Coca-Cola Girls & Tonnesen Models: Together in Chicago Daily News Photos?

MacDonald, Slavik, Dexter

L to R: Dorothy Dexter, Adelyne Slavik and Marie MacDonald. DN-0067651, Chicago Daily News Negatives Collection, Chicago History Museum

Helen Dale, Helen MacDonald, Adelyne Slavik

L to R: Adelyne Slavik, Helen MacDonald and Helen Dale.  D-0067574, Chicago Daily News Negatives Collection, Chicago History Museum

May La Nell

May La Nell. DN-0067649, Chicago Daily News Negatives Collection, Chicago History Museum

In the early part of the 20th century, Chicago was a hub of advertising art production and home to many of the country’s most talented artists and models.  And so it was, that some of the best known models of the day turned up in the works of Chicago-based artist-photographer Beatrice Tonnesen.  Among them, I believe was Adelyne Slavik (1892? – 1984).

Picture 1 of 6

This ad for Coca-Cola appeared in The Woman's Home Companion Picture Section, June, 1917. I believe the model is Helen Dale of Chicago.

My search for images of Slavik led me to a series of photographs taken in early 1917 by the Chicago Daily News.  There, I found Adelyne Slavik posing with several other women whose names I didn’t recognize, but whose faces I had seen in vintage ads and calendar art.  One of them, identified as Helen Dale, was a woman I thought I recognized as a “Coca-Cola girl” featured in several  magazine ads and on the serving trays so popular with Coca-cola collectors.  Another photo showed Marie MacDonald, who appears to me to be the woman shown with Dale on a 1918 Coca-Cola advertising image commonly known as “Beach Girls.”

Also, shown in that same series of photos was May LaNell (1899-1975) a well-known photographic and fashion model who also may have modeled for Tonnesen.  This amazing assemblage of models caused me to wonder what had called them together for the cameras of the Chicago Daily News.  Searching for news accounts that might explain their collective presence, I found two articles in the Chicago Daily Tribune about an event called the Style Revue at the Strand Theater, February 4 – 10, 1917, presented by the Garment Manufacturers Association.  Of the forty models participating in the Style Revue, only four were named in the Tribune, but among them were Adelyne Slavik, Helen Dale and Mae LaNell.  In a promotional article appearing February 3, 1917 and titled “Pink,” Helen Dale was said to have been…”dubbed ‘the pink lady’ because her brunette beauty lends itself so well to a pink sports suit, a rose colored evening dress, and an orchid afternoon silk dress, all of which she will wear at the Style Revue.”


Three of the photos from the Chicago Daily News are presented at left. (Click on the photos to enlarge them.) Below them, in a slide show, are Coca-Cola ads featuring the women I believe to be Helen Dale and Marie MacDonald, along with other advertising images I believe also to be of Helen Dale.  I’ve also included an image I believe to show May LaNell, which appeared on page 49 of “Home Craft:  The American Woman’s Handibook,” Copyright 1920 The Magazine Circulation Co., Inc., publishers of Woman’s Weekly, Chicago.

I hope you, our site visitors, will compare them with the Chicago Daily News photos and submit your comments.  Do you agree with my identifications?  Does anyone have further information or photos of Helen Dale, Marie MacDonald, May LaNell or Adelyne Slavik?

Copyright 2013 Lois Emerson

’20’s Era “Supermodels” Starred in Tonnesen’s Photos


It is well documented that Beatrice Tonnesen often featured amateur models in her photographs. As one of the country’s most successful female photographers, she garnered considerable press coverage, and it’s sprinkled with colorful stories of how she sprinted down streets, and on and off streetcars in pursuit of potential models who caught her eye. But she also used professional models in her work. In a May, 2010 post titled “Did Tonnesen Photograph a Ziegfeld Girl?” I identified three prominent professional models who seem to have posed for Tonnesen. The Ziegfeld girl mentioned in the title referred to Chicago-born Eva Grady (1899-1934), also known as Eva Brady. The other two, also Chicago natives, were Mae Burns (1896-1987) and Adelyne Slavik (1897?-1984), both of whom sometimes toured with Grady in runway style shows that were popular throughout the midwest. These shows typically featured twenty or more beautiful models, but Burns, Slavik and Grady were headliners.

Since writing that post, I’ve found additional images and information that further confirms the three as nationally celebrated beauties of their time. Today, I believe, they would qualify as “supermodels.” For example, I recently found an article in the Atlanta Constitution Magazine Section of September 11, 1921 in which Florenz Ziegfeld himself proclaimed Eva Brady one of the ten most beautiful women in the world. The article, titled “Has American Beauty Declined?” cited “Eva Brady, the beautiful Brunette from Chicago who was an artist’s model before she entered the beauty chorus,” as a prime reason to conclude that it had not.

The slideshow, above right, features print items attesting to the celebrity of her fellow beauties Adelyne Slavik and Mae Burns, paired with artwork by Beatrice Tonnesen believed to feature the three women. From left to right:

    1. This item in The Chicago Tribune, September 12, 1919, reported that artist’s model Adelyne Slavik accused a prominent phonograph maker of paying her only $3 for an image used in ads in newspapers, billboards and theater programs. She filed suit against the firm for $20,000 – the amount she figured her picture in an ad was worth.


    1. This is the ad that prompted Adelyne Slavik’s lawsuit, shown in a 1918 program for Broadway’s Cort Theater.


    1. Mae Burns was so popular that a fox-trot was named for her! This copy of the sheet music is held by the Lily Library of Indiana State University.


    1. Print titled “Reflections” believed to feature Eva Grady, found on a 1922 calendar, copyrighted by Brown & Bigelow in 1920. The Oshkosh Public Museum owns the original photo by Tonnesen.


    1. Print titled “Mother’s Jewels” believed to feature Adelyne Slavik. The props and costumes can be confirmed as belonging to Tonnesen. The family of Virginia Waller (1913-2006), the child model greeting the baby, has an original photo.


    1. Untitled print showing woman believed to be Mae Burns, wearing a distinctive dress from Tonnesen’s wardrobe. This appeared on an undated clothing advertisement.

To see other images thought to feature these professional models, see Albums 4, 9 and 15 in the Beatrice Tonnesen Catalogue. Move your cursor over the images to see captions containing information about them, including the names of persons believed to have modeled for each image.

Copyright 2012 Lois Emerson