Saturday, April 30, 2016

Boudoir Dolls Are Meant For Sitting - No Touching!

Online Collections (The Strong) / CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

When I saw the Boudoir Doll, shown in the picture above, from The Strong National Museum of Play I was intrigued and reminded of the dolls I always had sitting in the middle of my bed. They were just some of my dolls and nothing as fancy as the Boudoir doll shown here.  Plus, unlike Boudoir Dolls which were intended for grown-up girls, my dolls were those you would expect from a little girl.  And, unlike Boudoir Dolls which are not meant to be played with, mine were played with and as a result didn't last.

According to their description: In the early 20th century, fashionable women decorated their bedrooms, parlors, and living rooms with large, often elaborately dressed dolls. Called boudoir, bed, flapper, smoker, sofa, salon, and parlor dolls, these long-limbed figures often sported lavish outfits with laces, ribbons, and ruffles. Exotic and a bit campy, most boudoir dolls wore heavy make-up and bore a sultry look as if they intended to steal a boyfriend or cause trouble at a party. The Lenci doll company made boudoir dolls depicting foreign costumes, historical fashions, Pierrot, smokers, and vamps.

Credits: Boudoir Doll 1925-1926, Manufacturer Lenci, Material felt, Origin Italy, Object ID 79.9868

My understanding is that Boudoir Dolls were popular from 1915 until 1940 and made by French, U.S., English and Italian doll manufacturers.  The dolls were used primarily as bedroom decorations for teenagers and ladies and were characterized by painted composite heads, long thin bodies, long extremities, and adult features.

Most of the dolls were known as Boudoir Dolls, Art Dolls, Bed Dolls, Smoker Dolls, Salon Dolls, Parlor Dolls, Art Deco Dolls, Sofa Dolls, French Dolls, Lenci, Poupees, Flapper Dolls and Vamps.

They became very popular amongst wealthy women who often brought their dolls along to their seamstress when they were having an outfit made for them so she could create a mini-version for their doll.

As is the case with most of the dolls that intrigue me, I wanted to know more.  So, I did a little research.  Here's what I found:

How I Created My Large Silk Floral Arrangement Tutorial & Free E-Book

I just love decorating my home with large silk floral arrangements and have made several large arrangements for the various seasons and holidays to decorate the right hand side of my dining room fireplace which is 41" by 48".    It's a large area to cover so it requires a large floral arrangement to fill it up.

I was unhappy with the floral arrangement I had made several years ago to cover the spring and summer seasons and wanted to change it.  I wanted the colors to be bright and cheery and already had several dark blue, light blue, burgundy, and white silk floral I was going to re-use.


I decided that I needed to add pink, royal blue and some other whites to the mix so last weekend I bought several 3' to 4' silk floral stems I thought might be suitable.


For my large silk floral I like to add large silk floral grass stems, pussy willow stems, silk eucalyptus leaves stems, and white reed stems as filler.

Linda's Book Reviews - Dollmaking With Papier-Mâché and Paper Clay by Doris Rockwell Gottilly

When I was doing  my research on various doll histories and papier mache dolls in particular I had the opportunity to review a book entitled "Dollmaking With Papier Mache and Paper Clay by Doris Rockwell Gottilly" that I had bought years ago.

Dollmaking With Papier-Mâché and Paper Clay by Doris Rockwell Gottilly has complete instructions and patterns for making more than 20 figures.

According to her bio: Doris Rockwell Gottilly is a multi-media artist who specializes in sculptures depicting a wide range of characters using history and folk tales as inspiration.

This book is a useful for anyone who wants to learn how to create dolls or sculptures using papier-mâché or paper clay, both of which are inexpensive and air dry. It is filled with tutorials, step-by-step instructions, and tips for sculpting in general and for creating 20 figures out of papier-mâché or paper clay.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Papier-Mâché Dolls

Slide 23 -  Image Courtesy National Gallery of Art,Washington.

From what I understand towards the end of the 18th century papier-mâché was the doll industries favorite composition and replaced wood and wax dolls. So, when I saw Slide 23shown in the picture above, from the Dolls from the Index of American Design  at the National Gallery of Art I was interested in what these dolls looked like.

After I read their description, shown below, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that this doll's head was used to smuggle morphine and quinine across the border during the Civil War. You just never know what dolls may be up to!

According to their description: Papier-mâché was a widely used substance for making dolls. Papier-mâché itself is a composition made from paper pulp combined with various other substances. Dolls made of this material reached a height of popularity in the mid-nineteenth century. They first appeared much earlier, however. Edouard Fournier History of Children's Toys and Games mentions the use of this product by dollmakers from the time of Francis I of France, about 1540. Centuries later, in 1858, the first known patent for a doll's head in the United States was issued to Ludwig Greiner of Philadelphia for his paper-mâché model. This doll, named "Nina," has a unique history. Behind her innocent-looking face, in the hollow of her paper-mâché head, she smuggled morphine and quinine across the border during the Civil War.

Credits: Renee A. Monfalcone (artist), American, active c. 1935, Anonymous Craftsman (object maker), Confederate Museum (object owner), Doll--"Nina", 1935/1942, watercolor and graphite on paperboard, Index of American Design, 1943.8.15538

According to Denise Van Patten's Paper Mache Dolls article on About.comPapier Mache was a good material to make doll heads from because it could be molded and painted. Molding allowed more realistic doll features than carving, and the dolls were lighter than carved wood. Papier Mache was the preferred material by German doll makers until the mid 1800s when China Dolls were introduced.

The page on Papier-Mâché has a section on how papier-mâché is prepared here.

If you'd like to know more about making various types of papier-mâché there is a Paper Mache Recipes article on the Ultimate Paper Mache website.

Also, according to Denise Van Patten's Paper Mache Dolls article on Some of the earliest commonly found Papier Mache dolls are called Milliner's Models today. These dolls were made from approximately 1840 through 1860, and are often found in smaller sizes (9 to 15 inches) and with wooden limbs.

Milliner's Models Dolls - Fashion Model or Toy?

Image Courtesy National Gallery of Art,Washington.

When I saw the "Milliner's Models" Doll Illustration, shown in the picture above, from the Dolls from the Index of American Design at the National Gallery of Art I was curious as to exactly what a "Milliner's Models" doll was.  I'd never heard of them.

Here's their description for that doll: This doll is one of the loveliest of the so-called "milliner's models." The term is actually a misnomer, for such dolls were meant to be used as toys. Many early nineteenth-century paintings show children holding such dolls. There may have been actual milliner's models before the toy doll of that name came into use, but we do not know how close the resemblance between the two may have been. This doll is dated about 1834. The costume is simple and beautifully made; the hairstyle is that of a young girl of the period. Pantalettes are typical for this sort of doll.

Credits: Eugene Croe (artist), American, active c. 1935, Anonymous Craftsman (object maker), Ruth E. Whittier (object owner), Doll--"Betsy", c. 1937, watercolor and graphite on paper, Index of American Design, 1943.8.15453.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

First Presbyterian Church Rag Dolls Otherwise Known as Presbyterian Rag Dolls

Image Courtesy of Toy and Miniature Museum

The beautiful "Little Doll On The Prairie" Presbyterian Rag Doll c. 1880, shown in the picture above, is part of the Toy and Miniature Museum doll collection.

Credits: Little Doll on the Prairie, PRESBYTERIAN RAG DOLL c. 1880, MANUFACTURER Ladies Sewing Committee of the First Presbyterian Church,  MATERIAL cotton, oil, wool

From what I understand the women of the First Presbyterian Church of Bucyrus, Ohio launched a fundraising campaign in the 1880's.  They decided to make and sell handmade rag dolls which  have become known as 'Presbyterian Rag Dolls." The dolls were all handmade with painted faces, gusseted bottoms, clothing, and shoes for both boy and girl dolls.

It seems that many generations of church women made these dolls in the early 1900's, again in the 1950's, and again in the 1980's.

Izannah Walker Dolls

I'll bet that back in 1873 Izannah Walker would have no idea how popular her dolls would be for art doll artists and doll collecting enthusiasts in the 21st century.

If you don't know who Izannah Walker is she was the first person to patent a doll in the U.S. It is thought she made or gave away over a thousand dolls molded with multiple layers of cloth and paste then painted.

In 1873 Izannah Walker filed the patent, shown in the picture above, with the U.S. Patent Office - N0. 144,373. Patented Nov.4,l873.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Polly Heckewelder Moravian Rag Dolls - Loved and Made For Over 140 Years

Image Courtesy of the Moravian Church in North America

You certainly have to admire a doll that is so well loved that she is made over and over for 140+ years.  Such is the case with the Moravian Rag Dolls, shown in the picture above, otherwise known as Polly Heckewelder Doll. This doll is the oldest continuously made cloth doll in America.

I think she's just beautiful and hope you would agree.  Based on the picture above it's not hard to understand why this doll is loved so much.

Given her 140 year history, it seemed like there might be a lot of information about this doll so I decided to do a little research. I was wrong.  There's not a lot of information on her out there.  Here's what I found:

According to Cloth Dolls From Ancient To Modern by Linda Edwards: A charming little doll called Polly Heckewelder has been made by members of the Moravian Church since 1872.  The dolls namesake was the daughter of Moravian missionary John Gottlieb Ernestus Heckewelder.  His daughter Polly was born in 1781 while he was working with the Delaware Indians and she is believed to be the first child born in the Ohio territory.

Also: The Ladies Sewing Society of the Moravian Church Guild in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, first made these dolls for the aid of wounded Civil War soldiers.  After the war the funds were used to help former slaves and eventually to aid moravian ministries for their other charity work.

From what I understand the dolls were all handmade as a means to benefit the Moravian Church sisters, members of the Ladies Sewing Society of the Central Moravian Church, Bethlehem Pennsylvania.  The dolls that were dressed like young girls were called Polly Heckewelder, in honor of Johanna Marie Heckewelder (known as Polly) the daughter of the Reverend Heckewelder.  The dolls have been made for over 140 years.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Wax Dolls, Montanari and Pierotti Dolls - Gotta Love The Beauty of Wax

Slide #24 -  Image Courtesy National Gallery of Art,Washington.

Two of the slides from the Dolls from the Index of American Design  at the National Gallery of Art that I loved were Slide #24, shown in the picture above, and Slide #25, shown in the picture below.  I was drawn to them due to the dresses and when I read their descriptions I found out they were wax dolls, which piqued my curiosity.

According to their description: Wax dolls have been made from very early times — by the ancient Romans, for example, on through the first quarter of the twentieth century. This wax doll was probably made in England, which was noted for its wax dolls in the last half of the nineteenth century. This doll dates from the 1870s, and her elaborate costume is typical of the period. The dress is of blue taffeta trimmed with white organdy lace. The doll's childlike face and hairstyle might seem better suited to a child's body, but the true child doll was not yet common. Not until the 1880s was there a change from predominantly adult dolls to dolls representing children and babies. Many collectors still prefer dolls with features of a child but dressed as an adult.

Credits: Lillian Causey (artist), American, active c. 1935, Anonymous Craftsman (object maker), The Baltimore Museum of Art (object owner), Doll in Blue Dress, 1935/1942, watercolor and graphite on paperboard, Index of American Design, 1943.8.7734.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Babyland Rag Dolls With Painted Faces Versus Babyland Rag Dolls With Lithograph Faces

Image Courtesy of

I used to think that there isn't any doll on the planet I wouldn't like. That is generally true except I did run across a few lithograph Babyland Rag Dolls whose outfits I loved, but I wasn't totally crazy with their faces.

Now you might think I'm saying I don't like the Babyland Rag Dolls.  That would be incorrect.  I'm just not keen on the Babyland Rag Dolls with lithograph faces, but love the Babyland Rag Dolls with painted faces like the AMERICAN CLOTH DOLL BY BABYLAND RAG c. 1890shown in the picture above, from  She is just darling

According to their description: 15"  All-cloth doll with flat-dimensional face, painted facial features, large brown upper-glancing eyes, thick brown upper eyeliner, red eyeliner accents, one-stroke brows, outlined nose, painted closed mouth, blushed cheeks, blonde mohair wig, muslin stitch-jointed body, mitten hands..... Comments: Babyland Rag, circa 1890....

Online Collections (The Strong) / CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

The Babyland Lady Doll c. 1912-1914, shown in the picture above, is part of The Strong National Museum of Play doll collection.

I just love her painted face and sweet outfit. She is just pain adorable.  Wouldn't you agree?

Credits: Manufacturer E. I. Horsman & Co., Material cloth, Origin New York, NY, Object ID 79.9967

Sunday, April 24, 2016

China Head Dolls - They're Just So Beautiful

Image Courtesy National Gallery of Art,Washington.

I have always been fascinated with China Head Dolls and have always wanted to buy some china heads to make some dolls of my own.  I've always felt that as far as dolls are concerned some of the most beautiful dolls throughout history have to be the china head dolls, like the China Head Doll, shown in the illustration above, from the National Gallery of Art.

According to their description: This china-headed doll has a particularly lovely costume. The dress is plaid silk taffeta; it is worn over a petticoat of tan alpaca trimmed with blue silk bands. The pantalettes are of cotton with eyelet embroidery. The doll's hairstyle makes her a collector's item; china dolls with a knot on the head are rare. This feature, however, is almost completely hidden by the silk bonnet. This doll has a cloth body and arms and feet of kid. The head is glazed porcelain. China-head dolls were first made in Europe around 1750 but did not become extremely popular until the 1840s. This doll dates from 1840–1850. Often the heads were imported to America and used on American-made dolls' bodies.

Credits: Beverly Chichester (artist), American, active c. 1935, Anonymous Craftsman (object maker), Edison Institute of Technology (object owner), Doll in Plaid Dress, c. 1937, watercolor, gouache, pen and ink, and graphite on paper, Index of American Design, 1943.8.7814.

Image Courtesy National Gallery of Art,Washington.

The beautiful China Head Doll, shown in the illustration above, is also from the National Gallery of Art.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Missionary Rag Babies - Loved So Much They're Well Worn

Julia Jones Beecher, shown in the picture above,  and the members of the sewing circle of the Park Congregational Church made stockinette dolls from 1893 to 1910 for their charitable missionary fund, which resulted in the dolls being named "Missionary Rag Babies." They were made from stockinette, which is a soft, loosely knitted stretch fabric (i.e. underwear)  and had needle-sculptured and hand painted faces and stockinette bodies.  They also had applied ears, looped yarn hair, and sewn joints.

According to a post entitled "A Virtual Peek at the New Exhibit" on the Chemung County Historical Society blog each doll was accompanied with a note that said:  If you will always take by the waist and never by the arm; if you will give your hand a wash before you play with me; if you will not leave me out in the dust or in the sunshine, and if you will not squeeze my face flat; I will be your pretty baby for a long time.

Also: The Beecher Baby Doll is the most famous locally-made doll.  In 1885, Julia Beecher, wife of Reverend Thomas K. Beecher, was inspired to make a baby doll while she was mending stockings.  The first doll that she made for her niece led to many more.  In the next ten years, Mrs. Beecher sold 950 handmade dolls.  Over $1,000 in profits from the sales were used for projects by the ladies’ organization of Park Church.  

The irony of the dolls receiving such a note was that they were handled so much that nowadays they are very hard to find and if found are usually well worn.  I like to think they were loved so much they just couldn't stand up to the test of time.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Quaker Dolls - Quiet Beauty

Image Courtesy National Gallery of Art,Washington.

I found 7 beautiful Quaker Doll  illustrations in the Index of American Design collection from the National Gallery of Art that I know you're going to love.

I found the Quaker Doll c. 1936, shown in the picture above, from the National Gallery of Art to be totally irresistible.  I would love to see the actual doll and can only imagine how beautiful she must have been.

According to their description: Early American dolls are shown in a wide variety of costumes. This fine doll of the eighteenth century represents a Quaker woman. The doll's head, arms, and legs are made of carved and painted wood. Throughout history, wood has been one of the most frequently used materials for making dolls. For many doll makers, it was both readily available and inexpensive.

Credits: Mina Lowry (artist), American, 1894 - 1942, Anonymous Craftsman (object maker), Miss Polaire Weissman (object owner), Doll, c. 1936, watercolor, gouache, and graphite on paper, Index of American Design, 1943.8.15496.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Pioneer & Prairie Dolls, Rag Dolls, Appalachian Dolls, Wagon Train Dolls, Table Cloth Dolls, Pillowcase Dolls, Handkerchief & Prayer Dolls, Folk Art Dolls - They're All Dolls That Were Loved By Early American Colonial Girls

 Image Courtesy National Gallery of Art,Washington.

As a lover of dolls I have been thoroughly enjoying all the rag dolls illustrations and accompanying descriptions that I've seen in the Index of American Design collection from the National Gallery of Art.

The following description accompanied the Rag Dollshown in the picture above, from the National Gallery of ArtHandmade dolls were among the many crafts produced by people of the Spanish colonial southwest. This rag doll, possibly dating from 1795, was made by a California Indian woman for the original owner, a Mrs. Villa. The doll may be seen as an Indian's interpretation of Spanish colonial women. In the early days of the United States, southwest arts and crafts were often the work of Indian artisans.

Credits: Bertha Semple (artist), American, active c. 1935, Anonymous Craftsman (object maker), Mrs. F.C. (Vernette Snyder) Ripley (object owner), Doll, c. 1937, watercolor, graphite, and gouache on paper, Index of American Design, 1943.8.15415

Image Courtesy  National Gallery of Art,Washington.

One of my favorite Rag Doll c. 1935 illustrations from the National Gallery of Art is the one shown in the picture above.  I just love her outfit and face.

Credits: Stenzel, Erwin, American, active c. 1935, Rag Doll 1935/1942, watercolor, graphite, and pen and ink on paper, overall: 40.7 x 30.6 cm (16 x 12 1/16 in.) Original IAD Object: 12" high, Index of American Design 1943.8.16825.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Miss Columbia and the Columbian Rag Doll

Image Courtesy of

The American Cloth Doll, shown in the picture above, sold on for $15,500. When I first saw this I wondered why this particular doll was so expensive. What was it about her that drove that price so high?

According to her description: 19" All cloth doll with flat dimensional face, having oil painted facial features and hair, blonde hair with softly swirling curls at the forehead, painted brown eyes with large black pupils and white highlights, single stroke brows, defined nose, closed mouth with outlined lips, blushed cheeks, stitch-jointed body (see photo) with oil-painted lower arms and legs, original costume.... MARKS: Columbian Doll Emma E. Adams, Oswego Centre N.Y.. COMMENTS: Emma Adams, circa 1892, the doll was awarded the Gold Medal at the Chicago World Fair of 1893, the first American doll to be awarded that grand prize. VALUE POINTS: Extraordinary original condition of the rare doll, with outstanding artistry of painting. Realized Price: $15,500. Lot Number: 14.

The reason she was so expensive was she was an original Columbian Doll circa 1892 by Emma E. Adams, whose doll was awarded the gold Medal at the Chicago World Fair of 1893.

I found her face totally enchanting and had to find out more. Here's what I found out:

According to Cloth Dolls From Ancient To Modern by Linda Edwards: The Columbian rag dolls were first made by Emma Adams in 1891.  They were made of muslin and had flat faces which were oil painted by Emma.  The eyes were painted blue or brown.  Their bodies were stuffed with cotton or excelsior, with an inner core of sawdust in the heads and torso.  The limbs were painted flesh color and were stiffened with sizing.  

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Simple Beauty of Clothespin Dolls

Image Courtesy of The Old Stone Fort Museum

Peg Wooden dolls and spoon dolls have been arounds of years and played with by millions of children over the years.

Another wood doll that has been a favorite of children and parents from colonial times to the present are clothespin dolls.  Part of the reason was they were an item readily available at home.  Just add a few rags and you have a clothespin doll.

Like spoon dolls clothespin dolls and clothespin doll kits continue to be popular items for sale in many museum shops.  Not only are they fun for children but the fun is sprinkled with a little bit of education in learning about the history of these dolls.

The Clothespin Doll Kit shown in the picture above is from The Old Stone Fort Museum and is similar to the clothespin doll kits sold by many museums.

According to their description: Our Clothespin Doll Kit makes two dolls, a boy and a girl doll. Included in the kit are two wooden clothespins, fabric, lace, ribbon, pipe cleaners, pearl cotton for the hair, pattern, instructions, and history. These cute dolls will look adorable displayed with other old-fashioned dolls. The clothespins we provide have flat bottoms so the dolls will stand by themselves.

Given how popular the clothespin dolls have and continue to be I thought I'd have no problem finding pictures of antique or vintage clothespin dolls and current clothespins dolls being sold by many crafters today.  The latter was no problem.  The former was.  They are basically nonexistent.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Carved Nut Dolls - What? Unusual Indeed

 Slide #6 - Image Courtesy National Gallery of Art,Washington.

In perusing the collection of doll illustrations from the Dolls From The Index of American Design at National Gallery Of Art I also kept coming back to slide #6 which is shown in the picture above.

The description was: Carved nuts formed the heads of many early dolls. Different kinds of nuts were used: hazelnuts, walnuts, hickory nuts, and even cashews. These dolls were expendable and could be discarded when the children began to tire of them. This example represents a colonial gentlemen with elegant clothes and a wise expression. The doll is from Wisconsin and was made in the eighteenth century.

Credits: Jacob Gielens (artist), American, active c. 1935, Anonymous Craftsman (object maker), Milwaukee Public Museum (object owner), Nut Head Doll, c. 1938, watercolor, graphite, and colored pencil on paperboard, Index of American Design, 1943.8.15550

So, I looked to see if The National Gallery of Art had any more examples of carved nut dolls. Here's what I found:

Friday, April 15, 2016

Wooden Spoon Dolls and More - Past and Present

The Spoon Doll Image Courtesy of Deborah Darling's Tinchapel Textiles Blog.

As you're well aware I love dolls of all sorts, shapes, sizes, and made from just about anything including wood spoons.  I've made Santa's, Pilgrims, witches, bunnies, chickies, and snowmen from wooden spoons.

Wooden doll spoons have been around for quite some time and were a favorite plaything for many English and Colonial children. Today, wooden doll kits are sold by many museums, wooden doll spoons are a favorite craft for many children, and are growing in popularity amongst crafters.

Vintage sterling silver spoons are also gaining in popularity and are a favorite material for mixed media and altered art artists as well.

The Spoon Doll picture shown above is from Deborah Darling's Tinchapel Textiles blog.

She wrote about this doll in a blog post entitled "The Spoon from simplicity....." and according to Deb the doll is from the Museum of Childhood.

While wooden spoon dolls have been around for hundreds of years pictures of them are not readily available. I've been searching the various museum websites and have yet to find an online image.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Clay Pipe Dolls - Definitely A Conversation Piece

Clay Pipe Doll - Image Courtesy National Gallery of Art,Washington.

I know that dolls over the ages have been made out of all sorts of things.  Wishbones, nuts, corks, paper, apples, other fruits, etc. So, when I saw the illustration of the Clay Pipe Doll shown in the picture above from the National Gallery of Art   I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. Was that a pipe covered with fabric to form the doll's head or what?

Credits: Iverson, Jane, American, 1910 - 1997, Clay Pipe Doll, c. 1936,watercolor and graphite on paper, overall: 40 x 29.2 cm (15 3/4 x 11 1/2 in.) Original IAD Object: 7 1/2" high, Index of American Design, 1943.8.15616.

I thought...Hmmm.... A doll out of a pipe.  Now that's an unusual doll.

I was picturing my grandfather's pipe which was a typical bowled pipe. So, I went to get it.

In looking at it I wondered how I would make a doll out of it? I'd love to make an heirloom doll - but, how?

So, I decided to do a little research. Here's what I found out.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Shell Dolls - Who Knew The Victorians Did This? Did You?

Image Courtesy of Carmel Doll Shop 

I've heard of sea shells being used to create elaborate pieces of art for hundreds of years - like sailors valentines but had never heard of shells being used to create outfits for dolls? Have you? Well, it turns out it was a very popular craft during the Victorian Era.

I found the Shell Doll pictured above on the Carmel Doll Shop website and think she is one of the prettiest shell dolls I've seen so far.  Just look at her beautiful outfit and bonnet. Just stunning.

Her description is as follows: Shell Doll wearing a wonderful stylish "dress" of the 1840 era. A lovely Grodnertal Wooden also wears a delightful hat to top off her stunning ensemble, there are a few missing shells to the reverse.She stands a sweet seven inches tall.

I may not have been aware of this doll crafting method, but was really intrigued when I saw pictures of a few of the shell costume dolls from the 19th century like the "Small Early Shell Doll Holding a Dog" from the Skinner Inc. Auctions website.

Since I literally had never heard of dolls and their outfits being made from tiny shells I had to find out more about these very unusual dolls. Here's what I found:

Image Courtesy of

According to, "Shellcraft, also known as shell craft, is the craft of making decorative objects, or of decorating surfaces, using seashells. The craft includes the design and creation of small items such as shell jewelry and figurines made from shells; middle-sized objects such as boxes and mirror frames covered in shells; sailor's valentines; and larger constructions including mosaics and shell grottos."

Friday, April 08, 2016

Dolls From The Index of American Design at National Gallery Of Art

 Image Courtesy National Gallery of Art,Washington.

In doing some of the research lately for the peg wooden dolls and peddler dolls I came across a wonderful slideshow collection of doll illustrations with historical information on each type of doll.

The National Gallery of Art :: Dolls from the Index of American Design is a beautiful collection of 28 different doll illustrations.  Included with each slide is some historical information for each type of doll made and the credit information for the doll maker, doll owner and doll illustration designer.

The illustration above is slide 1 of the exhibit.  Credits are as follows: Carmel Wilson (artist), American, active c. 1935, Eunice Cook Williams (object maker), Mrs. F.N. Holley (object owner), Doll, c. 1939, watercolor and graphite on paper, Index of American Design, 1943.8.16660

According to the overview:  From early times, children everywhere have loved dolls. This program presents a sampling of different types of dolls, many of them old, rare, or beautiful, which are cherished by collectors or exhibited in museums in the United States. The history of dolls may begin in prehistoric times with idols and ancestor images. It has been conjectured that, once the symbolic or religious role of figurines lost significance, they became toys for children. It is known that toy dolls as such existed in ancient Egypt and Greece, where examples have been found in archaeological excavations.

There are 28 illustrations with dolls in the collection.  Of course, I loved all of them, but have to tell you that I did have 3 favorites.  They're all from the Victorian Era. Surprise, surprise!

Thursday, April 07, 2016

William F. Goodwin Patent Walking Doll - Circa 1870 and Other Autoperipatetikos Walking Dolls

Have you ever heard of the William F. Goodwin Patent Walking Doll - Circa 1870 or seen one of the video's of it walking?  I hadn't and was delighted to not only see pictures of these dolls, but to see a couple of video's. They are totally delightful dolls and I would love to see one.

The Early American Toy Stevens & Brown Goodwin Patent Walking Doll, shown in the video above,  is from the Antique Toys and Automata website.

If you'd like to see how the doll walks please click on the video above.

According to their description:  We are pleased to offer for your consideration a wonderful early American, circa 1872, clockwork toy called "The Improved Automatic Walking Doll" more commonly called the Goodwin's Patent Walking Doll .  

This beautiful toy was by manufactured by The Stevens and Brown Company in Connecticut and appears in their 1872 catalog on page four. The ad displays the wood carriage but the script introduces the "improved" tin carriage version.

The clockwork motor for this toy is hidden under the carriage seat and it drives the rear axle, propelling the toy forward in a circle. As the carriage moves forward, the doll follows and her metal jointed legs move up and down allowing her to walk along as if she is pushing the carriage. Her ankles also flex, making for a very realistic “walking” motion so be sure to watch the video above. A hard or polished surface will not allow the doll to walk, the pins on her feet must catch slightly to cause the mechanism to function (she walked best for us on concrete).

I found them to be totally charming so, of course, I had to find out more. Here's what I found:

The mechanical doll’s legs were patented by William Farr Goodwin Jan 22nd 1867 & Aug25th 1868.

The Stevens & Brown Clockwork Goodwin's Patent Walking Doll circa 1870 shown in the video below is from the Antique Toys and Automata website.

If you'd like to see how this doll walks please click on the video below.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Some Of The Beautiful Peddler or Pedlar Dolls From the strong National Museum Of Play

Online Collections (The Strong) / CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

In doing some of the research for my "Early American Wooden Dolls By Joel Ellis From 1873" post I ran across the Peddler Doll from 1851-1951 (Material - painted | carved | papier-mache | wood | molded) pictured above from the strong National Museum of Play and, once again fell in love.

I know, I know. I fall in love with every doll I see. Guilty as charged. But, she is just so charming - don't you think? Just look at her face.

So, of course, I had to find out if they had any more and what information they had on peddler dolls. Here's what I found out:

In the description of the peddler doll pictured above they stated: Most 19th-century makers of peddler dolls began with a mass-produced, small figure made of wood, papier mache, leather, or china and added the handmade red cloak, black bonnet, white lace cap, calico dress, and apron of the traditional "notion nannies." The fun of making the peddler doll was in crafting the dozens (sometimes hundreds) of tiny notions, buttons, fabrics, laces, ribbons, and pots and pans that the peddler offered for sale. Peddler dolls displayed their merchandise on large trays hung from a strap around their necks, in baskets on their arms, or in larger bins displayed at their feet and protected by a glass dome. The doll form seems to have been most popular from about 1820 to 1860.

Based on the above it seems like the fun in making the doll was all their miniature accessories.  I bet that was a lot of fun, but definitely time consuming.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Roxanna Elizabeth McGee Cole's Beautiful Family Of 19th Century Dolls

Image Courtesy National Gallery of Art,Washington.

In perusing the collection of doll illustrations Dolls From The Index of American Design at National Gallery Of Art I kept coming back to slide #3, which is shown in the picture above.  I was drawn to it because it was a Grandmother and because was about a southern lady who made cloth dolls to support herself after the Civil War.

The description was: Here is a handmade cloth doll representing a grandmother knitting a red wool sock. The doll was made by a southern gentlewoman who supported herself after the Civil War by making fine cloth dolls. This was the one-thousandth doll made by this woman.

The credits were as follows: Jane Iverson (artist), American, active c. 1935, Anonymous Craftsman (object maker), Wenham Historical Society (object owner), Doll, c. 1936, watercolor and graphite on paper, Index of American Design, 1943.8.15542

I just had to know  more.  There was just so much reflection in the dolls face.  I couldn't help but wonder what she was thinking.

It turns out the illustration above is actually of the "Grandma Cole" doll made by Roxanna Elizabeth McGee Cole who started making dolls in the United States in 1868.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Frozen Charlotte Dolls - How Adorable But Tragic

Image Courtesy of

How can you not fall in love with a bunch of "GERMAN 'FROZEN CHARLOTTE' DOLLS"as shown in the picture above from the website. You can't especially when you find out they have a tragic story attached to them.

According to their description: 7" H. tub. Seven dolls, representing little children with chubby stomachs, are of one-piece porcelain or bisque, standing with their arms outstretched with curled fingers. Each doll has painted hair and facial features, two with painted shoes. Included is a German tin tub and shower with unusual copper hot water tank and receptacle hidden at back allowing the "shower" to actually work. Excellent condition except some paint flakes on tub platform. The dolls are notable for complete variation of hairstyles and facial painting. Circa 1880.

Online Collections (The Strong) / CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
Frozen Charlotte 1850-1920 

I saw this adorable "Frozen Charlotte" doll, as shown in the picture above, on The Strong National Museum of  Play  and instantly fell in love with her, too. How could you not? Just look at how cute she is

Doll - 1850-1920, Material porcelain | cloth, Origin Germany, Style Frozen Charlotte, Object ID 78.9067

According the museum description:  An unjointed china doll molded in one piece, a Frozen Charlotte became a popular doll type in the 1850s. Initially sold as bathing dolls or naked babies, these floatable figures supposedly entertained youngsters of the Victorian era as they took their baths. The dolls sold in sizes ranging from one inch to 18 inches. Labeling these figures "Frozen Charlotte" recalls a 19th-century ballad about a vain girl who refused to cover up her pretty party dress while riding to a ball on a frigid winter's night. Of course, the girl of the story dies from the cold: "Fair Charlotte was a stiffened corpse/ And her lips spake no more"; and her demise reminds us to forsake vanity and use a little common sense. The smaller Frozen Charlottes were called penny dolls and popular with children with small coins to spend. Some English families hid small Frozen Charlottes in their Christmas puddings, along with or in place of the traditional hidden coins.

How can any adorable little dolls have a tragic story attached to them?  I had to know more. Here's what I found out:

Baby, Nursery and Baby Shower Decorations Free Tutorials, E-Patterns, Printables and E-Books

I love babies and baby showers and love to create free e-patterns, free e-printables, and free e-books for my customers and blog readers and have created several of each with a baby theme.

Bartholomew's Babies - Beautiful or Tawdry Dolls

Bartholomew Fair as illustrated in 1808 - Image Courtesy of
Held in West Smithfield (1133–1855) on St. Bartholomew’s Day.

In doing research for wooden dolls I ran across a definition of a doll in The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue which defined a Bartholomew Baby as: A person dressed up in a tawdry manner, like the dolls or babies sold at Bartholomew fair.

A doll being associated with a tawdry mannered person. A showy and cheap doll? What? I had to know more.

So I checked out some other definitions.

According to The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia of 1889 under the definition for baby: Bartholomew baby a kind of doll sold originally at Bartholomew fair in London, and celebrated as best then known.  

It also tells farmers what manner of wife they shall choose; not one trickt up with ribbons and knots like a Bartholomew baby. Poor Richards Almanac 1695.

So, the doll is celebrated as the best then known, but still connotates tawdry.

According to the Dictionary of Early English By Joseph T. ShipleyBartholomew-baby, a gawdy doll; a puppet.  Poor Robin (1740) speaks of telling farmers what manner of wife they should chuse, not one trickt up with ribband and knots like a Bartholomew-baby; for such a one will prove a holiday wife, all play and no work.