An original illustration treasure from the storied Cream of Wheat vaults, this oil-on-canvas by William V. Cahill was used for the 1913 advertisement titled Breakfast’s Ready Li’l Missy. This is perhaps the finest of the 18 works created by this Howard Pyle student for Cream of Wheat. An interior genre scene (in the same interior) painted in 1912 by Cahill titled “The Dress Fitting” set records in a New York City Sotheby’s Arcade Auction selling for a staggering $327,200. The auction results for this related and relevant piece follow.
Title:The Dress Fitting 30.10″ x 25.10″ Created: 1912 Oil/Canvas Signed Lot: 211 Auction House: Sotheby’s New York, Arcade Low Est.: $2,500 High Est.: $3,500 Sales Price**: $327,200 06/29/2004 This painting is featured on page 40 as a full page color plate in Dave Stivers’ 1986 hardcover book The Nabisco Brands Collection of Cream of Wheat Advertising Art.
Each original piece of artwork used in Cream of Wheat advertising was carefully stored and archived at the Cream of Wheat headquarters in northeast Minneapolis. The unusual care taken to protect this thorough, well-maintained archive is testament to the foresight of Emery Mapes, who presided over the Cream of Wheat advertising campaign. Most advertising illustration in the early 20th century was considered expendable, and was quickly destroyed, lost or thrown away. Mapes insisted upon treating the art as art, and employed the finest talents working as illustrators to help developed Cream of Wheat’s folksy nostalgic iconography. Counted among the artists Mapes recruited are N.C. Wyeth, Jessie Willcox Smith, Phillip Goodwin, J.C. Leyendecker, James Montgomery Flagg and Edward V. Brewer. With the help of this stable of talent, the Cream of Wheat advertising campaign came to define some of the most enduring visions of American hearth and home.