AMERICAN RED CROSS, WORLD WAR I -"The Greatest Mother In The World"

. Tuesday, October 10, 2006
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I ASKED several prominent advertising men of my generation what they remembered as the most famous ad of the first World War. Without exception it was Courtland N. Smith's "The Greatest Mother in the World" created for the American Red Cross.

Court Smith has been a partner in the advertising agency, Alley & Richards, for many years, and has written some excellent copy since the wave of World Wars began, but none perhaps of such memorable distinction as the "Greatest Mother" piece. As a poster, the idea became so popular that Great Britain asked for and obtained permission to use it for Red Cross drives over there. It was the only instance where an American ad was accorded such an honor. Court tells this story as to how it all came about:

"I was asked (along with other agency men) by the War Advertising Committee to contribute an idea for a Red Cross advertisement. I recall that the late L. B. Jones, Advertising Manager of Eastman Kodak Co. was one of that committee; I believe the chairman.

"Riding back from Sag Harbor where I'd been calling on a client, I hit upon the idea, 'The Greatest Al other in the World.' It seemed to me to typify something of the service rendered by that great organization.

"I made my own rough sketch and called in a finish artist (the late A. E. Foringer). He caught the spirit of the thing - allegorical figure typifying motherhood - holding a wounded stretcher case in her arms - and that was that.

"I remember that when I submitted it to the Committee, Jones put up a battle that I call it,

The Tenderest Mother in the World.' You now know who won out!"