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Dewees' Doll Types

 

THE "LOOK-ALIKE" DOLLS
THE "LOOK-ALIKE" DOLLS

When the immediate success and widely publicized Portrait doll invaded my little walk-up studio on Madison Avenue in New York City, I realized that I would have to find some way to supplement the actual modeled likeness of the subject. Not all of the enthusiasts realized that I intended them to be these little miniature likenesses requiring fine art sculpture. From a variety of backgrounds, fond parents seemed to be promised an heirloom treasure. Reminded of some study I had made in Europe in fine art painting and of the excellent charts found in physiognomy, both German and French, related to facial types, I suddenly seized upon the idea that it might be possible to determine basic face types for American children. Continuing to work on the individually modeled heads for the many portrait doll orders providing the bread and butter of my life now, I hurried down to that wonderful Public Library on 42nd Street, found some of those very same charts (well guarded) which had fascinated me in Europe and under precautions of underlays, was permitted to make tracings from the proportional development of human faces according to age. Also in that same library was an excellent clipping department very well filed in subject matter. I found beautiful magazine clippings of contemporary children, which when properly registered could be borrowed. At the same time, three different model studios permitted me to borrow from their great supply of photographs. I used the actual little models later on for the photographs taken in my studio to show the children with their dolls.

Look A Like Doll by Dewees Cochran

The result of all this wonderful material and some very intensive work and study was that I was able to determine six basic face shapes applied to the Caucasian types at least. While I was feverishly modeling these type heads in my fourth floor studio there on Madison Avenue, I was visited by Mrs. John McCall, a great enthusiast of the dolls. She wanted me to make a portrait doll of a grandchild. Told of the plan for "Look-Alike" dolls from the models she saw on the table, Mrs. McCall exclaimed that they must be gotten into manufacture at once. The result was that through the recommendation of the vice-president of F.A.O. Schwarz, I obtained the contract with Ef f-AnBee Doll Company which resulted in the three year minimum contract to produce four of the six facial types and a 21 inch body type for 8 to 10 year old child.
Production methods at that time required considerable change in the neck size in order to accommodate insertion of the moveable glass eye fixture in one piece at that point, a monopoly affecting these very good eyes.

 
Dewees Dolls

The heads and arms of these first Ef f-An-Bee doll designs of mine were manufactured in Akron by a secret hard rubber process. The other doll parts of my design for these dolls, torso and legs, were manufactured in the Ef f-An-Bee plant in New York City of their finest composition. It was necessary to make the legs thicker to avoid distortion. This firm put much care and thought into the wigs of human hair, the dressing and accessories of these dolls. I had modeled the natural fingers separated and they had fine little soft leather gloves made to fit them and copied exactly the leather oxfords for their daytime outfits. They also had dainty slippers for party. This series of dolls was called AMERICAN CHILDREN and had the firm name Eff-An-Bee imprinted on torso and neck. Their success was very great with the top merchandisers. The supply was impeded by a law suit with the Akron firm over a previous item. I could not understand the impeded delivery of orders until I was told of this much later. This occurred in early 1939, then came World War II and that autumn the death of Hugo Baum, the true promoter of quality dolls. My three year contract was out and not renewed. My original models were returned. Now all of the doll manufacturers had to retrench because of war requisitions of materials.

In 1948 I had completed my new set of "Look-Alike" heads and revised bodies for 15" and 17" doll sizes.
Publicity for these "Look-Alikes" started up again in a big way. The freelance writers for the LIFE story came to me. I persuaded them to make it a feature for the Ef f-An-Bee series for which I would arrange a tie-in Saks Fifth Avenue feature.


The "CINDY"
Cindy Dolls by Dewees

The doll named "Cindy" should be the Modern Cinderella, one that every little girl would love, dream about and keep forever. Her eyes greenish hazel, her hair golden bronze, she might be between the ages of seven and eleven. Her fairy godmother would provide her with a wondrous wardrobe of fabulous fabrics from the "Cinder" outfit to party frills.
In 1946 I described her to the imaginative women in Young Books, a child's dream store including books, on Madison Avenue in New York City. With high enthusiasm over creating a little girl doll that might become the most beloved, we formed a small company to produce her in quality and small quantity. The sister of the shop's director excitedly assumed the role of business manager. I gave form to my dream by modeling the dearest little girl I could imagine with slender, graceful body. For the face there was none more fitting as model than Patty Wood of Norwich of whom I had made a portrait doll.
Those resourceful young women of Young Books found an exceptionally gifted engineer among their acquaintances. He had achieved great success in World War II for delicate production parts with an English patent called the Kaysam process for latex. He had never made a doll, of course, but when I showed him my model, he exclaimed:
"I would like to make the most beautiful little girl doll from your model! It shall be the dearest in America."

Everyone entered into the enterprise as if under the spell of a fairy wand. If I would come to the small factory of this fine young Irishman and direct certain operations first, he would set up the fabrication. This medium of his had all the excellent qualities- of my now greatly favored "Vultex" and was more suited to quantity production under a very specialized method which involved big vats of some strange substance.
The small factory was just over in New Jersey. I persuaded a young artist friend to undertake the hand painting of the features of this little princess. We worked together in the cheery quiet studio-like small factory. I noted soon that it would add too much to the time element to have the eyes as realistic as we wanted. I thought of designing beautiful realistic eyes to be made as decals. We found someone who could produce them. It would require a precision touch to lift them from their paper base and apply with great care and precision and Mariot Montgomery had a wonderful hand for it. She was painting lovely little real children's mouths on these thrilling little heads when they came out a beautiful flesh color with delicately tinted cheeks. The energetic young manager set up our studio for assembling, completing and shipping these first Cindys. She had enlisted the enthusiasm and cooperation of a lovely, talented Austrian woman who designed and was having girls make, under direction, most beautiful children's clothes under the name of L'Atelier Chic. She contracted for making Cindy's outfits and leased us some unused parts of her space in an incredible location right in the middle of New York City, 10 East 46th Street, right across from the side entrance of the Ritz Carlton Hotel. It was fourth floor and just right for the long tables we needed for dressing the dolls, packing and shipping. Up near the section where the quiet sewing machines were turning out the clothes, we had a long table at which we had six Cuban girls making the very special wigs under my direction until they soon worked quite professionally. We used the same real hair in a fine weft possible only from the wizard at this work who was making it for me. It then remained for the girls to sew this weft on a gauze foundation over the same shape of head as Cindy's in a simple, one-sided hair part, then to put up this shoulder length hair for just a soft wave.

Cindy Doll by D. Cochran

I designed the first costumes, all of which were made of the finest fabrics; linen from Moygashel, Strook woolens and Swiss Flower embroidered organdy. Slippers and sandals were made of real leather by a small glove making studio. The separate outfits were packed in individual cellophane boxes with suitable accessories. With each of these was a brochure we had designed telling about "Cindy" and picturing her in each of her five outfits. These brochures had been mailed to a very special clientele so our market was made.

The little firm had been named DEWEES COCHRAN DOLLS. Our thoughtful fabricator of the doll suggested and had made a small metal plate from which the firm name was imprinted on the left side of the torso on the approximate first and only 1000 ever made in this process. There has never been a more perfectly fabricated little doll. So many other things were so wonderful about "CINDY". Big and little shops were begging for more of her. But — we got in the red. Our capital got impatient for returns, professional merchandisers warned our manager that a success could never be made without a "second line" and this meant one of less quality and lower price. The fabricator and I would not agree to lesser quality or another line until this desirable one was made good business. We withdrew and this brought forth a tragic attempt to make do with further dolls still beautifully dressed and wigged but on rejects I had sent back to another fabricator I tried to bring into the unhappy picture. They did not bear my name or that of Cindy. These are Cinderella's step sisters. Such a lot of them turned up and I still get letters about dolls that look a little like mine.

Take a warning, amateur manufacturers:
1. Don't go overboard on purchase of supplies.
2. Don't listen to professional competitors.
3. Don't operate on capital from intimate sources.

Those little seconds are Cinderella's step sisters. Look out for those flattening body parts. Perhaps this turned out to be a Humpty Dumpty Story.


The "Grow-Up" Dolls
The "Grow-Up" Dolls by Dewees Cochran

 

A crackling blaze in the huge fireplace had quieted to glowing embers. Through the tall window nearby great fluffy snowflakes slowly added to the deep covering of weeks, now nearly reaching the window sill. These gay, glistening crystals, challenging any Christmas tinsel, were gently piling up inch thick on every twig of the lilac bush that touched the window in many places. They only shone in the warm light from within the room and did not melt. This was Vermont. Despite this winter beauty and the comfort of my library, favorite room in the big old house, my mood was deep in after-Christmas melancholy. In my memory's eye were those dear little faces and the Portrait Dolls I had made of them, gotten off in the final rush for them to be under the Christmas trees in many parts of our big country. I was left with empty shelves upstairs in the now dingy cluttered workshop. I shuddered at the thought and wouldn't go near it.
"Very well!" I said to myself, "Since I have no children, why do I not create a dream child of my very own?"

I had been reading in a fat book of American Folklore. The name, character and tales about Bullhead Stormalong, deep sea sailor of Cape Cod fame, appealed to me. Rather than involve him in matrimony, I discreetly fancied what a great-great niece of his might be like. Of course, red headed and freckle faced. On her determined little face her freckles would be scattered over a complexion like the inside of a seashell. Her deeply set eyes would mirror the deepest blue and the lightest green of the sea. Her long bright bronze locks would be the envy of mermaids. Always happiest on the seashore, when not sailing, she would never tire of the yarns about great-uncle "Stormie." When lost, she would be found in a fisherman's hut. Her name would be one that I love, Susan. She would soon earn the nickname of her famous uncle, "STORMIE." So my most beloved doll, Susan Stormalong, was created.
Right after Christmas, for five years, I would begin to model the next age stage for this little person. More than one year would be added to her growth to take it a bit "out of this world." From five to seven to eleven to sixteen, by the time the little girl was the age of ten, she would receive the greatly prized Susan, the lady. This would probably be the last doll she would "play with." Now she could save face by becoming a collector!

Stormie Doll by Dewees Cochran

In June, 1952, "Stormie" at the age of five, ten inches tall, made her first bow. This was at a retrospective exhibition of Dewees Cochran Dolls upon invitation. They were professionally displayed on the walls and on long tables in the large Art Gallery of Carpenter Hall at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. I was invited to give this exhibition and a lecture on my dolls as part of the entertainment scheduled for the wives of the engineers attending a five-day conference of the American Society for Engineering Education at Dartmouth.
In THE STORY I have described the pleasure, excitement and importance of that exhibition.
The "Grow-Up" idea attracted the Collectors. Not all liking red hair, they begged for some of the other shades. "Stormie" should not have her personality changed. I added two other girls and, finally, two boys to the group. And so there followed:

Angela Appleseed, called "Angel." She is the great-great niece of Johnny Appleseed. She is the little gardener and loves all plants and creatures. Her eyes are warm brown and as impish as her smile. Belinda Bunyan, called "Bunnie," is related to Paul Bunyan, the mighty logger whose tall tales she tries to match. Her wide-open eyes are violet-blue, her hair dark brown. That startled look comes from her imagination. The boys say that Ancestors are "girl stuff."

The Extrovert is Peter Ponsett. Blonde, sometimes curly hair. Dancing brown eyes.
The Introvert is Jeff Jones: wide apart grey-blue eyes, dark brown hair. Once fancied himself as "Billy-the-Kid." Of course, they all GROW UP!!

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"As If They Might Speak" by Dewees Cochran

This book presents, in text and pictures, the life and work of Dewees Cochran. She created and produced the finest dolls ever seen in America or, for that matter the world. AS IF THEY MIGHT SPEAK is designed in large artbook format and includes these features:

The autobiography of Dewees Cochran.

Hundreds of illustrations in color and black-and-white, which provide a detailed pictorial reference for doll-collectors.

The chronological listing of the various types of dolls produced by Dewees Cochran.

Pictorial reproductions of the enourmous publicity received by this artist from the 1930's until 1978.

A detailed and informative section showing the exact techniques used in her production of dolls.

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