Wednesday, April 27, 2016

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.

According to Jan Foulke's Guide To Dolls: This very desireable American doll has the look of a primitive painting.  Hair styles with painted long side curls or short brush strokes are preferred. 

The muslin body dolls have stockinette pressed heads with facial features, oil-painted hair, applied ears, and painted bodies and limbs.

According to Cloth Dolls From Ancient To Modern by Linda Edwards: The heads for her dolls are made of a cloth which was coated with paste and pressed in a die.  The molded head then has a layer of cotton batting and a layer of stockinette applied to the outside after which it is re-pressed in the mold.  The inside of the head was then stuffed quite firmly.  This technique gave the doll's head the ability to give slightly when under pressure which helped prevent the finish coating of  oil paint from pealing or chipping.  The ears were not molded as part of the head but rather were applied separately.

Yankee Magazine created a .pdf article entitled "The Holy Grail of Early American Dolls" by Catherine Riedel about Izannah Walker and her dolls here.

According to her article: By 1855 Walker had a thriving business making dolls, and in 1873, she patented the design for an unbreakable doll that was “inexpensive, could be easily kept clean, and
was not apt to injure a young child.” Her process included fusing several layers of fabric with glue or paste and pressing them into a mold to create the doll’s face and head. Once dry, they held their shape and could be sewn together, then stuffed with horsehair, cotton, paper, or rags and covered with a layer of stockinette. Cloth ears were attached, and Walker and her three sisters painted the dolls’ delicate faces and dabbed on curls of hair. Finally, the heads were sewn to cloth bodies featuring stitched fingers and toes, applied thumbs, and sometimes painted-on boots.

If you would like to know more about Izannah Walker there is a wonderful document entitled "Izannah Walker's Iconic Dolls" written by Edyth O'Neill and Dixie Redmond about Izannah's life and dolls.  Their article is available here.

Edyth is an artist and writer who has studied antique dolls for over 50 years and is also the author of the My Red Cape blog which is here.  Dixie is an artist and author who creates antique inspired dolls as well as intently studying Izannah Walker.  She is the author of the Izannah Walker Chronicles which is here.  She is also the author of  the Northdixie Designs blog which is here.

Dixie is also the author of the MAIDA Today (Making Antique Inspired Dolls & Accessories) website which is here and the leader of the MAIDA Today Facebook Group which is here.  

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

The Strong National Museum of Play has several Izannah Walker dolls including my favorite, the Doll c. 1870, shown in the picture above which is here.

Credits: Doll ca. 1870, Manufacturer Izannah F. Walker, Material fabric | painted, Origin Central Falls, RI, Object ID 79.9926

According to their description: Izannah Walker (1817-1886), artist, doll maker, inventor, and businesswoman, received a U.S. patent in 1873 for the method she used to produce a durable, but soft-to-the-touch cloth play doll. Walker, of Central Falls, RI, ran her doll business at a time when few women owned any property of their own. She developed a cottage industry to produce a doll that was "inexpensive, could be easily kept clean, and was not apt to injure a young child." Walker made her dolls by pressing several layers of fabric soaked with glue into molds. As the fabric dried, it retained the shape of the doll face and head, which she then sewed together and stuffed with cotton. Walker and her three sisters painted the distinctive and sweet doll faces that some folk-art specialists suggest resemble the primitive portraiture of 19th century New England artists.

The Strong National Museum of Play has five other amazing Izannah Walker dolls here, here, here, here and here.  They are all exceptional.

Image Courtesy of 

The 13" EXTREMELY RARE SMALL SIZE OF THE AMERICAN CLOTH FOLK DOLL BY IZANNAH WALKER circa 1870, shown in the picture above, was for sold on for $38,000 which tells you the high value Izannah Walker dolls and especially early Izannah Walker dolls command these days.

For more information on this doll please click here.  

Image Courtesy of 

The 18" FINE AMERICAN CLOTH DOLL BY IZANNAH WALKER WITH RINGLET CURLS AND RARE PAINTED SHOES circa 1865, shown in the picture above, is another example of the high value of  Izannah Walker dolls and was sold on for $29,000.

For more information on this doll please click here.  

Image Courtesy of 

My favorite Izannah Walker doll from the website is the 18" AMERICAN CLOTH DOLL BY IZANNAH WALKER WITH RINGLET CURLS circa 1865, shown in the picture above.

For more information on this doll please click here.  

There are several other Izannah Walker dolls on the website here, here, here, here and here.

If you would like to buy a reproduction Izannah Walker doll or make an Izannah Walker doll of your own there are many websites that can help you with this.

If you would like to read a blog post entitled “Jubilee,” my Handmade Doll Inspired by Izannah Walker by Robbin Atwell which details how she made her Izannah Walker reproduction antique doll please click here.

Dixie Redmond has a very detailed e-book for making an Izannah Walker Doll for sale here.  Her handmade dolls are for sale here.  If you want to see more examples of Dixie's antique dolls please click here.

Gail Wilson offers several handmade Izannah Walker dolls in various sizes, patterns, and kits for making her dolls on her Gail Wilson Designs website here.  Just scroll down until you see all of them.

Lynda Hampton has an Izannah Walker reproduction doll pattern and kit which includes an unpainted composition head on her The Little Hamptons Etsy shop here.

Paula Walton of A Sweet Remembrance has a Izannah Walker  class by mail here and sells her reproduction Izannah Walker handmade dolls here.

Sonia Krause sells her reproductions handmade antique dolls, including Izannah Walker's on her NewEnglandDolls blog here.

There are many blog posts out there with pictures of reproduction Izannah Walker Antique dolls that were made based on doll group challenges over the years.  Just Google reproduction antique Izannah Walker dolls.

Last year I bought Dixie Redmond's pattern for making a reproduction Izannah Walker antique doll but have yet to find the time to make her. She's on my list and, for sure, I'll let you know when I do.


  1. Thanks for sharing information about my pattern here, Linda. :-)

    1. You're very welcome, Dixie. I'm still trying to find time to make my Izannah Walker doll based on the pattern I bought from you. Always seems like there's so many other things I need to do, but I'm determined to make one. Have a great weekend. :)