Founded in 1937, Ben Cooper, Inc. was originally a Vaudeville and masquerade costume company in New York City, founded by brothers Ben and Nat Cooper. "There was a tremendous amount of sewing going on in the Lower East Side, and there had been at least a half dozen or more mask companies in those days," says Ira, Nat’s son who worked at the Brooklyn factory as a kid, and as an outside salesman from 1976 to '80s, and is now a 63-year-old high school English teacher in New Mexico.
The company Ben Cooper, Inc. went after was Walt Disney. In the late '30s and throughout the 1940s, the Cooper brothers began building up their Halloween costume catalog, producing Disney characters such as Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and, of course, Mickey Mouse. The move, Ira suggests, established them as the premiere Halloween costume company.
With Disney on board, Ben Cooper, Inc. was able to license iconic characters from radio and the emerging television industry, with Davy Crockett and Superman joining the string face family. And as the company's catalog expanded, so did Ben and Ira's imaginations. In trying to stay innovative every year, Ben and Nat created lines of costumes such as the "Hairy, Scary" line, "Creature People," and "Glitter Glow."
"It's those kinds of innovations that they were always leading the field in," says Miller. "If you look at some of these mass creations, especially like the monster lines, with the flocking and everything and the glitter on them, they are still so vibrant to this day. It's kind of a credit to them that they put so much into it."
The '70s saw an even bigger eruption of mask-worthy IP. The company took advantage of Marvel and DC comic book characters making the transition to Saturday morning cartoons, along with Hanna-Barbera and other popular cartoons. Then Star Wars captured the world's collective imagination in 1977.