The Austin Doll Collectors Society is an organization of antique, vintage, and modern doll collectors, dealers, and artisans. We meet on the first Monday of each month and our meetings are fun and educational. We begin with refreshments and socializing, and, following our brief business meeting, there is a special doll-related program and "show and tell." The Austin Doll Collectors Society is a nonprofit organization and is a member of the United Federation of Doll Clubs.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Women Doll Artists; Grace Storey Putnam

This bevy of babies are all-bisque versions of the Bye-Lo baby designed by American artist and sculptor Grace Storey Putnam. Putnam, after her divorce from sculptor Arthur Putnam in 1915, gave art lessons and sculpted to support her family. She wanted to create a doll portraying a new born baby and in 1920, using a three-day old baby girl as her model, sculpted a life-like baby head of wax. She approached George Borgfeldt and Company, a doll importer and distributor in New York City, about creating the doll in bisque and in 1923 the first Bye-Lo babies hit the market. And hit they did--the doll was so popular it was christened the "Million Dollar Baby." In addition to a doll with a bisque head and celluloid hands on a cloth body modeled to resemble a floppy newborn, the popular Bye-Lo also appeared in a variety of all-bisque versions, and, for adult fans, as pincushion dolls and salt and pepper shakers  The Bye-Lo was also made in other materials, such as composition, and was produced in some form through the 1950s.  Although the marks on the dolls vary over the years, except for the smallest all-bisque babies, they all carry Putnam's name.  The largest baby in the picture is six inches long and the little frozen action Bye-lo is 3.25 inches long.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Women Doll Artists; Käthe Kruse

Our last post reported on member Jenell Howell's delightful and informative program on dolls designed by American artist Dewees Cochran. However, there were many women who designed and made dolls. This handsome lad taking his canine pal out for a stroll is by German doll artist and maker Käthe Kruse.  Kruse first began making dolls for her own daughters because she disliked the available commercially-made toys.  In 1910, she displayed some of her dolls in a Berlin department store and they were so popular she began producing them commercially.  These early cloth dolls were renowned for their hand-painted faces. The Kruse company is still in business today, producing cloth and vinyl dolls.  This doll belongs to member Sylvia McDonald and was the childhood toy of her great-aunt, who was born in 1902.  Sylvia thinks her aunt received the doll around 1912.  He still has his original box and a wardrobe of clothes.  This doll was a runner up in the Käthe Kruse Contest held by the Contemporary Doll Collector magazine in 2005.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

May 7, 2018, Meeting

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.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Sweet Pea

As the weather warms, gardeners are beginning to ready the soil and plant seeds and seedlings. Many collectors wish they had a seed to grow this sweet pea doll made by our president Faydra Jones. This four-inch tall baby in her pea pod cradle is stuffed with wool, has cotton skin, and is string jointed. Her wig is red mohair wig and her blanket is whisper-light felt Faydra made and dyed from raw fleece. The pod bed is wool felt.