In 1953 the corrugated box manufacturer Hinde & Dauch created a female trade character to represent their boxes. They named her “Cora Gated,” of course, because the name sounded like “corrugated.”
She made an appearance on a corrugated box (for tarred rope) sold last year on eBay for $9.99. As a self-proclaimed “Authority on Packaging” Hinde & Dauch seems to have been ahead of their time. (Now that “authority” is such a big part of the internet arms race.)
In most other respects, however, H & D and “Cora Gated” were merely a product of their times.
Cora Gated & “trade dress”
In an article announcing the new trademark, Charles E. Frohman (Hinde & Dauch’s president at the time) said:
We are confident that Cora will be of great help to us in telling our sales story.
Her name and her costume identify her immediately with our products, and she carries our trade-mark on her dress. We will have no trouble with changing styles, because her ‘clothing’ has a style all its own.
Frohman refers to her “clothing” as if the trade character were simply a human being wearing corrugated boxes instead of clothes. Yet we can also see the character as an anthropomorphic box with arms, legs and head.
This Zippo cigarette lighter with Hinde & Dauch’s “Cora Gated” logo sold on eBay in 2013 (See also: Packaging Zippos)
Frohman’s insight that corrugated box styles would be less volatile than women’s fashions was partly correct.
Anthropomorphic packaging mascots, however, were more of a thing for companies of the past. Nowadays when “anthro-packs” appear, it’s usually a deliberately nostalgic branding move. So even though Cora Gated never conformed to 1950s women’s fashions, today she finds herself outdated, nonetheless.
“Cora Gated” news, advertising and swag follow after the fold.
Cora Gated in the News
In addition to the 1953 article touting the introduction of “Cora Gated” in the Sandusky Register-Star-News, there were other, periodic news items featuring Hinde & Dauch’s female trade character.
The short squib on the right was published in the same paper during the same year. Naturally, any “history of Miss Cora Gated” would need to be a “brief” one since she had only been in existence less than a year! Sandusky Register-Star-News, 1953
From the Sandusky Register-Star-News, 1954
From the Gastonia Gazette, 1956
Cora Gated as H & D Spokesmodel
For decades H & D used Howard Swink’s Ohio-based ad agency. I’m guessing that Howard Swink Advertising was behind the print ads featuring illustrations of Cora Gated. Maybe their illustrator created the character to begin with. Who knows?
Many of the ads portray her as an entertainer of men.
In most of their advertising from 1955 to 1958, Cora Gated appears on a stage with an audience. While the president of the company was concerned about the character’s apparel avoiding the pitfalls of changing fashion, it’s really this advertising campaign that has not aged well.
The company changed course a little bit in the ad below. Here we see Cora at a graduation being celebrated for her academic accomplishments as a “packaging major.” But whatever activity is depicted, it’s always the same stock audience watching the stage.
(Her “Corabrite” dress, mentioned below, was a new corrugated board, better suited for printing.)
Writers of this campaign made numerous references to movies, books, etc. that were popular at the time. [Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch, Harvey, Peter Pan, Mr. Roberts, A Christmas Carol, Finian’s Rainbow (the stage musical)]
Uncle Tom’s Corrugated Box
The racist caricature in the ad below came as a surprise. The same Snidely Whiplash villain who tied Cora Gated to the tracks in the ad above, reappears here with a pair of bloodhounds and a rifle. He is pursuing a young black woman. I’m guessing that she’s supposed to be the runaway slave, Eliza Harris, who fled across the Ohio river.
As with the other ads, the agency has glibly inserted an H&D corrugated box into the story.
On the one hand, the advertiser purports to empathize with the escaping “Liza.” (A member of the audience reassures his wife, saying, “Don’t worry Myrtle… Liza’s bound to arrive safely in that H&D box.”)
But on the other hand, the illustrator, the ad agency and the client all thought it was clever to portray Eliza as a pickaninny caricature, in contrast to the more realistically drawn white characters. Keep in mind, that various ivy league alumni publications actually published this ad — including a 1955 issue of the Princeton Alumni Weekly.
(See also: George Washington Carver’s letter to Pickaninny Brand Peanuts and Thurgood Marshall’s letter to Whitman’s Pickaninny Peppermints)
An ad announcing the opening of a new plant in Gastonia, North Carolina (Gastonia Gazette, 1955)
In these two ads from 1958, the company used photograph’s of man’s eyes and mouth, against a corrugated cardboard background. Their trade character was given a smaller role, more befitting a logo.
Cora Gated Swag
In addition to the “Cora Gated ” Zippo lighter that we showed earlier, H & D put out a number of other promotional products featuring their trademark character.
I’ve read about a Cora Gated jigsaw puzzle, but could find no photos of a surviving example.
The silk necktie on the right was one such product. Someone bought this tie on 2011. Ebay has long since removed the high-res photos, but this small, low-res photo comes to us via Worthpoint.
A seller on eBay is now offering the deck of Hinde & Dauch playing cards below $48.88. The Cora Gated trade character appears on the box and on the back of card against a blue corrugated background.
The 4 packs above were part of Charles E. Frohman’s collection (via: The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library)
Based on the testimony below, the Cora Gated trademark appeared on Hinde & Dauch trucks, although the only remaining visual proof (that I can find) are the model tractor-trailers shown above.
My dad and uncle worked for “Hinky Dink” [Hinde and Dauch] … the Sandusky, Ohio firm that originated corrugated paper and the corrugated box. … H&D opened a Canadian arm in Toronto in the 30’s and in 1947 my dad joined them.
… As a kid, I remember that out the back of the Etobicoke, Ont. plant there were always a few old [1950’s] trailers that were used for maintenance storage. I always loved the old H&D trailers that were sitting there; rusting but colourful reminders of a proud company that had invented corrugated boxes and the modern way of shipping everything.
The H&D trailers were yellow and black but featured “Cora-gated” a young woman dressed in a box… (a fashion plate to be sure) and were unique to the Canadian Division. But I remembered a green and black one… old and rusty. … It disappeared before too long but it made an impression on a young guy. … shift to 2004; MR’s Great Model Railways had a piece on a HO module with a H&D trailer in green and black; complete with “Cora-gated”…
Puddington, Railwire Forum, 2011
See also: Damnation & Diet Delight
Darian Zam says
I know I’ve seen her before. I’m a big fan of these vintage company mascots. There’s some good ones out there.
Darian Zam says
Cora apparently made an appearance in NZ via imported tools and parts from Canada. This cropped up on the weekend:
Randy Ludacer says
Hi Darian, Thanks for pointing that out!
An accidental invention, corrugated boxes were initially devised in the late 1800s by Scottish immigrant, Robert Gair. A mistake by an operator who cut, instead of creased, seed bags in Gair’s existing Brooklyn printing and paper-bag company, led to Gair’s creation and development of pleated, creased, and cut cardboard folding boxes.
Gair quickly realized this method could improve efficiency and reduce costs by cutting, printing, and creasing boxes from one piece of corrugated cardboard on the same press. The strength of the resulting prefabricated product provided a more cost-effective solution to other, expensive to produce, packaging materials in use at the time, such as wooden crates.