Member Jenell Howell gave a program on the creations of American doll artist Dewees Cochran.
Cochran, born in 1892, was educated at the Philadelphia School of Industrial Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. Beginning in 1933, she started selling cloth dolls in Philadelphia and New York City. Her career as a maker of life-like portrait dolls began when Mrs. Irving Berlin saw an example of Cochran's work and commissioner her to make portrait dolls of her two daughters. Cochran's early portrait dolls have heads carved of balsa wood, stuffed jointed silk bodies, and are marked with Cochran's name under the arm or behind the ear. Cochran realized she needed to speed up production if she was going to keep up with demand. She developed six basic face types and began using a “plastic wood” that could be poured into a mold. Cochran could then create a portrait doll by select the correct face type and matching the model's hair and eye color. She began using latex in 1940 to 1941.
In late 1935, Cochran began to design dolls for Effanbee. Produced in 1936, these dolls were 21 inches tall with a body designed by Cochran to resemble that of an 8 year old child. The dolls were composition and had painted eyes and human hair wigs. The hands were of molded rubber or latex hands and had spread fingers so they could wear gloves. These dolls are typically marked "Effanbee American Children" on the heads and "Anne Shirley" on their bodies. While the early boxes and advertisements state “designed by Dewees Cochran, ” her name does not appear on the dolls themselves. Cochran had decided she did not need an agent when dealing with Effanbee and failed to copyright the head or body design. This is one of the first dolls that Dewees Cochran designed for Effanbee. She 21 inches tall and is marked "Effanbee American Children" on her head and "Anne Shirley" on the body. The doll has been redressed as Alice in Wonderland.
In 1938, Effanbee added a boy head which was sold for only one year. This handsome lad is 17 inches tall and unmarked.
Effanbee also commissioned Cochran to create a doll with sleep eyes, an open smiling mouth, and body of five or six year old child. First produced in 1938, these dolls were originally were initially 15 inches tall, but later 17-inch and 21-inch dolls were included. This winsome child with her original box is marked "Effanbee American Children" and "Anne Shirley."
In 1939 to 1940, Effanbee created a historical doll series. The dolls used the head mold for the company's "Little Lady" doll, had painted the eyes similar to those on the dolls designed by Cochran dolls, and used the Anne Shirley body. Below is an example from Jenell's collection.
In 1947 to 1948, Cochran contracted Molded Latex Company to make a 16 inch doll named "Cindy." Only around a 1000 dolls were produced, which were marked “Dewees Cochran Dolls” on the left side of the torso along with a production number. Cochran ended her partnership with company because the dolls did not meet her high standards, but the company continued to produce unmarked Cindy dolls. This is an example of an unmarked doll.
Jenell said that this doll is a mystery. The head is marked Effanbee and uses Little Lady head mold, but is on a cloth body and is lavishly dressed in a Middle-Eastern style outfit.
Jenell stated that while this doll is similar to those designed by Cochran, she is unmarked. One doll collector speculated that this doll was made in the likeness of Sybil Jason, a child actress of the 1930s.
Cochran continued to make dolls until she was in her 80s. She died in 1991.
Other member brought example of Cochran-related dolls. In 1976, Effanbee invited Cochran to design a doll for their limited edition series. This 1977 limited edition quickly sold out.
These dolls being to member Elaine Jackson.