Friday, April 12, 2013

Bye-Lo-Inspired Effanbee Causes Reflections

1920s Black composition doll by Effanbee

Before her arrival, I knew nothing about my latest composition doll other than what was written in her vague eBay description.  She had been described as "Vintage Black Effanbee 1924." The company's name in raised letters molded into the back of her composition back prove that she is indeed an Effanbee doll.

Founded around 1912 in New York City, Effanbee stands for the surnames of the two men who founded the company:  Bernard E. Fleischaker (EFF) &  Hugo Baum (BEE), also known as F & B.

The eBay seller offered several pictures, which included a handwritten tag pinned to the doll's dress that reads:

purch 3/29/78
[scratched out word] dressed
Note the use of the adjective "colored" to describe the doll's ethnicity.

The auction had been listed at least twice before my win.  I had planned to bid the last day during the first listing, but it ended before I could place a last minute bid.  So I emailed the seller to express my interest in completing a buy it now if it would be kindly relisted with that feature.  The auction was relisted with the same beginning bid for another 7 days by the hopeful seller but without a buy it now.  I waited it out and became the one and only bidder on the final day.

After the doll's arrival, in hopes of discovering her given name, I scoured the pages of the book, Effanbee dolls that touch your heart by Patricia Smith (Collector Books, 1983).  I was not surprised by the absence of an image of my doll in the book because black dolls are not the book's focus.
Thank goodness for the Internet.  I Googled "black composition Effanbee doll" and found an identical doll in a Ruby Lane shop, the description of which included the doll's manufactured name, Baby Dainty.

Close-up of Effanbee Baby Dainty
Mystery solved!  The Ruby Lane shop's detailed images confirmed my suspicion that my doll's lighter brown composition lower limbs, in comparison to the head and torso, are not original to the doll.  The original Baby Dainty has cloth legs which I find unattractive.  One of my doll's previous owners obviously replaced the cloth limbs with the composition ones, which I appreciate. 

Baby Dainty's dress is also not original, but I can tell by the addition of undergarments (full slip and matching panties) that the entire outfit was hand sewn with love.  She has some major crazing issues on the top of her head where the composition has lifted, but her matching bonnet covers this flaw.  I may eventually fill in and seal the crazed areas, but for now she will be left as is including the minor facial cracks. 

On re-referencing the Smith book for any mention of Baby Dainty, the doll is described but without any indication that a black version exists.  Smith wrote:

1925:  Ernesto Peruggi of New York City designed New Born Baby for Effanbee.  The design was copyrighted by Fleischaker, and since they were late in producing their version of the Bye-Lo Baby [aka the Million Dollar Baby, sculpted in the likeness of a three-day-old newborn by Grace Storey Putnam, circa 1922], they called theirs Baby Dainty and Baby Effanbee...

I am happy to now own Baby Dainty as well as a reproduction Bye-Lo that I acquired several years ago.

Reproduction black Bye-Lo baby uses a Grace Putnam mold, marked COPY.BY/GRACE S. PUTNAM/MADE IN GERMANY
Both dolls' 1920s origin made me reflect on the following 1925 facts.

My father, who would have turned 91 this past April 9, was 3 years old in 1925.  I know he experienced a fair share of racism here in the US and was looked upon as a "colored" man by non-black Americans.  Daddy endured many obstacles, raised a family, and lived to be 76.   RIP Daddy.

Also in 1925, on May 19th, civil rights leader Malcolm X was born in Omaha, Nebraska.  On August 25th of that same year, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was organized.  A. Philip Randolph was chosen president.  (Source:  From

As in the case of Baby Dainty and the Bye-Lo baby, dolls are more often than not positive reflections of the people they portray.  They are inanimate representations of how society perceives people.  Dolls also have the ability to capture moments in time and to stimulate reflections of the past, both positive and negative.


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  1. Skillful cyber-sleuthing and fascinating reflections. Very interesting post!

  2. Wow, I didn't know that's where the name Effanbee came from. That's good to know. I enjoyed this post. I was not familiar with Baby Dainty, but I am familiar with the Bye-Lo babies. I grew to love antique babies after learning more about them.

  3. Very nice post Debbie!! I agree with Limbe is a fascinating reflections.

  4. Paulette, Vanessa, and GG - Thanks for your comments!

    My cyber-sleuthing, as Paulette labelled it, and other investigative measures always enhances my doll knowledge, which I why I enjoy doing and sharing it.

    A doll is never just a doll. There is always a story or two or some form of interesting history attached.


  5. "A doll is never just a doll." So true and well said. I think we put as much into them as we get out of them.

  6. Hi Deb, This is quite ironic. I was writing to ask you about the Bye lo baby. If possible I'd like to know when the first black Bye Lo Baby was created and when the secound line was reproduced also?

    Thank you ❤

    1. Hi Dennine,

      I have no idea when the first black Bye-Lo was created. The actual first Bye-Lo doll was white, which was sculpted by Grace Story Putnam and placed on the market during the 1920s. I am uncertain if any of the early Bye-Los were manufactured as black dolls and doubt that any were. Several independent doll artists have since used marketed Bye-Lo doll molds to create dark skinned versions in porcelain. These will contain the Grace S. Putnman copyright only because artists used copies of the original molds. Doll manufacturers, such as Horsman, manufactured vinyl versions in black and white, specifically during the 1970s and '80s, but as to when the actual first black version was manufactured, I have no idea.



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