Fullerton College Library displays two rare doll collections. Both collections were created or acquired by Fullerton residents and donated to the Fullerton College Library.
The Presidential Doll Collection is housed upstairs on the second floor, near room 827. Including all the presidents and their wives from Washington to Reagan, the Fullerton collection is the most complete set of Presidential dolls.
The Japanese Doll Collection is displayed on the first floor by the Reference Desk. The Japanese doll collection is on display in remembrance of Anita Shepardson who dedicated her life to her students and worked to promote understanding between the American and Japanese cultures.
Presidential Doll Collection
The Presidential Doll Collection was created by Mr. Lewis Sorensen. Mr. Sorensen was born in 1910 in Salt Lake City, Utah. He left school in the 8th grade to work in a dress shop. He soon began designing dresses and the “Lewis Dress” became the store’s best seller. Mr. Sorensen became a leading artist and sculptor, specializing in wax. After World War II, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt commissioned Mr. Sorensen to create a set of presidential dolls for her home in Hyde Park. Mr. Sorensen created three sets of presidential dolls. Besides the set for Mrs. Roosevelt, one set went to a museum in Santa Claus, Indiana, and the other set now owned by Fullerton College belonged originally to Mrs. Dorothy Atherton of Fullerton. The Administration at Fullerton College saw the opportunity to purchase the dolls that included all the presidents and their wives from Washington to Truman for the college for $454.50 at auction after Mrs. Atherton’s death in 1962.
The Faculty Women’s club was able to raise enough money to repay the three administrators, and when the library building was remodeled in 1967, a special case was created for them. Mr. Sorensen had then completed President & Mrs. Eisenhower and President & Mrs. Kennedy and donated them to the collection.
During the summer of 1977 Mr. Sorensen again brought the set up to date for Fullerton College and presented the college with eight more dolls, from President & Mrs. Johnson through President and Mrs. Carter. He added his final pair, President and Mrs. Reagan, in 1980, making the FC Collection the most complete set of dolls. Lewis Sorensen died in Fullerton in 1985.
Mr. Sorensen developed his own method of making the dolls, first sculpting the features in clay. This is covered in order to make a mold. In the mold is cast paper mache which is covered in a thin coating of wax. His own formula incorporated the flesh tones and the color right into the wax. The bodies are made of cloth and the head, arms, lower legs and feet are made of wax. Using his dressmaking talent, Mr. Sorensen sewed each costume for the dolls right onto the body.
Credit: Anne Riley, FC Archivist, Retired, and Fullerton News Tribune article, 1963.
Japanese Doll Collection
Located on the first floor of the library, the Japanese dolls belonged to Anita Shepardson who taught math at Fullerton Union High School and Fullerton College from 1913 to 1945. After her death in 1945, her family presented the doll collection to the college. The dolls reflect Anita Shepardson’s ties with the Japanese community and Fullerton College. During a time in Orange County when Japanese and Japanese Americans were sometimes faced with anti-Japanese sentiments and segregation, Ms. Shepardson strove to promote cultural understanding and friendship between students. She organized and sponsored the Japanese Club for Japanese students at Fullerton Union High School and Fullerton Junior College. The club presented Fullerton Junior College with a landscaped Japanese garden. Extracurricular activities were common because Ms. Shepardson took Japanese students on field trips to the Huntington Library, Red Rock Canyon and other areas of educational and cultural interest.
Anita Shepardson promoted Japanese arts and culture by organizing Japanese folk dances, flower arranging or other events on campus through her numerous contacts in the Japanese community. Students would remember that Ms. Shepardson displayed the Japanese dolls in March to celebrate Hina Matsuri (Doll Festival or Girls’ Festival). Traditionally on this day, girls celebrate girlhood at parties with delicacies such as rice cakes and mild rice wine as they receive best wishes for health and happiness from friends and relatives. In Japan, a set of hina dolls are displayed to celebrate Hina Matsuri. A full set of these special dolls consists of fifteen dolls dressed in costumes from the Heian Period (794-1185). A typical set includes the emperor and empress, three ladies-in-waiting, three guards, two ministers, and five musicians. They are normally displayed on a tiered stand with miniature furniture and household items with the imperial couple on the highest tier.
Besides her activities on campus, Ms. Shepardson was active in the International Relations Club of Fullerton and the Japan-America Society of Los Angeles. Because of her involvement with the Japanese community, Ms. Shepardson was invited to go to Japan in 1938 on a tour sponsored by the Japanese consulate and members of the Japanese community. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Ms. Shepardson continued to be a friend and supporter of the Japanese community. She made numerous trips to the Poston internment center where most of the Orange County Japanese were incarcerated.
The Japanese doll collection is on display in remembrance of an instructor who dedicated her life to her students and worked to promote understanding between two cultures.
Jane Ishibashi, Librarian