Posted in Dolls

by Ruby Lane

This 18″ Madame Hendron Mama-style doll is all original. The tag from the doll’s costume can be seen in the inset in this image. Photo courtesy of Ruby Lane shop Virtu Doll.

Georgene Hopf, born May 21, 1876 in Denver Colorado, grew up in Salem, Oregon. In 1905 she married William Hendren, whom she later divorced. According to an account in a Salem morning newspaper as she was recovering from a serious illness in about 1910, she conceived of the idea of creating what she referred to as “Wild West” dolls. Purchasing locally available dolls  she costumed them in colorful felt outfits depicting Cowboys and Indians. Her brother helped her sell the dolls to local shops where they became quite popular with area tourists. Using the name Madame Georgene Hendren she established a nice little business which allowed her to support herself and her daughter Maxine.

She soon met a toy buyer from New York City named James Paul Averill who was so taken with her dolls that he took her entire stock to New York to sell. Paul and Georgene married in 1914 and thus began a personal and business relationship that would bring great success to the couple. Georgene designed the dolls, Paul ran the business and Georgene’s brother Rudolph managed the production end of the business. They called their business Averill Manufacturing Co. and based the company in New York. In 1915 the couple took out a trademark on the name Madame Hendren. Buying dolls from various companies, they brought out a line of dolls dressed in outfits designed by Georgene. Eventually the company started to make its own dolls as well.

Georgene’s May 9, 1916 design patent for one style of her Indian dolls is seen here alongside an example of her dolls which features not one but two babies in their carrier. Photo courtesy of Ruby Lane shop My Grandmother Had One.
 Along with composition dolls depicting Native Americans (photo courtesy of Frasher’s Auctions), some of the earliest of Georgene’s doll designs included dolls dressed to represent Dutch children. Photos courtesy Ruby lane shop All Dolled Up.

Georgene became interested in creating soft cuddly bodies for dolls which led her to her 1918 design patent for a new type of cloth doll body. The development of her ideas in this area led to the invention of what many consider to be the first of what would eventually be referred to as Mama -style dolls. This style of doll body would become immensely popular and often imitated.

Georgene’s quest to produce a cuddly doll body led to her taking a number of patents such as the one shown here which was granted on June 11, 1918. On the left is a doll bearing the stamped mark of her trademarked “Lyf-Lyk”  body design and on the right is “Lullaby Baby” (photo courtesy of Ruby Lane shop My Little Dolls 2). The name Lullabye baby was first used by Georgene for dolls with bisque heads made by Armand Marseille and later for 2 styles of composition headed dolls.
Georgene designed not only dolls but also stuffed animals, including these characters which had bisque heads on plush bodies. 15 inch tall “Allie Kat” and “Allie Dog,” ca. 1920, had bisque heads made by the German firm of Alt, Beck & Gottschalk, and featured glass eyes. Allie Kat had molded “Puss in Boots” style lower legs and a wobble tongue.
Photos courtesy of Skinner auctions.
 The “Dolly Reckord” talking doll was introduced under the Madame Hendren name in 1922 using their trademarked “Wonder Walker” doll design with the inclusion of a mechanism that worked with various cylinders to produce sound in the form of nursery rhymes. This doll was offered through 1928. Photo courtesy of Morphy Auctions.

In 1923 James and Georgene ended their association with the Averill Manufacturing Co. The name Madame Hendron, which was trademarked by the Averills in 1915, was used both before and after their split with the Averill Manufacturing Co. Averill Manufacturing would continue to offer a diverse line of dolls through the 1930s and ’40s.

Although Georgene and James Averill split from Averill Manufacturing in 1923 the company they founded would continue to make many types of dolls designed by others. “Dimmie” and “Jimmie” were composition dolls introduced in 1927. These had an interesting swivel waist design and were called “body twist” dolls.
Doll photos courtesy of Ruby Lane shop Dolly Bear Shoppe.
 Another doll sold under the Madame Hendren name in the late 1920s and early 1930s was part of Averill Manufacturing’s “Kiddie Karakters” line and was designed by artist Grace Corry Rockwell.

Meanwhile, Georgene and her husband continued to be active in the doll and toy business. In 1924 Georgene became the superintendent of importer/manufacturer/distributor George Borgfeldt’s toy department. She continued to design dolls, doll costumes and stuffed animals which were sold under the name Georgene Novelties and distributed by Borgfeldt. In 1926 she designed a baby doll called Bonnie Babe. Borgfeldt arranged to have Bonnie Babe’s bisque head made in Germany and used his K&K factory in the USA to make the bodies.

The happy baby doll called Bonnie Babe was made as both a bisque headed doll and as an all-bisque toddler. The Alt, Beck & Gottschalk made bisque heads are mold numbers 1368 and 1402. Left to right: 13″ All original example (photo courtesy of Frasher’s Auctions), 5.25″ all-bisque doll and a 16″ doll in her original clothing (photo courtesy of Ruby Lane shop Treasures from the Attic).

Throughout the late 1920s into the 1940s Georgene designed dolls with cloth mask-faces which were dressed in a variety of styles, many depicting world costumes. These were marketed under the Georgene Novelties name. She would continue designing new dolls throughout the mid-20th century. In 1938 Georgene received the licensing to produce Johnny Gruelle’s Raggedy Ann, Andy and friends. Her company would hold those rights until 1962. In 1944 Georgene made comic characters Nancy and Sluggo and Little Lulu and friends which bear the Georgene Novelties name on their tags. These 14″ dolls are very faithful renditions of the original drawings of the characters. 

Cloth mask-faced dolls would be a staple of the Georgene Novelties line through much of the second quarter of the 20th century. Girl Scout dolls were made from 1946 to 1955.
Photo courtesy of Alderfers auctions.
This 19″ pair of Raggeddies shows the black outlined nose used from 1938 to 1944 by Georgene Novelties for Johnny Gruelle’s famous doll. The company used a longer style of nose from 1944 – 1946 and a nose with curved sides from 1946 on.

Toward the end of her life Georgene moved back to California and she passed away there on August 27, 1963. Her impact on the world of 20th century dolls was recognized during her lifetime and lives on as we continue to collect the dolls she created and tell her story to new generations of doll collectors.

Author – Linda Edward


Dorothy S., Elizabeth A., Evelyn J. Coleman The Collector’s Encyclopedia of Dolls Vol. II. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1986

Myra Fay Graubard Georgene Averill: Averill Manufacturing/Georgene Novelties. Antique Doll Collector magazine, March 2001

Ursula Mertz Collector’s Encyclopedia of Composition Dolls. Paducah: Collector Books, 1999

Ursula Mertz Collector’s Encyclopedia of Composition Dolls Vol. II. Paducah: Collector Books, 2004

Various contemporary newspaper articles and interviews found online, sources unknown

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