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Enduring Effanbee Dolls

By Robert Reed

December 1995

Some of the most flexible and lovely American dolls of the 20th century were the lasting product of the Effanbee company.

Effanbee's early composition multi-jointed dolls with their enchanting names and adorable outfits are very highly rated among modern doll collectors today.

The famous company was actually formed in 1910 by Bernard Fleischaker and Hugo Baum in New York City. The two registered their strange trademark name, a spelled combination of initials, in 1913.

From the beginning, the company's charming composition dolls were given names designed to appeal to children and parents of the day. Early choices were Baby Dainty which had a composition head and cloth body, Baby Grumpy which came complete with socks and flannel diaper, jointed Mary Jane, and Lovums. Typically these pre-1920s dolls were given molded and painted hair instead of more costly wigs.

During the 1920s, Effanbee and a few other leading dollmakers entered agreements with the mighty Sears and Roebuck mail-order company. Sometimes specific Effanbee dolls were offered in the Sears catalogs, and at other times commissioned dolls were offered without the company's trademark.

In 1921 Effanbee's Mary Jane doll reappeared "completely dressed in fine-quality lace and ribbon-trimmed dress." It came with "lifelike moving eyes and a beautiful wig of real hair in long curls." The largest model, 24 inches tall, sold in the Sears catalog for $8.95.

A major seller during the 1920s for Effanbee was the Ma Ma voice doll, which came in a "charming dress of pink organdy" which was lace and ribbon trimmed. "I say Ma Ma, I go to sleep," proclaimed advertisements for the doll, and it came with a heartshaped locket and charm.

Effanbee became a leading manufacturer of walking and talking dolls during the 1920s, which not only sold nationwide but became highly popular in European markets which had earlier been dominated by German production.

Lovums continued to be a best-seller for Effanbee into the late 1920s, as did Bubbles and Rosemary. However, the major marketing success of that period was the company's Patsy family of dolls. Starting with Patsy, the dolls over the next decade went on to include Patsyette, Patsy Babyette, Patsy Baby, Wee Patsy and others. Historically it was their most famous group of dolls.

During the 1930s, the firm continued extensive production of both baby and toddler dolls, but also added on a limited basis the manufacture of various puppet, marionette and ventriloquist dolls. Because these were more costly to make, they were made in much smaller numbers. Thus, this group of Effanbee dolls is highly collectible today.

From 1933 onward, the company produced Dy-Dee Baby as the fascination for more infant-type dolls grew. Like of other Effanbee models, the doll was marketed over the course of many years in whatever material was available at the time. Dy-Dee first appeared in hard rubber, later with plastic head and hard rubber body, and still later with a hard plastic head and vinyl body.

Other sensations for them starting in the 1930s included Baby Wonder, complete with nursing bottle, gown and bonnet; Lamkin, who came in an oval-shaped box; and Anne-Shirley, an adult-type doll styled by famed designer Dewees Cochran. Effanbee also produced a Shirley Temple doll, but it did not achieve the recognition of Ideal's better-selling version.

During the early 1940s, the company attracted considerable attention with their Charlie McCarthy dummy doll. The doll, with composition head and cloth body, wearing a black bow tie and checked pants, was an updated version of one issued earlier, but much more successful. Later in the 1940s, Effanbee marketed a string-operated Howdy Doody with hard plastic head and cloth body.

Additional models produced by the company during the 1940s included the all-composition Suzzane and Candy Kid dolls, composition and cloth Tommy Tucker, Sweetie Pie with sleep eyes and painted hair, Little Lady with yarn hair, and vinyl-headed Lil' Darlin.

During the 1950s, designer Cochran helped Effanbee to another major success with a "maturing" group of portrait dolls known as "America's Children." The firm also did very well with their hard-plastic, string-jointed dollhouse dolls comprised of both family members and domestic servants.

Honey was one of the most popular individual dolls issued by Effanbee during the 1950s, and came in a variety of costumes and sizes. Others of the period included a revised Howdy Doody, Rotie Kazootie, oil-cloth-bodied Baby Cuddleup, blonde-haired Fluffy, and hard-plastic walker Alyssia. In addition, the firm was constantly updating models of their enduring dolls, such as Patsy and Dy-Dee Baby.

In the 1960s, youngsters could choose from a selection which included a revised Babykin, bonnet-wearing Lil' Sweetie, vinyl-and-cloth Honey Bun, freckle-faced Happy Boy, and Suzie Sunshine, who also came with freckles.

Effanbee made a set of 14-inch Storyland Dolls exclusively for Disney in the late 1970s. Included were Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and Cinderella.

In recent years, the distinguished World Guide to Dolls by Valerie Douet listed two Effanbee issues as prime examples of the doll art; ironically, neither one of them was the renowned Patsy series. One was the Bubbles dolls from the 1920s, and the other was two versions of a John Wayne doll from the 1970s.

"The Patsy family of dolls are the most widely collectible from this firm," concludes author Patricia Smith in the sixth edition of Modern Collector's Dolls, "but the rest of their dolls should not be overlooked, because the quality is excellent, and they are fun to collect."

© 2002 Mountain States Collector

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