Wednesday, April 27, 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.

According to Cloth Dolls From Ancient To Modern by Linda Edwards: The First Presbyterian Church of Bucyrus, Ohio started making rag dolls in 1885 as a fund raiser.  These  dolls measure about 17" and have hand painted faces.  The bodies are made of unbleached muslin which is stuffed with cotton and they are jointed at the hips and shoulders.  The mitten shaped hands have fingers indicated by stitching. Their feet are stub shaped.  The dolls and their original clothing, consisting of an ankle length dress and prairie bonnet, are all hand sewn.  

They sound darling, don't they?  Can you imagine seeing a tableful of dolls back in the 1880's when they had all been finished.  I would have loved to see that.

Debra Hoover wrote a book entitled "The Doll That Built a Church: Uncovering the Story of the Presbyterian Doll" in 2009 which is: A factual account of a century of doll-making by the women of a small church in Ohio, and a collector's field guide to the Presbyterian Doll.  Her book is here.

So far we've learned the dolls were made in the 1880's, like the one in the picture at the beginning of this post from Toy and Miniature Museum.  I wanted to see there were any other pictures of the dolls from the 1880's and was only able to find a few. Here's what I found:

Image Courtesy of

The Rare Early Presbyterian Rag Doll, shown in the picture above, is from the website.

According to her description: The First Presbyterian Church made cloth dolls for a fundraiser. This head is pie shaped, and painted face, gusseted body, flat face, and mitten hands 17" - Condition: This is a very RARE Doll, very good condition for age.

Image Coourtesy of

The Presbyterian Type Cloth Doll c. 1876-1900, shown in the picture above, was from the website.

According to their description: Cloth Doll; Presbyterian-Type, Lady, Gusseted 1-Piece Head, Oil Painted Features & Hair, 31 inch. Category: dolls , Origin: America, Type: cloth, Year: 1876 - 1900, An oil-painted, Presbyterian-type cloth doll with painted head and chest, having soft brown hair and eyes, gusseted one-piece head and torso, and attached limbs.;

The First Presbyterian Church produced a .pdf May 2015 Newsletter that included a picture of an Presbyterian Rag Doll c. 1885.

Here's what they said about that doll: Barbara Weber’s mother gave her this doll when she was a

young girl. The card says: This is the PRESBYTERIAN DOLL made by women of the First Presbyterian Church, Bucyrus, Ohio, and painted by artist Mrs. Millard Tupps. It was first made by the Women’s Church Society about 1885 and the money made helped build the present church. The project was revived in 1966 and since then Presbyterian Dolls have been sold to doll collectors, sent abroad, and sold to people all over the United States to make little children happy.

If you would like to read that .pdf and see the picture please click here.

That was all I could find so, I decided to see if there were any pictures of dolls from the early 1900's, 1950's, or later.  Here's what I found:

Image Courtesy of Under the Lilacs on

The Vintage Original Presbyterian Hand Painted American Folk Art Rag Cloth Doll c. 1956-1963, shown in the picture above, is from Under The Lilacs on the website.

According to their description: An uncommon find, is this charming and artistically hand-painted little rag American Folk Art doll with appealing blue eyes and dark brown hair with oil painted features dates from 1956-63. She measures approximately sixteen inches (16") in height....This beautiful vintage Folk Art doll is one of the dolls made circa 1956-63, and her body is almost pristine- so well was she treasured.....

Image Courtesy of

The VINTAGE DOLL PRESBYTERIAN CLOTH PAINTED FACE 1950 OHIO, shown in the picture above, is from the website.

According to their description: This beautiful doll is one of the dolls made at some point in the 1950s from my understanding.......

Image Courtesy of Romancing The Doll On

The Neo-Presbyterian Cloth Benefit Rag Doll All Original 1982 Bucyrus Ohio c. 1982, shown in the picture above, is from Romancing The Doll on the website.

According to their description: Neo-Presbyterian doll is dated 1982 on her back, and sewn to her back is a label which reads "An Original By Presbyterian Women Bucyrus, Ohio." Neo-Presbyterian doll is a later benefit doll that was handmade by the women of the First Presbyterian Church of Bucyrus, Ohio, to raise money for special church projects.....

Once again, there wasn't a lot out there about these dolls. I did, however, learn that several doll makers and doll clubs have been making Reproduction Presbyterian Dolls during the last decade. I'm sure that would put a smile on the faces of the original 1880's doll makers.

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