (2007).
The Breck Girls ads are now in the advertising history records in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
The Breck girl is back. But now she's a woman, with a job and a child. ... [I]n the 1970s, the Breck girl was seen as a possible liability. To avoid feminist ire, the maker of Breck shampoo banished the Breck girl. ... A random search in four cities produced 28-year-old Cecilia Gouge of Conyers, Ga., a secretary at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Atlanta.