This article originally appeared in The Inquirer on Dec. 16, 1990.
For a cupcake and a few dollars, Phyllis Youngman’s parents gave up the rights to their daughter.
"I was also promised a doll, but I didn't get that," said Phyllis Blumenthal, née Youngman, remembering the day nearly 60 years ago when she was taken to Center City to see a strange man.
Lest you get the wrong idea, some clarification might be needed. This is not about anything nefarious like child-selling. It is simply a story of proud parents showing off their daughter.
See, it wasn't really 3-year-old Phyllis that interested the stranger, who was a photographer for the Tasty Baking Co.
It was her image that intrigued him.
That image was first displayed in 1931 in the picture studio at Gimbel's Department Store, where Blumenthal's mother had taken her to have a portrait made for a Father's Day gift. Someone connected with Tastykake spotted the picture and thought he had found the perfect child for an advertising campaign.
"They contacted my parents and wanted to know if I'd pose for the ad," said Blumenthal, 62, a longtime resident of Havertown who is a medical secretary and mother of two.
Her parents agreed, and what followed was "the beginning and the end of my modeling career," Blumenthal said.
Wearing a short-sleeve dress with a large collar, she rode the trolley to the photographer's studio with her mother and aunt.
“I had to stand on two phone books,” she said. “I remember that very clearly. They put a doll in a chair, and I was holding the cupcake out to the doll and saying, ‘Here, Dolly, have a cake.’ I kept squishing the display of cupcakes. I stuck my fingers in them, and they’d have to replace them.”
The photo shows Blumenthal standing behind a box of chocolate cupcakes on a table; her arm is extended as she offers the doll a cupcake.
Because the photo session took hours, Blumenthal was promised the doll if she didn't complain. But she never got it.
In fact, she got nothing but a cupcake and a memory. Her parents accepted $10, which they used to buy dinner.
The ad ran several weeks in The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sunday magazine. ''Pure, fresh Tastykake satisfies a child’s natural craving for sweets … and makes play hours happier!" the ad read. Friends and relatives called to say they saw it.
"It gave my folks something to talk about for years afterward," Blumenthal said. "But that's about it. It was my claim to fame. "
Forty years later, in 1971, a writer for the Tastykake in-house magazine contacted Blumenthal. For the picture in that article, Blumenthal posed in a similar setting: next to a box of cupcakes, one of which she offers to a doll.
But this time there was one major difference.
She got to keep the doll.