Who is The Mysterious Quaker

Some of you are familiar with the man on the right. He is the symbol of Quaker Oats. He was a staple in my house, part of my youth. For years I saw his face all over town.

Like the Brawny paper towel guy and the Marlboro Man he was just one of those people that were people from the neighborhood, my homies.

Homies or not, I really didn’t pay them too much attention. I didn’t smoke or use paper towels, I was an exceptionally clean kid. Just as my mommy. As far I was concerned the Quaker was close to invisible to me, a non-entity.

But as you grow older life has a way of throwing things at you and I slowly became curious about who the guy was and how he came to be the symbol for Quaker Oats. One day I decided that there was no good reason not to call the company to see if they had someone there who could answer my questions.

So I looked up their telephone number and telephoned their customer service department. I went through three customer service agents to try and find the answer to my question and each time met with disappointment.

One of these days I’ll have to share the transcript of those calls but not right now. The bitter feeling I have is too deep. I wasn’t able to fulfill my quest, I didn’t even come back with a shrubbery.

But I haven’t completely given up. One day I’ll find out his name and you rest assured that on that day I will expose the Quaker. Let’s see if that wipes that smug grin off of his face.

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  1. Rebecca May 25, 2006 at 8:12 pm


    those customer service reps didn’t do a very good job! it’s right on their website!

  2. Da Gal May 21, 2006 at 8:04 pm

    You seem to be a man after my own heart. I love wondering about things that others don’t seem to take the time to ponder. Keep on wondering!

  3. RR May 21, 2006 at 10:20 am

    Yeah, wipe it off his face…with a Brawny paper towel!

    Fun post, I love this kind of stuff 🙂

  4. Jack's Shack May 21, 2006 at 9:05 am

    Thanks AT, I appreciate it.

  5. Air Time May 19, 2006 at 3:48 pm

    Your post prompted me to do some research. This is from the web site, Straight Dope (http://www.straightdope.com/mailbag/mquaker.html)

    In regards to SDSTAFF Veg’s answer about the Quaker Oats guy. Isn’t it John Penn that is pictured on all Quaker Oat products? I think so! –HawkStu4

SDSTAFF Veg replies:

Sorry, Hawk, I’m afraid John Penn hasn’t been immortalized by this particular food product conglomerate. At least according to the conglomerate itself he hasn’t, and, frankly, I can’t see any reason for them to lie about it.

According to the good folks at Quaker Oats, the Quaker Man was America’s first registered trademark for a breakfast cereal, his registration taking place on September 4th, 1877. “The name was chosen when Quaker Mill partner Henry Seymour found an encyclopedia article on Quakers and decided that the qualities described — integrity, honesty, purity — provided an appropriate identity for his company’s oat product.” Now, personally, I’ve never met an oat that had no integrity or that lied to me, but I guess consumers in the late nineteenth century were a bit more gullible. To drive the “purity” point even further home, the original Quaker Man carried a scroll with the word “pure” written on it.

In 1901, the Quaker Oats company was formed when three cereal mills — including Seymour’s Quaker Mill — combined. The new entity kept the trademark that Seymour had registered, but it has gone through three revisions since then. In 1946, graphic designer Jim Nash introduced the familiar “smiling head” portrait. Between 1955 and 1958, Chicago artist and illustrator Haddon Sundblom updated Nash’s line drawing to a full color portrait of the Quaker Man. And in 1970, Saul Bass created the distinctive one-color “shadow” image that you see on packages today (it was adopted as the package trademark in 1972).

So, Hawk, if the Quaker Man looks like John Penn, it’s either a coincidental resemblance, or there’s a conspiracy at the Quaker Oats Company to keep the identity of the model secret, presumably because he gained a bit of noteriety elsewhere. Think what you like, I’ll go for the coincidence theory myself.

Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

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