The McCann Time Capsule: When Working Here Included Modeling Too
When she died 45 years ago, Kitty Kelly, then 85, had had one of the longest careers at McCann―in fact maybe even one of the longest careers possible given that she worked at the agency for 60 years. She was hired to work at the agency when she was 24 years old in 1912, The H. K. McCann Co.’s first year of business, and didn’t retire until 1972.
Best known as agency founder Harrison K. McCann’s secretary, she in fact had held a number of jobs, including as a receptionist and stenographer. And as a company newsletter from 1974 noted, “At a time when women executives were virtually nonexistent in business, Kitty was appointed secretary of the company in 1946, attending all board meetings and writing the minutes. She served in this capacity until 1955.”
But perhaps most unusual was the additional role she played as a model appearing in many of the earliest McCann ads. The attached 1913 Standard Oil ad for New Perfection stoves shows her as a typical housekeeper in nine different scenarios. However, as the collage on this page shows, she also appeared seemingly regularly in a variety of other roles in a number of other ads as well.
Following her death in 1974, Paul Foley, Interpublic’s chairman and former head of McCann, paid tribute to her in a staff memo:
“One of the sad facts in the long life of great companies like McCann-Erickson, Inc., is the passing of its pioneers whose personality and spirit marked the enterprise from its earliest beginnings. . . Many of you in the Company today never knew Kitty personally. Happily, there are scores of us here who did know and love her, for she was a faithful fellow worker. We shall miss her, this warm and wonderful personal tie to our beginnings.”