Sydney Seymore Stern - Fine Artist and Pioneering Package Designer

Sydney Stern Self Portrait (left) Early painitng in Tom's collection (right)

Sydney Seymore Stern's first grade teacher discovered his talent to draw and gave him a set of watercolors. He started painting and never stopped. He studied at the Art Students League, Columbia University, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He tried his hand at architecture, was an amateur magician, and worked on some Broadway sets, before going to work at an advertising artist at McGraw-Hill. In 1923 he was offered a job at National Biscuit Company and dropped into one of the most exciting careers being established in the advertising world.

Sydney's work for UNEEDA

Pioneers in Packing and National Advertising

In 1899, a Philadelphia-based advertising company, N. W. Ayer & Son, turned a biscuit into a phenomenon with the country's first national advertising campaign for National Biscuit Company’s “UNEEDA” Biscuit. Ayer wrote the book on how to use media to shape identity and to create desire for their clients' products.

At National Biscuit Company Sydney designed cartons, wrappers, and posters. His projects included Nabisco's famous Animal Crackers. He designed a box that looked just like a circus wagon cage with lion, tiger, bison, and bear. He attached alittle string to create a tree ornament wonderful cookies. It was an instant success. Over the years, the box has changed slightly, but the basic concept remains the same.

Sydney was charged with designing other products and packages. He made annual changes in the box for Shredded Wheat, and was credited with putting the cracker on the Uneeda biscuit box. He brought his work home from the office one weekend and designed a box for a new, buttery cracker. The richness of the flavor gave him the idea for the name, Ritz Crackers. They outsold all other crackers. The bright colors and ritzy name were a luxury everyone could afford, even during the depression.

In addtion to his packages, Sydney is credited with creating original paintings for Animal Crackers, Shredded Wheat, Uneeda Biscuits, Fig Newtons, Oysterettes and the Oreo cookie.

"Are You 100% American? Prove It!"

During the WWI, Sydney was commissioned by the governement to design recruitment and war bonds posters. One is pictured above, and appears in a book titled, "Wake Up, America! : World War I and the American Poster, " by Walton H. Rawls, published in New York by Abbeville Press in 1988.

In 1956 Sydney retired at the age of 65, to live in Seminole, FL, devoting himself entirely to painting, teaching and traveling. Over ten years, he made annual treks in the summer to paint in Mexico and study at San Miguel. Many of his later work reflect this influence.

At Pinellas art circles Mr. Stern's work drew praise, and 130 blue ribbons. Tom loved Sydney's work, and exhibiting him in a series of one man shows. In 1984 He took first place in the painting division of the 37th Holiday Art Competition at the Beaux Arts Gallery in Pinellas Park.

In 1984, in honor of his 95th birthday, a retrospective of his career was held at the Beaux Arts Gallery. Ninety-seven of his drawings, oil paintings and watercolors, some dating back to the 1920s, were displayed. His work also was exhibited at the Florida Gulf Coast Art Center in Belleair and at most of the leading galleries in Bradenton and Sarasota. This was one of his last exhibits. He died at the age of 99.

At his memorial service, Tom Reese, director of the Beaux Arts Gallery, promised a show of Mr. Stern's works would be held as a memorial Oct. 4, on his 100th birthday. ``His spirit will go on,`` Reese said of his long-time friend.


Signed drawing at Beaux Arts circa 2005