Around the world, he’s known as Don Limpio, Monsieur Net and Mister Proper but, here in America, he’s just Mr. Clean—and his famous bald face has been popping up in messy kitchens since 1957.
Dreamed up by Harry Barnhart and Ernie Allen of the Chicago ad firm Tatham-Laird & Kudner, Mr. Clean was given a tough, muscular appearance that was reportedly modeled after a Navy sailor.
The melody and lyrics of his trademark jingle (“Mr. Clean, Mr. Clean…”)—which will now be stuck in your head, by the way—were penned by legendary ad man Thomas Scott Cadden, who went on to write, produce and direct Mr. Clean commercials until the 1970s. Don Cherry and Betty Bryan provided the original vocals for the jingle, which is now the longest-running in advertising history.
Over the years, Mr. Clean has been illustrated, animated and even portrayed by live actors but, surprisingly, this enduring symbol of spotlessness never did any actual cleaning of his own until 2008, when a new series of ads depicted him scrubbing kitchen appliances with the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.
Character Study is an ongoing series featuring background trivia on classic advertising characters.