Children of Japan

Children of Japan
Courtesy, R. John Wright

Hinges and Hearts

Hinges and Hearts
An Exhibit of our Metal Dolls

Tuxedo and Bangles

Tuxedo and Bangles

A History of Metal Dolls

A History of Metal Dolls
Now on and In Print! The First Book of its Kind

Alice, Commemorative Edition

Alice, Commemorative Edition
Courtesy, R. John Wright


Emma, aka, La Contessa Bathory

Emma, aka, La Contessa Bathory
Her Grace wishes us all a Merry Christmas!



Emma Emmeline

Emma Emmeline
Our New Addition/fond of stuffed toys

Cloth Clown

Cloth Clown

Native American Art

Native American Art

the triplets

the triplets

c. 1969 Greek Plastic Mini Baby

c. 1969 Greek Plastic Mini Baby
Bought Athens on the street

Iron Maiden; Middle Ages

Iron Maiden; Middle Ages

Sand Baby Swirls!

Sand Baby Swirls!
By Glenda Rolle, courtesy, the Artist

Glenda's Logo

Glenda's Logo
Also, a link to her site

Sand Baby Castaway

Sand Baby Castaway
By Glenda Rolle, Courtesy the Artist

A French Friend

A French Friend


From our friends at The Fennimore Museum

2000+ year old Roman Rag Doll

2000+ year old Roman Rag Doll
British Museum, Child's Tomb

Ancient Egypt Paddle Doll

Ancient Egypt Paddle Doll
Among first "Toys?"


Egyptian Tomb Doll 18th Dynasty

Ann Parker Doll of Anne Boleyn

Ann Parker Doll of Anne Boleyn

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Tin Head Brother and Sister, a Recent Purchase

Tin Head Brother and Sister, a Recent Purchase
Courtesy, Antique Daughter

Judge Peep

Judge Peep

Hakata Doll Artist at Work

Hakata Doll Artist at Work
From the Museum Collection

Follow by Email

Japanese Costume Barbies

Japanese Costume Barbies
Samurai Ken


A Little Girl

Happy Heart Day

Happy Heart Day

From "Dolls"

From "Dolls"
A Favorite Doll Book

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Jenny Wren

Jenny Wren
Ultimate Doll Restorer

Our Friends at The Fennimore Doll and Toy Museum

Our Friends at The Fennimore Doll and Toy Museum

Baby Boo 1960s

Baby Boo 1960s
Reclaimed and Restored as a childhood Sabrina the Witch with Meow Meow

Dr. E's on Display with sign

Dr. E's on Display with sign

Dolls Restored ad New to the Museum

Dolls Restored ad New to the Museum
L to R: K*R /celluloid head, all bisque Artist Googly, 14 in. vinyl inuit sixties, early celluloid Skookum type.

Two More Rescued Dolls

Two More Rescued Dolls
Late Sixties Vinyl: L to R: Probably Horseman, all vinyl, jointed. New wig. R: Effanbee, probably Muffy, mid sixties. New wig and new clothing on both. About 12 inches high.

Restored Italian Baby Doll

Restored Italian Baby Doll
One of Dr. E's Rescued Residents

Dolls on Display

Dolls on Display
L to R: Nutcrackers, Danish Troll, HItty and her book, Patent Washable, Mechanical Minstrel, Creche figure, M. Alexander Swiss. Center is a German mechanical bear on the piano. Background is a bisque German costume doll.

A Few Friends

A Few Friends
These dolls are Old German and Nutcrackers from Dr. E's Museum. They are on loan to another local museum for the holidays.

Vintage Collage

Vintage Collage
Public Domain Art

The Merry Wanderer

The Merry Wanderer
Courtesy R. John Wright, The Hummel Collection

The Fennimore Doll Museum

The Fennimore Doll Museum


A Haunted Doll with a Story

Halloween Dolls Displayed in a Local Library

Halloween Dolls Displayed in a Local Library

The Cody Jumeau

The Cody Jumeau
Long-faced or Jumeau Triste

German Princesses

German Princesses
GAHC 2005

A Little PowerRanger

A Little PowerRanger
Halloween 2004

The Island of the Dolls

The Island of the Dolls
Shrine to Dolls in Mexico

Based on the Nutshell Series of Death

Based on the Nutshell Series of Death
Doll House murder

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A lovely dress

A lovely dress

Raggedy Ann

Raggedy Ann
A few friends in cloth!

Fennimore Doll and Toy Museum, WI

Fennimore Doll and Toy Museum, WI
Pixar Animator's Collection

Little PM sisters

Little PM sisters
Recent eBay finds

Dressed Mexican Fleas

Dressed Mexican Fleas

Really old Dolls!

Really old Dolls!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Check us out on Twitter

Almost a May Queen

In honor of my dear friend Mary Hillier, who wrote Dolls and Doll Makers and other seminal books on doll history, I quote her favorite saying on today, which would have been her 93d birthday, "Dolls are where you Find them." She always wrote me a letter on or before this date saying she was "almost a May queen." For those who care, tonight is also Walpurgis night.

I have been slowing down considerably, but am finding dolls, or they find me, here and there. I found an unusual doll yesterday for $.25; he is a Mexican doll woven of straw. These are related to the corn dolly fertility figures of Europe and the US. He is unusual because he is a man. I havent' seen one for about 40 years! They have been adapted to being bottle covers for tourists, much as the tiny voodoo dolls of Haiti have been turned into whisk brooms for the tourist trade.

This is a short blog today, but I encourage everyone to follow my new blog on living green as well. Today's blog dealt with playing green, and talked about natural toys and dolls.

The Doll Bibliography is being proofed, and some copies will be printed this week for the book fair and the lecture I'm doing next week. I write one book, finish it, and the ideas for more keep happening!

The capital punishment toys were a hit as always. They are now safely at home amid all their other friends.

A good weekend to all. I hope you all find a magic doll show to attend!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Almost May and "Criminal Dolls"

It is cool, but nearly May. I started the blog on living green and will discuss planting, and spring, and recycling there, but really, the very nature of collecting in this contradictory society is recycling and preserving. The Green movement, or as we used to call it, The Ecology movement, is all about history and recycling, just as the earth depends on the Circle of Life. [Yes, I can link even this and The Lion King with dolls and toys, from the licensed products to July Taymor's puppets for the Broadway production!] If you think of it, many dolls come from natural substances, wooden dolls are still part of the living tree, folk dolls are made from nuts, plants, seeds, animal byproducts, rubber and plastic dolls are made from materials like resin and plants, coal is used in vinyl, cloth dolls often involve the use of plants, berries, and natural fibers, etc. Metal dolls and doll using precious or semiprecious stones come from the earth, etc.

Tomorrow, I am teaching one of my favorite classes on crime and capital punishment. I focus on capital punishment in popular culture, and of course, I found a way to incorporate toys and dolls, if only to strengthen my thesis that dolls are among the oldest cultural artifacts, and the need to play and create dolls permeats every aspect of society, both good and bad. I've asked before if anyone knew where I could find a photo, or a doll, of "Hanging Mary," the nineteenth century mechanical doll that may represent Mary Ann Cotton on the gallows, but there are other toys of this nature as well. Tomorrow, I will show my class Halloween dolls and toys of little skeletons on the gallows, sitting in an electric chair, on the Guillotine, etc. These talk and are mechanical; they are really modern automatons. They are funny, and say things like "Please sir, can I have another!" when activated. From Headless Historicals, there is a Catherine Howard doll holding her little head, and Marie Antoinette from Achie McFee who pops off her head. I have photos of "Death Row Joe" puppers, other dols representing Joan of Arc, Anne Boleyn, Mary Queen of Scots, Marie Antoinette, etc. Archie McFee also provides candy heads of Marie Antoinette on Lollipops, and soap head of Marie and Louis XVI. These are not unusual. Two Hundred years ago, Goethe, the great romantic poet, asked his mother to buy him a toy guillotine in France, during the heart of The Terror. She chastised him severely! I have a toy working guillotine, two, actually, and numerous skeletons and Halloween dolls of Vampires, skeletons, witches, and other figures associated with capital punishment in past times. There are also entire collections out there of Lizzie Borden and Freddy Kreuger dolls, Leather face, Frankenstein, and other murderous personages. Dracula himself would fill several buildings in doll, toy, and figure form. Here is a link for Headless Historicals; their links to historical information is top notch; Here is another link for Archie McFee:

There are also Death Row bubble gum cigarettes, nursery rhymes associated with all types of criminals and capital punishments, folk songs, children's literature, and cartoons which deal with Captial Punishment and crime.

Children love these stories, and the Fairy Tales from The Brothers Grimm [who are Grimm!] and others. Video games and electronic diversions of all kinds address serial murder, violence, and crime. Many of us set up the hue and cry for the sake of our kids, and other parents, Stephen King, included, have argued that these games and films allow some type of catharis, an acceptable way to deal with agressions that should not be pent up.

I don't have an opinion other than as a concerned parent who monitors what her child watches, notices who his playmates are, etc. As a doll/toy/childhood culture/ childrens literature historian, I have an interest in studying all the games and gadgets, and the electronic diversions are close relatives of the automatons, mechanical dolls, and metal dolls I love to study.

There; I've brought it all full circle.

My spooky/criminal toys originally were meant to serve as a lesson to children to deter them from lives of crime and socially unacceptable behavior. In fact, public executions were meant to teach a moral lesson to the public in general and served a social control function. Now, they are a bit of a joke, neat Halloween decorations, and ways for us to laugh at our fears.

Thanks also as I write, to Spirit of Halloween, who let me photograph their life-sized axe man executioner. I would have loved to buy him, had I enough money and storage space! Here is their link for those interested; they have great things for little kids as well:

Lastly, a great Scholastic kids book along these lines [besides all the Harry Potter books, etc.,} and the earlier "Goosebumps" series, is Encyclopedia Horrifica by Jonathan Gee, which also includes a "kid sized" article about the miniatures of Frances Glessner Lee.

Forgive my typos; if anyone would like to hear more about spooky dolls, capital punishment toys and dolls, etc., please let me know.

Adieu till next time!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Why Metal Dolls?

Why Metal Dolls? People ask me this all the time when I tell them I wrote a book about them. I like them because, honestly, I like jewelry and copper molds and pots, and aluminum ware, and other things made out of metal. Maybe it is a pack rat thing. Also, I love an underdog, and I first read about metal heads in Helen Young's book, The Complete book of Doll Collecting; her chapter was titled "Dolls called Secondaries." It included foreign dolls, half dolls, and metal heads. They are survivor dolls; beautiful when "young" and new, their beautiful paint gleeming as brightly as the chrome on any priceless sports car, their beautiful eyes clear and intelligent. Then, life deals them a few blows; usually these are the result of some child's "tough love." Their paint wears off and they become dented, and and are consigned to the realm of old tin cans. But, like an old oil painting obscured by years of dirt and yellowing varnish, their underlying charm is there. I like metal dolls because no one else did, at least until now, and because they were a challenge to reasearch, a real detective story.

And I love their origins. They were initially created as precious, ritual objects of gold and silver, and then many centuries later, as beloved childhood toys because they were meant to last, and not break the way porcelain dolls did, or fall apart the way rag dolls could. They were created with a good and benevolent purpose, and so I think they deserve a history, and to be preserved. Also, I've always thought of Blake's poem, "The Tiger," and think metal dolls as being the hybrid children born of the clash between the pastoral, traditional feudal societies and The Industrial Revolution.

Look for more posts coming up, and follow us on Twitter. Thanks to all my Twitter friends and followers. Till next time.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Doll as Other

A little blurb from a Humanities class I used to teach. Enjoy!

The Doll as The "Other"

When you loved dolls and studied them, you started to love all kinds of people, too, because you saw the virtue in their
expressions, how carefully they had been sculpted, the parts contrived to create the triumph of this or that remarkable face.

Anne Rice, Taltos.

As long as there have been human beings, there have been dolls. From the oldest surviving representation of the human figure, the so-called Venus of Willendorf, to the modern and controversial icon of femininity and fashion, Barbie, (TM), human beings have been engrossed in creating miniature or artificial representations of themselves. At first, such images satisfied religious and ritual functions; early idols often took human form because humans saw their gods as higher, larger, more perfect representations of themselves. Egyptians buried small dolls or Ushabti with their dead to take the place of living people, once interred alive to serve the king. These little figures represent every member of the Pharaoh's court, down to the servants and concubines. Then, the doll or figure evolved into a toy, a companion for lonely people of all ages, a mannikin to advertise fashions, a text to record history. For example, Mme. Tussaud, the famous wax modeler, began by modelling portrait dolls of the Royal Court that the French aristocracy used to amuse themselves. Other so-called dolls or automata were exact images of their owners. Some were so realistic, that they startled the ancient and Medieval world. In fact, Thomas Acquinas is said to have destroyed one such mechanical doll that belonged to his master because its constant chattering disturbed his studies. Moreover, stories of figures that are formed from inanimate matter and given life by their creator abound in myths of various culture, culminating in the story of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Shelley was aware of the history of automata in her work, and was familiar with the celebrity their makers enjoyed. Historians Carl Fox and Max von Boehn analyze the link between the Frankensteins' monsters and Golems of literature and dolls in their respective books.

Furthermore dolls have been made for magical, even diabolical purposes, so there exist to this day voodoo dolls and ancestor figures all over the world. Like all dolls, these and their more benign sisters are "others" or dopplegängers of their creators. They resemble their makers and wear their clothing. As a result, there are as many different types of dolls as there are people.
In fact, dolls have played the role of "other" from the time of the Venus figures to the present day. This paper will allude to various authors whose works discuss the doll as "other," or muse, including Strabo, Polybius, Ben Jonson, Cervantes, the Brontës, George Eliot, Rilke, Victor Hugo, Yeats, Dickens, Joyce, Rumer Godden, and Anne Rice.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Of books, dolls, grants, and lost blogs

The week had an ominous start; I lost a great blog I had on books and dolls. My husband designed a lovely cover for the Doll Bibliography, and we hope to have dust jackets, at least, at the QC Bookfair! I was listening to NPR talk about love affairs with books and libraries, and I was also reading on that subject this weekend. A good friend gave me another copy of Carl Fox''s The Doll, and I was entranced all over again. This is a wonderful book for students of photography, dolls, art, textiles, and children's literature. Fox draws all kinds of wonderful connections and describes collections that are out of this world. He had access to legendary collectors like Lenon Hoyte of Aunt Len's and The New York Doll Hosptial, both gone now. My books inspired me to collect, to dream, to try harder. The older the book, the more history I felt I held in my hands. Like dolls, books are the companions of the imagination, and they inspire and reflect the personalities of their creators. Till next time, check us out after May 1th on and vote for Dr. E's Doll Museum!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Joys of Doll and Technology

To R. and the Warren County Doll Club, I just want to say, "You Rock!"

It is a beautiful day, though I'm indisposed with sinus miseries and hay fever, but in some ways it is fair trade for the crisp, cool air, and the sun. I was once an autumn/winter girl, but a few ice storms and downed trees cured me. Once fine afternoon, I spent more than an hour in a prone position on the icy curb with a broom handle and a steak knife trying to dig my car out of the ice and snow. And, the car was running, which gave the whole adventure that little edge. All my male neihbors drove by with their large SUV's, trucks, and chains, and waved at me. I now worship spring.

I've spent a fair amount of time refurbishing dolls and doll areas this past year. Another colleague who feels about art supplies the way I do about dolls was discussing the virtues of large, waterproof boxes and containers with me yesterday. He called himself a "bon vivant" where rubber maid is concerned. I had to agree. Another friend observed it was a good thing we weren't near a container store. But storage is crucual, as is maintenance. I've decided I could manage almost any organization given how I've had to manage this collection, and care for it, and write about it, and try to inventory it, and protect it, in more than one location. This is one reason I want the museum so badly!

My husband is a wonderful man, too. Big, brawny, and Mediterranean, he is not above washing doll clothes, even by hand, or photographing items for inventory or display. We are slowly making the web museum come to life, and it is good to be full of ideas.

I have gently scrubbed mildew off of hard plastic dolls and early papier mache doll bodies after one of our garden hose pipes broke and leaked into the "safe" shelf near the ceiling of our basement. Don't even talk to me about waterproof basements! We had that tragedy, too. But, someone looked out for me; the dolls were saved. They are now in watertight, safe places, though I put away many that were displayed. I used Febreze and spray Lysol on cloth and plush with good results. I was just careful to let them dry, and there were some dolls that just needed care and repair that were redressed and rewigged. My best doll show buy last year was a huge bag of wigs and another of shoes.

Twitter followers are picking up; I hope some get to look at this blog. I send messages two or three times a day, and I think I'm getting the hang of it.

Happy blogging to all; more book exceprts to come! Am trying to watch typos, but still learning where everything is here. And, if I could type, I'd be dangerous. Till next time!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Research Files, Twitter, and Anne Boleyn

Another week draws to a lazy, sultry close. We had wonderful unseasonably warm weather, and violets and grape hyacinths bursting forth. My viola, which sprang two years ago from the remains of an annual, is growing again. I've protected it with garden spikes to avoid lawn mower devastation which took place last year.

My classes are studying capital punishment again, and I admit I love discussing The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death with them, as well as bringing out my CP toys, the headless historical doll of Katharine Howard, all the Anne Boleyn dolls [not headless or gruesome], the toy guillotines and Halloween prop electric chairs, the Joan of Arc paper dolls, etc. My favorite passage about these toys comes from a book which quotes Goethe in a letter where he asks his mother to buy his two year old son a miniature guillotine. Mamma is shocked and "reads the riot act" to the great poet. That in itself is worth reading to a good English major.

My thoughts drift to what do we as researchers do when we come across these little tidbits? Granted, we store much on our computers and flash drives, but I have another method involving portable research which works; the travelling file [not to be confused with travelling pants, gnomes, or other nomadic objects].

This method works for any form of research, and three-ring binders will work. I ususally keep one year's worth of information in these research files, say 2009-2010. At the end of the year, I go through them and store in file cabinets or shelves the information I want to keep. I share the rest with other collectors, or recycle it some way. If one selects the binder route, I'd spring for nice white binders with page inserts for covers and spines. I also love the clear plastic page protectors and dividers of all types. My other method involves buying a small accordion file, any type, or a plastic case for storing scrap book paper. [This is why I don't join a scrap booking club; they would not appreciate the unspeakable uses I find for their supplies!]. To tailor the research file to doll collecting, you need the following besides the accordion files and labels for each section:

1. Two or three good fashion catalogs; I like Neimann Marcus, Chicos, pages from the fashion issue of Vogue, which usually is out by August or September.

2. Two or three of your favorite doll catalogs from 2009-2010. These can include inserts from Target and Toys R Us, auction catalogs, toy catalogs, mail order catalogs, doll house catalogs, etc.

3. A list of sources including locations of doll shows, museums, favorite websites, directions to locales, doll exhibits, antique shows, flea markets, doll conventions, etc. which you want to attend during the year.

4. Your receipts and cancelled checks spent on dolls for 2010; these can be copies if you need the originals for your taxes. By the same token, I like to print out and keep eBay information and listings for dolls that I have bid on, and certainly purchased. The same goes for ETSY and other online auctions.

5. Temporary inventory forms if you need them, so that you can keep track of new acquisitions.

6. Copies of specific articles I find useful for dolls I'm working with during the year. These might include patterns and directions for making dolls and doll parts. Newsletters and other clippings are also part of this file.

7. Related historical materials, e.g., sources on regional costumes for foreign dolls, copies of vintage materials like Godey's, paper dolls, including copies or Internet printouts that I find useful for historical background, children's literature, or historical location for dolls or their makers.

8. Address information for people connected in the doll/antique world.

9. Miscellaneous information relevant to your individual collections.

10. A good field guide or price guide, like Miller's or Denise Van Patten's excellent guide book. [harder to store in a binder; then you may just want to scan or use relelvant pages or newsletters from Denise's site.]

Label each section as needed, e.g., to correspond with those described above.

Sort the materials accoringly, and make sure you can carry the binder or file easily. A nice, eco-friendly tote like those sold in discount stores, grocery stores, and book stores would do the trick. Keep it in your car where it is accessible if you go to a library, museum, or other site away from home to work.

Have Fun!

A note on collecting; if you find printable/copy free materials on the web, print them, and keep them in a binder. My favorite is Marilu's Paper Doll Page. Not all of these sites stay up forever,and while they may never acheive great value, Internet printouts will make interesting future collectibles. For the price of ink, one can have a fantastic paper doll collection. Great for those on a budget. And, you know what they say, "When the going get's tough, the tough surf for paper dolls!"

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


News Flash: Dr. E's Doll Museum Blog is on Twitter, under the same title as the blog! We're picking up followers and following ourselves. This is very exciting!


News Flash: Dr. E's Doll Museum Blog is on Twitter, under the same title as the blog! We're picking up followers and following ourselves. This is very exciting!

Morning has Broken

And, I do mean broken! Wednesdays have traditionally been my longest and hardest days. Today was no exception; I started my long trek to the working world by leaving my person. I was oblivious about it until I had that terrible stab of panic and guilt [I leave it locked in my car], that perhaps I didn't lock the car, that the precocious squirrels in my yard stole it, that aliens took it, etc. I found the purse, then tried to eat breakfast, and sent a plate careening across the room like a flying saucer [I think I have a theme today]. Miraculously, there were only a few crumbs on the plate and it didn't break. Oh well.

I stand corrected, I think, on the location of the Peabody Museum. It is in Salem. I keep saying it is in Harvard, because 1000 years ago when I was 18, I visited both in one weekend on a whirlwind and memorable trip. I miss that area, and often sigh, "Ah, Boston!" when times are tough. For months,I wore somthing that came from that trip, a charm, a necklace, a pin, a hat or shoes. I bought doll from The House of Seven Gables and several from Salem and from the Witch Museum. I loved everything there, though I understand much has changeed. My mom and I had a good time following the "footprints" through the city to Paul Revere's house and other sites. At one point, we strayed, and ended up in the Combat Zone during the day, but we were none the worse for wear.

Years later, the curator of the Wenham Museum doll collection was a great help to me when I was researching my book. She was generous with both photos and information and I thank her.

Also, I want to thank the people following this blog. It is a labor of love, and the first step towards many dreams.

Below is some information on doll shows. Now that spring has indeed "sprung," some of us may want to venture forth. Looking up one link will in turn find other links, so go have an adventure!
Doll Shows:

1. JoAnn Reynolds - Doll & Bear Shows
Promoting Doll, Bear, and Toy Shows in the Midwest.

2. Central Wisconsin Doll & Antiques Show and Sale: October 18, 2009
Wausau/The show features 40 dealers from all over Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan selling antique, collectible, plus a wide assortment of dolls, bears, buggies and other doll furniture and accessories. The show also features doll artists, who design and sell their own dolls and bears. There are dealers who make doll houses/furniture and doll clothing/accessories. Food court with great food, easy access, a great raffle, door prizes & more. Admission is $4 (children under 12 are free). Address
Newman Catholic Middle School
225 S 28th Ave
Wausau, WI 54401

Contact Information
Voice: 715-675-7417

Event Date Detail

Till next time, thank you, share this link as you see fit, and Happy Dolling!

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Few Stories:

The Me Doll: When I as in grade school, Grant’s Department Store in downtown Davenport had a wonderful second floor toy department. They had everything from tiny kewpie dolls, to life-sized walking dolls. I had never seen so many of the latter in my life. At six, I wasn’t much bigger than the dolls were. There were also interesting variations, including a smaller walking doll that was all molded plastic. Even then, she looked to me like a throwback to another time, and I wonder if she was old store stock. I should have bought her! In any case, one late summer, my Uncle Tom, long the supplier of dolls for me, bought the life-sized doll. She is very much like Patti Playpal, and her hair is red. It was once curly, but it’s been washed too often to keep its curl. I still have her dress and at least one very large blue vinyl doll shoe, but she wears my Raggedy Ann costume these days. My grandmother, official doll seamstress, also made her a blue, flowered dress with a white dollar. An alien doll is currently modeling that outfit. There is a great photo of me standing next to the big doll. I’m wearing a set of satin Chinese pajamas from San Francisco. The doll is standing next to me. We look more like sisters. My little dog Killer had a lot of issues with that doll. I think he couldn’t decide if she was real or not, and he kept a respectful distance. For years, until I got Tallulah the 6’ manikin, the walking doll was my biggest doll ever. She still is one of my most cherished.

Every week, my Uncle Tom, who was an artist, drove home to us in Rock Island from his studio in Peoria. He always brought a doll. He also have me great Japanese and Korean dolls that he brought home from the Korean War, where he had been an MP. He could fix dolls better than any doll hospital, even reproducing tiny limbs and painting chipped, cracked faces to perfection. He lathe turned a new foot for a dolls house wooden buffet that broke; to this day, I don’t know which leg is the one he fixed. He always chose the best, and one summer, he bought at least ten very beautiful Japanese dolls, including a bride, Kabuki actresses, a baby nurse, and others. Only now can I appreciate how exhausting it must have been for him to have to pack each week, and not dare come home without finding me a doll!! I have all of them, and have taken care of them for over thirty years. I always looked forward to him coming on Fridays. I would wait for him watching The Honeymooners on Jackie Gleason. He’d pick me up, and we’d head for A&P to get the smoked oysters and pork hocks we liked, but no one else did. Then, I’d torture him by playing restaurant. Of course, he asked for it; he bought me the dishes and toy food I used to stock my café. He used to help me paint, and he taught me to love to make things. He was patient, and not only endured my “cooking,” but even paid for it, about $2-$5 per meal! He was the most talented person I had ever known, and he went to the School of the Art Institute. He had a handle on perspective like no one I’ve ever met. The summer before he died, he gave me a lot of his sketches and projects from school. He also left me his carved wooden cigar box with a picture of a girl in a beautiful garden. I can’t remember what he kept in it, but it was in his suitcase every weekend. I keep doll heads

Girls Scouts, Badges, and Dolls

Yesterday, I met with one of local daisy/brownie/scout troups. We had 8 little girls and their mothers. It was a lot of fun, and really brought back memories. The first time I ever talked about dolls and their history was at my girl scout troup when I was nine. My mother helped me write a little talk and description of each doll. We had just come from Europe, so I had a lot of fascinating examples, and some other special dolls,like my first Frozen Charlotte, a Swedish Tomte, a Shirley Temple look-alike-that was similar to my mother's beloved doll we had refurbished, the china head Aunt Rose made me for Christmas, and a gorgous Furga. Many years later, here I was again, with a few of the same dolls, and my "little talk" neatly typed out the way my mother showed me. I didn't have the heart to tell them that Frozen Charlotte in the poem froze to death; I told them she got very cold because she didn't wear a cloak.

Below are a few more excerpts from my book on Metal Dolls:
Chapter 6

Dolls with Metal Parts

Perhaps by making parts rather than the whole doll, inventors mitigated threats to their masculine identity as producers of feminine and frivolous objects. The evidence is inadequate to draw a definite conclusion as to why, but their products suggest that they felt more at ease with producing parts of women's bodies than with intact wholes. . . the leg joints on some dolls were placed over the thigh in such a way as to give the pubic region a male "anatomy"

Miriam Formanek-Brunell
Made to Play House: Dolls
and the Commercialization of
American Girlhood 1830-1930
If one accepts the above proposition wholeheartedly, male doll makers were literally creating dolls in their own image, and even so called-sexless or female dolls were meant to be male. There is something downright gruesome in the explanation given above for the networking and cottage industry involved in making dolls. While it is true that dolls were assembled this way, it is also true that there were equally important female manufacturers and doll makers in Europe who made dolls and doll parts. The fact that so many were mass-produced indicates as much an attempt to keep up with a growing demand that homemade cottage industries could no longer provide, as an obsession with feminine parts and a male desire to control their production. In any case, metal was becoming recognized as a durable and strong material for dolls by the end of the nineteenth century. As a result, there are many dolls made of all kinds of materials that have metal parts. The most common, perhaps, are the foreign costume dolls often sold to tourists. These are often made over a wire armature by wrapping strips of cloth or tape around the wire. One such pair of cloth dolls is Swedish. They date from around 1660. The dolls' heads are made of iron wire covered with silk-stuffed cloth. Their original clothes include metal lace underskirts and silk dresses with lead straps (Coleman II 258). They are on display in the Nordiska Museet, Stockholm. These dolls are very small, measuring only 3 inches to 3 and one-half inches in height.
Modern Greek Costume dolls also employ the wire armature method in their construction. The author has several in her collection made this way. The hands and forearms of the dolls are plastic or cloth. The upper arms are covered with clothing, and are usually just a piece of wire. The heads are wood or plastic masks covered with cloth. The features are painted and the dolls wear wigs of mohair or embroidery floss. The body is padded with strips of cloth. The legs, like the arms, are only partially covered. Dolls from Spain, India, Brazil, and Guatemala are also made in this way. Many craft books also give instructions about how to make this type of doll from pipe-stem cleaners or wire. Several types of dolls also have eyes made of metal or tin. One unusual head is made of ivory. A black, tapered spot is painted on top of her head. The body is wire and fabric with ivory lower limbs. The doll stands seven inches high and wears a petticoat of eighteenth century silk and gold embroidery (King ATAD 24). Another ivory doll is from the Bering Straits and has tin eyes (White, World 11). One doll from ancient Peru is of carved wood with metal eyes and teeth. The doll is two-dimensional with a flat back (39).
Wire-eyed dolls were popular in around 1825. In More About Dolls, Johl describes how these dolls work:
A wire from the upper hip passed through the body of this doll connected with the back of two blocks of wood on which the eyes were mounted. When the wire is pulled downward, the eyes open. When the wire is raised, the eyes closes. In some dolls the wire protrudes from the right side of the doll head just under the wig. When turned either to the left or to the right, the eyes open and shut." (Johl MAD 24)

A similar doll from around 1800 has a carton head and torso with arms made of wire. The wig was meant to be nailed on and the features are molded and painted (Coleman II 260). Wax dolls also had eyes that opened and closed by means of the wire mechanism Johl describes (Johl MAD 89). As Formanek-Brunell indicates, various manufacturers produced the mechanisms for eye and head movement. These included Dominico Checkeni, Fritz Bartenstein, and Rudolph M. Hunter (n.15 199).
Another type of wax doll had its head connected to its body by means of a metal spring. This doll is sixteen inches tall and dates from 1850. A Limbach bisque head has wire springs in its upper arms and legs. This doll has stationary glass eyes and a closed mouth. The torso and lower legs are of wood, and the head is attached by means of a dowel. The doll is seven and one-half inches tall (Coleman II 720). The company that made this doll, Limbach Porzellanfabrik,in Alsbach, Thür., Germany, started in 1772 and went out of business after 1927 (720). While many of the dolls had porcelain heads, metal was integral in putting them together. Limbach, apparently, was trying to strive for the ultimate realism by combining the delicate, realistic look that porcelain could give to a doll's face with the flexibility that the wire springs gave its body. A doll that had such a beautiful, naturally tinted face could now also be posed in life-like positions.
Other dolls could be posed in life-like positions, not because of wire springs, but because of metal parts in their ball jointed wood or composition bodies. Indeed, the so-called Springfield wooden dolls of Joel Ellis and of Martin also have spring joints and often sport pewter hands and feet as well. Ellis invented other things besides dolls. At nineteen, he designed a steam shovel for railroad excavating (Green Mountain Doll Club 24). In 1856, Ellis opened a wood working shop that specialized in baby and doll carriages. Because of this specialty, he was nicknamed "Cab" Ellis. The carriages were his most successful product and were even exported to Australia (24). It was Ellis's partners, three men named Britten, Eaton, and Brown, who first wanted to make dolls. The partnership held off, however, because the lathe and equipment necessary for this venture were too expensive (24). Then, in 1873, Ellis himself invented the tenon and mortise joints used on his dolls (White, World, 231). Ellis took out a patent to make the wooden dolls on May 20, 1873, setting up a separate company called The Cooperative Manufacturing Company (Green Mountain Doll Club 24-25). Ellis employed sixty people in his doll making venture. The dolls' joints were pinned with a steel pin. The body, head and upper limbs of the doll were kiln dried rock maple (25). The hands and feet of the doll were cast iron (25). The author has a doll very similar to Ellis's in her collection, but the lower limbs are missing. Supposedly, they were lost in the Great Chicago Fire, but this puts the dolls two years earlier than Ellis's. Perhaps Ellis had some other model in mind as inspiration when he made his first doll, just as Ruth Handler, creator of Barbie, had Bild's Lili in mind. Miriam Formanek-Brunell implies that the Ellis dolls and other Springfield dolls were created to be durable and serviceable according to masculine concepts of what a doll should be. She writes that Ellis and others concentrated on "joints and hinges" and "sacrificed anatomical realism to the mechanics of mobility" in their dolls (44). She also states that the pubic areas of the dolls, where the legs meet the hip joints, unconsciously, perhaps, resemble male, not female, anatomy (43). Were Ellis, Martin and Taylor, and the other Springfield doll makers playing God in Frankenstein fashion and attempting, at least subconsciously, to create dolls in their own masculine image? Since they were relatively silent on this point, we can only speculate.
The dolls of Albert Schoenhut, carefully sculpted in wood, had steel springs, as do many of the jointed composition bodies of the French and German bisque headed dolls of the nineteenth century. Schoenhut came to the United States from Germany in 1866 (Fromanek-Brunell 37). Schoenhut and other doll manufacturers arrived in this country at a time when Fromanek-Brunell writes that one third of the 3.3 million immigrants were German. Because Schoenhut had business acumen when he arrived, he and the others like him who emigrated "found places for themselves in a male world in which established German immigrant businessmen provided salaried employment (Fromanek-Brunell 37). Fromanek-Brunell writes that These German businessmen were successful in part because those there before them shared gender, class, and ethnicity, and were willing to help others like them (37). After working for another firm that made rocking horses, Schoenhut soon struck out on his own and made the wooden dolls and toys with metal parts that are now collector's items.
Not only dolls made of hard substances employ metal in their make-up, however. Even some cloth dolls have metal parts. On September 25, 1883, one Martha Wellington took out a patent for a cloth doll built on a wire framework. The material she used was stockinette over padded wire. The features were painted. The patent was No. 285, 448 (Spinning Wheel 19). Even female American manufacturers used hard substances because they were interested in durability. Sarah Robertson took out a patent for a cloth doll with joints that were made of metal buttons or wafers. Using these joints was supposed to keep the fabric from wearing out when the doll was sitting. China or bisque heads would then be attached to the Robertson bodies. The patent is dated August 21, 1883, No. 283, 513 (19).
Many of the French fashion dolls had metal parts or metal bodies. One lovely Huret doll has realistic metal hands. (Huret metal heads are discussed in more detail in Chapter Five). The doll is eighteen and one-half inches high and is marked "HURET 168 RUE DE LA BOETIE" (Knopf 191). The doll has a white bisque head with a hauntingly beautiful expression. Her wooden body is jointed at the waist so that she may sit. Her wig is auburn, her dress beige silk (191). The metal heads that Huret used were made by the following companies: The Jointed Doll Company, The Co-operative Doll Company, and The New England Doll Company. Huret apparently experimented with several materials. At one point, Jean Lotz mentions on her Internet Wood Doll Gallery that Huret made a doll with a wooden head, featured in the magazine Doll News in 1963. Lotz refers to Huret's business as a "Fancy Doll Studio." Also dolls marked "P and D" have metal hands. The letters could stand for Petit and Dumontier, who made bisque headed dolls (Coleman II 441). Mlle. Huret also made metal bodies. One of these has socket joints at the shoulders, elbows, wrists, waist, hips and knees (Tarnowska 127).
Mlle. Huret, however, was not the only manufacturer to make an all-metal doll body. Maison Rohmer, a company that made dolls from about 1856-1879, also made a doll with a metal body according to a patent by one of her relatives, Reidmeister. Marie Léontine Rohmer was born January 13, 1829 in Strasbourg. She was the daughter of a physician, but at 27, she chose another career, that of doll maker. In fact, it is unlikely that she could have pursued her father's calling, medicine, as a woman living in the heart of the nineteenth century. Yet, at twenty seven, she opened a doll factory in Paris, according to Anne Marie Porot in her article "The Rohmer Dolls" (108). Even today, hers was a remarkable achievement. Mlle. Rohmer was scrupulous for several years after she opened her factory to take out patents to protect her creations.
By 1859, Mlle. Rohmer had become Mme. Vuillaume by marrying a civil engineer. Her sister married Reidmeister, the other doll maker in the family. Together, they survived an embarrassing adventure in the French courts that involved Mlle. Huret and her dolls. Mme. Porot writes that "in this period of 1860-61...she found herself in the painful position of a lawsuit by Mademoiselle Huret for counterfeiting" (108). Mme. Vuillaume had begun making a doll with metal parts according to her brother-in-law's patent. On the outside, the dolls closely resembled the Huret dolls, and like them, the dolls were fully jointed (108). According to Mme. Porot, the issue in the suit turned on which doll, the Huret or Rohmer, was a jointed doll or poupée articulée (108). Actually, the bodies of the dolls in question were made of different substances; Huret's doll was made of gutta percha, a type of rubber, and the Rohmer/Reidmeister dolls were of stamped metal (108). Yet, Mlle. Huret won the suit (108). It is interesting that the suit did not compare the metal dolls of Huret with those of Rohmer. As a penalty, Maison Rohmer had to pay 100 francs compensation. The dolls that were the subject of the suit were confiscated. Today, a few rare examples survive, and one is pictured in this book, its photo graciously sent by Mme. Porot, the author of the above article. By 1875, Mme. Vuillaume shared a shop with her brother-in-law in the Rue Terrage. By now, M. Reidmeister had taken up again his old occupation of "making horses, velocipedes, and mechanical vehicles for children" (108).
Jumeau, another famous maker of dolls who employed orphan girls in his firm, also used metal parts. Margaret Whitton in Jumeau Dolls shows a spring joint body in the photos on pages 27 and 29. Supposedly, dolls made before and after World War I still used metal springs because rubber for elastic stringing was scarce (Coleman I 113). Some dolls were jointed by copper wires that were twisted onto hooks. The composition bodies used were molded in heavy matrices of steel (Abbot, cited in Johl, MAD, 27). Moreover, Johl claims that one of the younger Jumeau men made fully-jointed bodies with wires inserted into the kid arms and legs that allowed life-like positions (52). Sometimes, Jumeau dolls even wore metal costumes. A large doll called "The Spirit of San Diego" was dressed in a coat of mail. The doll was donated to San Diego by Mrs. Phoebe Hearst, mother of William Randolph Hearst, who built Hearst Castle in San Simeon, CA (Johl, MAD 54). The eyes of Jumeau dolls were attached to a ball of lead before they were inserted into the head (Abbot in Johl, MAD 48). Noted antique expert Robert Reed writes in his article "Love in any Language: the Amazing French Bébé," that the child dolls by Jumeau, Bru, and others, revolutionized the doll world (42). Instead of the French Fashion dolls that nearly always represented women with "bee stung" lips, the new little girl dolls were realistic portrayals of children, approximately eight years old (42). These dolls were noted for the creamy bisque used for their heads, flowing, natural wigs that could be styled, lavish costumes, and hand-blown paper weight eyes. Another innovation was their articulated bodies; the ball joints in these bodies often used metal. In the quest for realism, many of the little girl dolls of the 1880's could perform tasks; Bébé Teteur by Bru nursed from a bottle, Bébé Gourmand ate, Bébé Le Dormeau could close her eyes, the talking Jumeau had a voice box operated by a spring, and another could kiss ( Reed 43).
Bru, the rival of Jumeau, also used kid bodies with metal elbow joints, as did the firm of Daniel and Cie (Fawcett 215). Gesland, another French firm, used the stockinette over metal framework alluded to earlier when foreign dolls were discussed. The heads on these bodies are sometimes marked "F.G." and are attributed to Francois Gautier (Knopf 190). These dolls were often faked, and a large number of them were made in the late 1950's to be sold as old. These, however, were sometimes marked "F + G." One recently appeared on PBS's popular "Antiques Road Show," and it was left to expert Richard Wright to tell a hapless collector that the antique for which she paid a large sum of money was a fake.
Other French heads with kid bodies had metal mechanisms at the base of the head to allow movement (Johl MAD 117). In 1872, a manufacturer named Pannier used metal frames and joints. So did Lucien Vervelle, a man who made metal heads, in 1876. Others who used metal frame for their dolls were Gerardin, for a doll in a cartouche, and Schmetzer, for a dancing doll (White, World, 230). An Emil Robert of Paris took out a patent in 1858 for a doll with metal or wooden limbs. The rest of the doll was to be made of vulcanized rubber (Coleman Marks 89). Moreover, miniature French bisque heads were often attached to the body by means of a metal hook. The author has a three inch example in black bisque with such a hook. The hook attaches to the elastic connecting the doll's arms. Tiny, yellow glass eyes are attached to a mask of plaster inside the doll's head. She wears molded white socks and painted red shoes. The doll is dressed in an outfit of antique lace and red silk. Her black wig is mohair. The firm of Mme. Gesland produced a rare metal body covered in stockinette; the doll's head was made by the firm of Gaultier. Where a woman used a hard, industrial substance like metal for a doll's body, she sought to cover it with a softer material like stockinette, apparently to make it more appealing and to give the body a warmer feel than cold metal. The Gesland doll appears in a calendar by Theriault's Auctions which features antique dolls. Mme. Rohmer also covered her zinc-bodied dolls in Kid.
The so-called Edison phonograph doll had a metal torso in which the phonograph mechanism was inserted. These dolls often had Simon and Halbig heads. (Simon and Halbig was a respected German firm; among the marks it used on its dolls was The Star of David). The Edison Phonograph doll is discussed in more detail in the chapters on automata and mechanical dolls, but it is interesting to note that its body was made of electropated sheet metal. Supposedly, Edison's agents chose Simon and Halbig of Germany to make heads for his doll because they could produce 12,000 heads for $30,000 or about $2.50 each (Formanek-Burnell 45).
Composition dolls, made of a mixture of wood pulp and glue, often had bodies stuffed with straw and hinged with metal discs called "bachelor's buttons." One of these dolls has a poorly painted bisque head and is marked DPC, which is the mark for Dresden Porcelain, Co., Longton (Spinning Wheel 96). Käthe Kruse cloth dolls sometimes have joints reinforced by metal buttons under the cloth (Fawcett 215). More recent examples have wire armatures under their stockinette-covered bodies. Kruse was a German artist who became interested in making dolls because she and her husband believed the bisque dolls made for children were ugly and unsuitable. She advertised her dolls as early as 1911, and hand-painted the realistic muslin faces. The Colemans write in volume two of The Collector's Encyclopedia of Dolls that Kruse probably sued as a model for the dolls a piece of sculpture by Francois Duquesnois (1594-1643) called Francesco Fiammingo (667). Her Husband, Max Kruse, also an artist, supposedly critiqued her dolls and heavily influenced how they were made (667).
Other manufacturers used metal parts in their dolls, some influenced by Kruse and other artists, some not. Doll heads of bisque, composition, celluloid, even plastic, are connected to the bodies through attachments that consist of metal hooks through which elastic or rubber bands are threaded. A famous American doll maker, Madame Alexander of New York City, has used this method for years. The author's Marmee doll of the Little Women series is put together this way. For a student art show, the author drew an exploded view of a Madame Alexander doll, showing the metal hooks and attachments. Bertha Alexander and her sister Rose began making and selling doll clothes in about 1912 (Coleman II 11). By 1926, The Alexander Doll Company was established (11). Bertha continued to run the company until her death in the early 1990s. To this day, the dolls are known for their elaborate costumes. Early dolls were made of cloth or composition, and a few modern, special editions are made of bisque, but most of the dolls are now plastic and vinyl. The story of Madame Alexander parallels and diverges from the stories of Schoenhut and other male immigrants who came to the united states to make dolls. Bertha's father and grandfather had long been involved in doll-making, but the legacy was passed on to the female members of the family. They, in turn, networked and made connections in the same way that male doll makers did, and were successful in an industry that was once a man's world. Also interesting is the fact that Bertha, or "Madame" as she came to be known, made several dolls in her own image, wearing replicas of her trademark pink gowns.
The dolls of Jesse McCutcheon Raleigh were spring strung in a method which also employed metal. Raleigh was born in Indiana in 1881. In 1917, she began making a few dolls and toys, including "The Wise Pig" bank. Her dolls were made of composition and were jointed. They represented either babies or children and had painted or sleeping eyes (Whitton in Doll Reader Magazine, 78-79). Also, the Raleigh company made a series of figurines called "The Good Fairy" which were cast in different materials, including silver and bronze. Similar to these are pewter figures created by a company called Memories in Pewter.
Grace Bliss Stewart, another woman doll making entrepreneur, designed the Good Fairy figurines for Raleigh. Artist Josephine Kerm modeled it. Italian workmen were then hired to make molds. Then, the good Fairy was cast. These figurines stand about ten inches with a base twelve inches in circumference. They were very popular and there were "Good Fairy" clubs all over the world. Helen Keller, who loved dolls and figurines from childhood, owned one of the Good Fairies, and said of it, "I feel its smile like a sunbeam in my darkness" (78).
Another famous and unusual composition doll of this period that had tin eyes was the "Fly-Lo" Baby created by Grace Storey Putnam (Anderton 118). Putnam had great success with another doll, the Bye-Lo baby, modelled after a three day old infant. After four, desperate years of trying to market the doll herself, Putnam approached George Borgfeldt (Coleman II 966). The doll became an overnight success during the mid 1920s and made Putnam a wealthy woman. Putnam's story is remarkable because, unlike some of the other doll makers mentioned, including Bertha Alexander, she had not knowledge of the doll making industry, no contacts, and no commercial experience. Her own creativity and persistence paid off.
Celluloid dolls could also have metal parts. Alexander Parkes (1813-1890) is credited with inventing celluloid, originally called Parkesine (Percy Reboul in Ward 9). Celluloid is a type of nitrated cellulose that can closely resemble ivory, but is much more durable. The Minerva Doll Company made celluloid as well as metal ones. Companies in France, England, Japan, and the United States did the same. Celluloid dolls often employed metal parts in their make-up, too. One of these was the Parsons-Jackson baby, whose joints were held together by wire springs (White, World, 231).
Talking dolls and mamma dolls from the nineteenth century on had metal voice boxes implanted in their bodies. From 1923-27, many doll's voices were made by the Art Metal Works (Coleman 1010). One doll in the author's collection, the size of a two-year old child, even has a phonograph mechanism implanted in its body. When one turns the handle, the doll plays music.
Many walking dolls have metal knee joints, and, in some examples, metal torsos. One of these is the Nunn walking doll. The patent for this doll was taken out on November 15, 1922, No. 186,232. The doll had metal spring hinges at the knee joints on legs attached with pivot joints so that they moved freely with the body. Supposedly, Queen Mary admired these dolls at the Wimbley Exhibition held in London in 1924 (Spinning Wheel 197).
Kewpie dolls, inspired by Cupid and designed by illustrator Rose O'Neill of Branson, Missouri, were made in metal molds or had metal parts. Formanek-Brunell in Made to Play House calls O'Neill "an internationally recognized artist, writer, and Greenwich Village Bohemian" (117). Kewpies first appeared in women's magazines in 1909, in materials ranging from "china to chocolate" (117). By World War I, Formanek-Brunell claims that the Kewpies were the most popular characters "in American popular culture until Mickey Mouse" (117). Rowena Ruggles, most famous biographer of O'Neill, tells of a metal master mold in the collection of a woman from Downers Grove, Illinois. This mold once belonged to Joseph Kallus, who sculpted the Kewpies in vinyl for the Cameo Doll Company (Ruggles 28-30). The author recently saw a mold for a three inch Kewpie at a doll show near Chicago. Kewpies were also cast in gold or silver for jewelry (30). California artist Morgan Fisher made silver Kewpie earrings ten years ago. Heavy cast metal banks representing Kewpies and metal candy molds have also been found in collections.
Manufacturer like O'Neill shared a child-centered agenda according to Fromanek-Burnell (118). They were not, like their male counterparts, only interested in the process. O'Neill and other women designing dolls felt "freed from tradition and convention" (118). O'Neill created her dolls from drawings and original representation of children (118). Many modern doll makers like Annette Himstedt, whose elaborate vinyl dolls employ metal in their joints, follow her lead and create dolls from sketches drawn of real children. The Kewpies were more than portraits of infants, however. They were totally unfettered spirits, and had wings (118). O'Neill's new ideas about gender influenced modern trends in Kewpie cartoons. The Kewpies were comfortable wearing no clothing, or representing Suffragettes (118). Kewpies "mothered" orphans (119), but also represented contemporary politics. One Kewpie even wears a Kaiser helmet. Formanek-Brunell argues, though, that male manufacturers, once they had her designs, changed O'Neill's vision, so that Kewpie dolls, meant to be androgynous, began to be dressed like little girls.
Other novelty dolls, similar to the Kewpies, that employ metal parts are dolls made for holidays such as Halloween and Christmas. Many angels made in Germany or Japan during the forties and fifties have metal halos and metal wings. Some have heads made of glass mercury balls dipped in metallic paint. Even doll ornaments of blown glass, like those by Christopher Radko, are blown with the use of metal rods.
After Christmas, most agree that the most decorated holiday is Halloween. Many Halloween character dolls of the 1920's had parts made of metal. An unusual example is a jack-o'lantern windup clown, circa 1920. This doll has a cardboard, or papier maché type head painted like a grinning pumpkin. He has metal legs and feet, and wears an orange clown suit, with orange pompons, a green ruffle at the neck, and an orange and green clown hat. So rare is this doll, especially in good condition, that it recently fetched $2100 at auction (Wenzel 45). Another windup pumpkin clown wears a white ruffle, and green Leder Hosen, as if he were from Germany or Switzerland. He, too, has metal parts in his mechanism, and is rare. He also dates from 1920 (Wenzel 44). More mechanical holiday dolls are discussed in the automata chapters and in the chapter on modern dolls.
Largely because of its durability and flexibility, metal became a popular material to use for making doll parts. Certainly, doll makers of both genders had an interest in providing products that were versatile and would withstand rough childplay. Yet, perhaps Formanek-Brunell and others have a point that male doll makers chose metal and other hard substances because these materials provided an "outlet for the skills the inventors themselves possessed" (45).

88. Left to Right: Cast iron figural bank, replica of early twentieth century piece, 8 inches. Iron Asian incense burner, lid to box opens. 1920s. (Author's collection).

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Doll Stories

Today was a beautiful, clear day. I sat in my newly-washed and dried lawn chair and looked at everything around me turning green. The violets are blooming; I love the white ones more than any other flowers, I think. I held a half full bottle of water in my hand, and even though it was plastic, the wind sang through it as it blew. It was a magical day. Below are a couple of excerpts from a book I'm writing that contains doll stories. I hope everyone enjoys them. I learned some more about museums and antiques and nonprofit organizations today from a gentleman who is a real expert in the field, and very generous person as well. Thank you, if you are reading this blog, or even if you are not! Enjoy:

From: Dolls who Tell Stories:
The Earthquake Doll: One of my claims to fame is that I lived through the 1989 Loma Prieta Quake. I was living in San Jose, California at the time, and working as a research attorney for Santa Clara County Superior Court. I’ll never be able to forget some of the images of the quake. At first, I though I’d blown all my tires at once on I-280; the car was veering wildly right to left, and I couldn’t control it for several seconds. Seconds that seemed to me like an eternity, until I managed to pull off to the side. The huge metal signs and trees that lined 280 were dipping to the ground. It was dark, though it was not barely 5 pm and Daylight savings time had not occurred. I thought of Revelations and Judgment Day, and of movies I’d seen depicting the Crucifixion, where everything suddenly went black, and thunder boomed from the sky. When I realized it was a quake and turned on the radio, the DJ’s were playing “Shake, Rattle, and Roll.” No one knew there had been casualties.

That night, the Chronicle made its deadline through operating by candlelight. Street people up and down the Monterey peninsula were directing traffic because all of the traffic lights were out. California drivers, known for being daring and reckless, even for playing “chicken” with out of state drivers, were subdued, even polite at every intersection. When I finally made it home, my Uncle Jim, [I lived with my Aunt and Uncle], said it had been like Poltergeist in the dining room. The china cabinets had flown open; dishes and knick-knacks flew everywhere. He couldn’t get his balance long enough to shut the doors. He could only duck. Our little Lhasa Apso, Tiger, was the only one not affected. He spent the quake lying on the patio, his head resting on the stoop. This was how Tiger spent most days. He didn’t get upset unless the cats tried to eat his food. My friends at the courthouse, where we worked in the basement, gave similar accounts, only heavy law books were flying from the shelves and people were ducking for cover. The whole situation gave a new meaning to the term to throw the book at someone.

Places in Los Gatos, where I had been the week before, were leveled. The store where I had bought a four room, small, unfinished doll house was gone, as was the antique store where I had coveted a miniature iron maiden. It was perfect for the haunted doll house I was making. I didn’t buy it for the expense, and now it was part of rubble. Lily Wong’s in Santa Cruz would operate out of a tent before it finally went out of business. The World Series came to a stand still, and Joe DiMaggio stood in line at the Red Cross to find out if his elderly neighbor was safe.

We had aftershocks for days after, and six months to the day of the October quake, on the anniversary and exact time of the 1906 quake, we had another good shaking. Friends and family called from everywhere; we all knew someone affected, and some had their homes condemned. For a few days, people could call us, but no one in Northern California, it seemed, could call out. Anywhere.

At home, my porcelain dolls had somehow survived. One was a veteran of the 1906 Quake, a china head that still bore the burns and scars of her ordeal. She stands about three feet tall, and has been cleaned-up and restored. I first saw her at the San Jose Doll Show, several months before the 1989 Quake. I tracked her down to her store, Indiana Antiques, once an institution that advertised in another institution, Hobbies Magazine.

Before life and expenses got hold of me, I wanted to buy as many good antiques as I could. My mother had taken me to Indiana Antiques several times, and I managed to find a small doll or two. The were expensive, terribly so, and the elderly couple seemed amused by the little girl with the braids who only wanted antique dolls. The place was a veritable museum, with French fashion dolls, German characters, china heads of all types, Frozen Charlottes, and other rarities. So expensive were the dolls, that my Uncle Jim was on a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding one small bisque French baby that went home with me one Christmas when I was thirteen.

Now, I was much older, and earning my own money. The Earthquake Doll was still at the shop. I knew I had to have her, though at the time, before the Quake, I didn’t know why. The sales woman was not the owner. She was herself elderly, though stylish, chatty, friendly, but had to breathe through a tracheotomy. She told me the story of the doll, and of the former owner of the shop. The later owner died tragically at age 46. Her parents were the elderly couple I used to see. Apparently, by now, only her father was left. There daughter’s early death had devastated them, but in her memory, they kept the shop going. The dolls had once been her private collection. She grew up, and decided to have a dolls store to finance her growing and ever more expensive hobby. The Earthquake Doll had a china head, hands, and high-heeled feet. Her hair was once black, and molded in the common “low-brow” curly style of the most common heads. She was burned to a coppery, iridescent shade, and had cracks from the fire. She wore a brown calico dress, and stood on a home-made, but clever stand made of copper tubing. She has traveled extensively since I bought her in 1988, and she survived several more earthquakes. She had her own book telling the story of the 1906 quake. I often wonder if the little girl who originally owned her nearly 100 years ago survived. Like so many of my old dolls, I wish she could talk. Did her owner hold her in her arms while she ran for safety? Was she burned in the rubble of some house destroyed in the fire that followed the quake? I’ll probably never know, but to me, she stands a silent memorial to everyone who died and suffered in both quakes.

More Disaster Dolls – The Chicago Fire Doll: Perhaps because they are made in our image, there is something poignant about dolls that have been involved in disasters. By now, many have seen the doll head that rests on the floor of the Titanic wreck; it was even portrayed in the movie. In fact, the entire doll has been reproduced, and I have examples of the Titanic dolls as they were portrayed by actors in the hit film. Footage of Chernobyl after the nuclear disaster shows a row of abandoned dolls, still sitting in a house vacated because of radioactive contamination. Even the hit show Law and Order SVU includes a burned doll in its credits to emphasize the piquant sadness of its theme.

The Chicago Fire of 1871, supposedly started, at least in song, by Mrs. O’Leary’s hapless cow, lives in infamy as one of the worst urban disasters to befall the United States. One small wooden doll in my collection is supposed to have been a survivor of the fire. The doll is all wood, and was jointed. Her face and hair are carved, and she is charred, as though burned. Her lower limbs and clothes are missing. My mother bought her more than 16 years ago from now defunct Antique America, one of the largest antique malls in the Midwest. The dealer attached a tag to the doll, which she still wears, stating she was refugee from the 1871 fire, She is about ten inches high, or would be, had she her legs. She has no clothing, and is jointed with metal springs, similar to the famed Joel Ellis dolls of Springfield, Vermont. I call her Ms. O’Leary for obvious reasons. She is one of several dolls I have that have been burned, or otherwise buried and abused, only to be dug up later, restored to a point, and given a place in my collection. One day, I may dress her, but she has a quiet dignity, even in her present state. When I take her to lecture, the audience reveres her in awe, amazed that something so tiny and flammable could survive such a terrible disaster.

The Doll in the Coffin: Dolls and Halloween go hand in hand. Dolls in preserved in glass cases have decorated children’s graves all over the United States. Some of my antique dolls have the names, birth, and death dates of the little girls who once owned them written on their backs. Early memento mori photos show dolls lying in the arms of dead children, and graves in many cemeteries are decorated with toys, dolls, and angel statutes. In fact, when Prince Albert died in England, the doll wore black. Morbid as it seems, I love Halloween and all its accoutrements, almost as much as I love dolls. In fact, my dolls often dressed and went trick-or-treating with me. When my mother made me a gypsy outfit, based on a painting by my Uncle Tom, her brother, who attended the School of the Art Institute, my Effanbee Suzie Sunshine went with me dressed as a gypsy. I was five. The next year, my mother sewed an amazing Raggedy Ann outfit. She made striped leggings from an old top of mine because we couldn’t find the right tights. My Raggedy Ann doll went with me that year to the parade at school. I still have the plastic mask. The photos we have show a very realistic looking costume. Both the gypsy and raggedy outfits are now on large dolls. The gypsy outfit adorns a life-sized Betsey McCall rag doll I made in 8th grade Home Economics class with Ms. Schultz. I got an A+ for her. My little dog killer did not like her; indeed, he would often try to bite her foot.

The Raggedy Ann dress is on a life sized vinyl walking doll my Uncle Tom brought for me. She wears my baby shoes. More about her later.

Soon, I was collecting witch dolls, Halloween die cuts, paper dolls, masks, costumes, figural candles, plastic and papier mache jack-o-lanterns, anything that had a face or body connected with Halloween. I make my own Halloween cut-outs, and in sixth grade, made my own of Anne Boleyn, headless and walking in despair. I have dozens of models of the Universal Studios monsters, mechanical figures of the Bride of Frankenstein, the Monster himself, Dracula, the Wolfman, the Cryptkeeper, you name it. I’ve looked for Asian demon figures, devils, Dia de Muertos skeletons and sugar skulls, and I even have a three foot mechanical skeleton bride named Ophelia. She sings Billy Idol’s “White Wedding” and has her own accessories, including some of my jewelry. I have several versions of the Munsters and the Addams family, doll guillotines, a doll electric chair, even one version of Wednesday Addam’s headless doll, Marie Antoinette. One of my most treasured possessions is the severed head of one of Dracula’s vampire brides. There are light-up Grim Reaper dolls in my house, as well as Elvira Mistress of the Dark Dolls, and life-sized monster cut outs that advertise beer. I have Elizabeth Bathory in her bathtub of blood, Jack the Ripper, Dr. Frankenstein in his Lab, Living Dead Dolls, Crypt Kiddies, Maurice Sendak monsters, skulls, skeletons, even Halloween Barbie dolls. I have at least one full-sized haunted doll house, and all kinds of figures from The Nightmare Before Christmas. I covet my friends Dept. 56 light-up haunted houses, and I have some that “scream” and thunder, as well as one labeled “Vampire Attorney” office. There are even several voodoo dolls in my collection, but their story comes later. There is a life-sized paper cut out named Fredericka that I painted in lavender lingerie, and skeleton figures I raku’ed to make them more spooky. I have mummies, and small sarcophagi even some real Ushabti, charms and talisman dolls of all types, ancestor figures, fertility dolls, cornhusk dolls, anything connected with the occult and spirit world. I wanted a six foot cardboard skeleton in its own coffin to put in my garage window to face my Holier than Thou neighbors, but my Dad drew the line. In short, I love Halloween, all year long.

The strangest “memento mori” doll I have is the dried apple doll lying in her own coffin. The doll represents an elderly woman, and she is dressed in white. She lies on white coverings, and has a pillow. Her “coffin” is a leather box with a hinged lid. It is also lined in white material, perhaps muslin. Her eyes are tiny black glass beads, her hair gray. It could be real. The dealer I bought her from told me she had been made many years ago to explain a grandmother’s death to the mourning grandchildren. She is about eleven inches long, coffin and all. She goes well with some shroud scraps I have that came from an Illinois woman’s last fitting, as it were, dated 1898.

Smokey’s Dinosaur: Unlike Killer, my first dog, Smokey, our Benji mix, was indifferent. There were a few he was fond of; he liked dragging around some of the antique dolls but didn’t hurt them, and he liked to chew the shield of one of my nutcrackers when he was teething. Smokey was very fond of two large white Teddy Bears, and I had to move them. He liked to drag them around the house. I finally bought him his own small one. He liked chewing on its nose. I always said, “Smokey, where’s your baby? Don’t chew his nose; you aren’t a good Daddy!” There was one doll Smokey was very fond of. I had a silk-screened T-Rex pillow Smokey liked to sleep on. It was the right height for his little head. Smokey would often be asleep, but when he sensed me coming, he would lift his head, eyes still closed, so I could slip the T-Rex under him. When he died of a stroke at 14, we buried T-Rex with him. It seemed like the right thing to do.

Killer’s Dolls: My first dog, Lord Byron, aka, Killer, was a miniature poodle/Scotty mix. He was very small, with black, curly fur. He hated all dolls and was very jealous. He is the culprit who gnawed Betsey McCall’s foot, and one day, he had my 2 foot Raggedy Ann doll caught in a death grip. He was shaking her by the throat, oblivious to all else going on around him. I often had to rescue tiny dolls from him, and even stuffed dogs, like my giant boxer, were not safe. He had his own squeaky monkey, and slept with some of my stuffed animals when I was very little. I still have him. If FDR could keep Fala’s toys, I can keep Killer’s. One day, my mother and I had come from a doll show. We had done particularly well, and had spread the dolls out on my bed to get a better look. We heard the door creak open; there was Killer. We expected him to jump in the middle of the dolls as he usually did, asserting himself as Alpha dog. Instead, he ran out again, returning with the monkey. This time, he did jump in the middle of the dolls, squeaking the monkey gleefully, as if to say, “see, I have one, too!!”

Violet’s Doll Head: There are some people we meet in life who transcend labels like family, friendship, even soul mate. For me, that person was Violet Ellen Page. Violet was nearly 70 when I met her in 1974, and I was 14. I was at the Aledo, Illinois doll show, a show no longer held. Violet made dolls, and had her own collection of antiques. She liked setting up at the shows, especially with her porcelain dolls and the cloth dolls she adored making. She was super reasonable in her pricing, and very popular with everyone. My special trips when I was a teenager were to her house in Galesburg on Sanborn street. Every nook and cranny held wonderful doll secrets; I spent my allowance on antique dolls, doll parts, clothing, dishes, anything she was willing to sell. She used her earnings to buy ceramics equipment, even a little kiln. Violet even poured her own molds and created her own greenware. She could do everything. She became one of our closest friends, and my dad called her “Yia Yia,” or grandmother, in Greek. She always kept something aside for me of the things she made, always with the story “this mold didn’t pour right, I made too many arms, this dress is a little torn.” “ Would you like this to experiment on?” she would ask. We all knew she wanted to give me something, and I liked giving her small presents, too. Sometimes, when her eyes began to fail, I would embroider doll faces for her and send them to her.

Even when her health failed, we kept visiting her and sending her things. My mother and I would go to Galesburg wherever she had moved, from assisted living to nursing home, and my Dad would often drive us, too. I loved the doll heads and porcelain dolls she made; they all looked like her somehow, with her rosy complexion and flawless skin. Violet used to show me photos of herself when she was very young, and she was beautiful and blonde, with a sweet smile. We were destined to be friends, since her middle name was “Ellen.” She had four boys, so there was really no one to love her dolls. Just me, really. Her other grandchildren, nieces, and daughters in law weren’t that interested in her dolls or antiques.

Violet taught me everything she knew. I learned to put dolls together, to restring them, sew, paint them. She sold and gave me books, scrapbooks, magazines. My best dolls were once hers. I wouldn’t trade anything of hers for the world, and all of them are precious to me, especially the ones she made with her own hands.

She died at nearly 96 in August 2001. It was one of the saddest times in my life. It’s hard to believe even now she is dead. To the end, her mind was sharp and clear. She told poignant stories of life in the nursing home, especially of one old lady with Alzheimer’s who wanted to call her mother to come and get her out of the home. Violet used to say, “you know, one day I’m going to give her a quarter. It might make her feel better.” I used to say Violet was 96 going on 18. Three days after 9/11, about one month after her death, I was at the Stark County Scenic Drive. Visiting the fall scenic drives was a tradition in my family. This year was almost unbearably sad because of Violet’s death and because of 9/11. I was wandering in a park flea market at one of the stops. I walked to the furthest dealer, not really knowing why. He didn’t seem to have any dolls. I’d bought things from him before, but I wasn’t really looking. I saw a faded doll head in his case. He said it was $2.00, so I bought it. The doll head was of a Victorian lady, with molded curls and ornaments in her hair. She had a molded collar, and was very elegant. She was a very good price, but there was something vaguely familiar about her. On the way home, I rode in the backseat of the car. My parents were in front. I took out the head, unwrapped it, and turned in over. Incised on the back, in Violet’s writing, was her last name, “Page.” I had a smaller version of the doll finished at home. Violet had done that one in 1966. I don’t believe in ghosts or portents of any kind, but I still think this was a sign from Violet, a message that she was alright, and that she hadn’t forgotten me, either. I take it as a sign that we really are soul mates, and that no one really dies. Rest in peace. Violet, I will always love you, and your touch will be part of every doll I make.

Mamie Bolin’s Doll Collection: My grade school was Eugene Field School. This was an appropriate name for the school I would eventually attend, because Eugene Field was himself a doll collector. His collection still exists at his home, now a Museum, in St. Louis. Perhaps because of our namesake, my principal at the school, grades K-5, Mamie Bolin, collected dolls. Miss Bolin’s collection was displayed in a special showcase at the front lobby of the school. Even driving by at night, one could see the collection against the shadows in the empty building. Miss Bolin was a sorority sister of my mother’s, and her sister, Mrs. Erma Moser, was my kindergarten teacher. My special treat was to sit in front of the glass cases and look at the fantastic dolls, many from all over the world. There must have been about 500 dolls of all shapes and sizes, many from Holland, Mexico, Spain, the Orient, and other parts of Europe. There was an antique doll in a pink dress with a composition head I was especially fond of; the doll had molded blonde hair, and may have belonged to Miss Bolin’s mother, or grandmother. My piano teacher, Miss Gladys Meurling, also had dolls, but she didn’t give them to me! Instead, she added to Miss Bolin’s collection from time to time.

Dolls were a big part of Eugene Field as it turned out. Ms. Moser had several in the kindergarten room, along with a playhouse complete with tiny pots and pans. I used to play with the larger version of Mary Hartline during recess. One day, Mrs. Moser made me throw away a doll made of crepe paper with a silk painted face. It nearly killed me! But, she was very stern about housecleaning, and I had no choice. Now, I have about 50 of this type of doll in my collection.

My third grade teacher was an awful crank, but she did like dolls, and I often got to take them to show and tell. She took us all on a tour of Miss Bolin’s dolls one day, and promised her a doll from Iran. It was the late sixties, and during the Shah’s era, so Americans could still travel freely.. .

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Mary Ann Cotton Doll?

Good Afternoon,

I am full of energy today; it is clear and beautifully sunny. I am asking the help of my readers at this point. About 30 years ago, when Lolly's Doll Museum in Galena was open, I was talking to Lolly's son about a doll called "Hanging Mary," that stood on the gallows, fell through a trap door, and hung as the British National Anthem or funeral march played. I think this may be a doll representing Mary Ann Cotton, who was a poisoner. Does anyone know where I can find a picture of this doll or information about it? Thanks, and have a wonderful day today and always.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Yeats and The Dolls

Greetings again:

Below is one of my favorite poems by William Butler Yeats, "The Dolls." He and Rilke would have been familiar with Antique dolls of bisque, wax, and china, as well as bisque French and German Characteres, art dolls, and papier mache and composition dolls:

A DOLL in the doll-makers house
Looks at the cradle and balls:
That is an insult to us.
But the oldest of all the dolls
Who had seen, being kept for show,
Generations of his sort,
Out-screams the whole shelf: Although
There's not a man can report
Evil of this place,
The man and the woman bring
Hither to our disgrace,
A noisy and filthy thing.
Hearing him groan and stretch
The doll-maker¹s wife is aware
Her husband has heard the wretch,
And crouched by the arm of his chair,
She murmurs into his ear,
Head upon shoulder leant:
My dear, my dear, oh dear,
It was an accident.

Dressed Fleas from Mexico

Ah, what a cold, wet morning. Just a brief note; if anyone knows where I can buy a very reasonable example of the Dressed Fleas from Mexico; I'd be thrilled. Kimport used to sell them. More later; busy getting ready for the Girl Scouts Program.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Excerpt Chapter 3 With Love from Tin Lizzie; A History of Metal Dolls

Below is an excerpt from my book; enjoy. Sorry I'm having some trouble aligning the epigraphs.

Chapter 3
Mechanical Dolls and Automata

We pulled our dolls along behind the bars of our crib, dragged them into the heavy folds of illness. They appeared in dreams and were tied up in the disasters of feverish nights. They did not make any effort of their own; they were lying at the edge of childhood sleep, maybe filled with rudimentary thoughts of falling off,and they let tthemselves be dreamed. Just as they were accustomed to be lived tirelessly through someone else's power during the day.
Rainer Maria Rilke, "Dolls"

The machine is a material expression of the human spirit.

G. De Reynold

Automata and mechanical dolls belong in a book about metal dolls because many of their parts, including their mechanisms, are made of metal. These are the dolls and toys of which dreams are made. They are the magnificent dancing dolls of The Nutcracker Suite, and the dancing figures of Disneyland's "It's a Small World" attraction. Though they range from simple to complex, automata have origins that date back at least to Ancient Egypt. They were particularly popular in the Middle Ages. One of the earliest attempts at making an automaton was a Medieval Nuremburg crib built to contain live birds in its base. The birds' frantic attempts to escape made the figures move (Fraser 171). Also, among the earliest automated figures were those inside the Strassburg Cathedral clocktower. A mechanism allowed the figures of the Virgin and Three Wise Men to bow while a rooster moved its head and a crow flapped its wings.
Leonardo da Vinci is said to have created some marvelous mechanical figures while at the court of Lodovico Sforza, but we know of them only through his hints and through the sketches in his notebooks. The mechanical toys of Gustavas Adolphus of Sweden, however, still exist to give us a glimpse of early automated dolls. The dolls date to 1632 and dance. They are operated by a mechanism hidden under the lady's skirt. The lady has lost her head, but her male partner is still intact. The dolls are dressed in silk and gilt lace. Other early clockwork figures from this period were operated by steel springs and were called Jacquemarts (Hillier Automata 111).
Mechanical figures were very popular by the eighteenth century and there was great competition among artisans who invented them. Some examples were not automatons; instead, they were French Court dolls made of wood with hollow heads, meant to be operated manually. The information below about these dolls comes from Jean Lotz's Internet Antique Wood Doll Gallery. These figures were clearly meant for adult entertainment and are often anatomically correct. There is a cavity in the head which opens. Former curator for the Museum of the City of New York and doll collector, John Noble, suggests that a cabbage could have been placed in the cavity as a joke. Lotz claims that the compartment could also contain miniature scenes, or tiny gifts and jewels. The author has read of example in various books that were used as spy dolls, even as late as the American Civil War. Marie Antoinette and the Princess Lamballe supposedly had an example. Considering what happened to the heads of both of these ladies, the fact that their dolls heads opened and were empty is a little ironic.
One famous doll eighteenth century doll is the Dulcimer player. Invented by Roentgen and Kintzing, it dates from 1780 and is supposed to have belonged to Marie Antoinette. The dulcimer player was so popular, that the composer Glück composed special music for her. In the author's opinion, she is the forerunner of modern computerized dolls such as Pamela, Julie, Cricket, Teddy Ruxpin, Computer Interactive Talk with Me Barbie, and others. Another doll made in 1764 appears to play the guitar. While she plays, she leans forward. As is the case with many of these early automata, a complicated mechanism that moves on a wheeled frame is hidden under her skirt.
Another famous figure is the clavichord player, circa 1774, by Jaquet-Droz. Today, this amazing doll is in the Museum of Art and History in Neuchatel, Switzerland (Valentry 71). The clavichord player actually plays the keys of her instrument, and her chest rises and falls, as though she were breathing (74). Anyone familiar with the modern Mme. Tussaud Sleeping Beauty will be amazed at the similar effect in the clavichord girl. The clavichord player was made by the now famous father and son team known primarily for being clock makers (72). According to Duane Valentry in his essay "The Impossible Dolls," it was the son, Pierre, who made the doll. He allegedly called automated doll-making his hobby and referred to it as "picturesque mechanics" (73). And, picturesque these dolls certainly are. Pierre was apparently interested in realism, and he strove to make his creations as life-like as possible (73). Valentry writes that Pierre's biggest challenge was to install the sophisticated mechanism needed to make the dolls perform into the relatively small doll bodies. Valentry says that the younger Jaquet-Droz "worked his problems out cleverly, using two sets of wheel works and devising a system that set these alternately in motion without interruption until the last gesture" (74).
Pierre's doll called "The Artist" took two years to finish; the doll can draw a rabbit, dog, and child, with the doll's eyes following each stroke of the pencil, as if it were concentrating (Valentry 74). This doll, too, is famous today. The doll has a wooden heard, torso and limbs. He wears a wig and has realistic eyes. He is approximately 27 inches high. According to Alfred Chapuis and Edmond Droz, the boy "dips his quill in an inkwell on his right, shakes it twice, puts his hand at the top of the page and then pauses" (74). Further pressure on a lever makes the mechanism move, and the boy begins to write. Today, there is a mechanic on duty to ensure that the automatons of Neuchatel will endure another 200 years (Valentry 74). The Jaquet-Droz dolls were part of an exhibit at the Smithsonian in 1961 (Fawcett 50). Accompanying them was Edmund Droz, descendant of their creator, and professor of mathematics (50).
If dolls can play instruments, draw, and breathe, then they can certainly perform everyday functions like eating and walking. Chronologically speaking, walking dolls seem to be a fairly modern development. Yet, they appeared even earlier than talking models. One engraving dated 1743 shows a doll walking across a floor as a room full of delighted people watch (Hillier DDM 113).
One interesting variation on the walking doll is a rare example pushing a three wheel carriage. One thing that makes this toy so unusual is that the maker himself provided a small doll occupant for the carriage. About eleven years ago, the author saw such a doll at a doll show in St. Charles, IL. The doll was eight inches long with a rubber head. The molded blonde hair was held back with a band in the style of Alice in Wonderland. The features were painted. A small necklace with a cross was painted around the neck. The arms were also rubber. The torso and legs were made of a series of metal links, chained together. The dress was tattered gauze that may once have been blue. In bad condition, and without the mechanism or carriage, this 1850's doll coast $500.
John Noble shows variations of this type of figure in his book, Dolls. On August 25, 1868, W.F. Godwin of East New York took out a patent, No. 81, 491, for an "automatic toy." This doll had a papier-maché head with metal hands and feet with swivel ankles. The hands were made to fit around the handle of a doll carriage that it either pulled or pushed. Originally, this doll may have belonged to the Amana Society, a religious sect that still makes its home in Amana, IA (Young 140).
Walking dolls either pushing carriages or carrying things continued to be popular through the end of the nineteenth century. Alexandre Nicholas Théroude made dolls in Paris between 1842-95 (Coleman I 614). He specialized in mechanical dolls. He advertised as early as 1843 that his dolls were sent even to the French provinces and abroad (614). In 1849, Théroude won a bronze medal at the Paris Exposition. By 1852, he was trying to make his dolls even more realistic, and received a French patent for an internal mechanism which would give his dolls sound and movement. He must have been successful, for in 1855, he won a silver medal for his efforts at the Paris Exposition (614). He also won prizes at the 1862 and 1867 London and Paris Expositions, respectively (614). All his success made him cocky, apparently, for in 1856, he began to brag he invented the "talking" doll, which is not really true. The heads of these dolls were composition, with pupil-less glass eyes, and upper and lower rows of bamboo teeth. Because of the teeth, they look as if they are baring their fangs at someone. The dolls walk by way of a mechanical device with wheels on which their feet rest (Coleman I 615).
A French Christmas toy catalog from 1875-1876 shows a small doll representing a uniformed young man mounted on a four-wheeled platform. He carries a balloon with the words "Louvre" written on it, thus advertising a famous department store of the time. His arms are full of toys, including a wrapped box, a Polichinelle clown, and a tiny toy dog. He is called in the catalog, "Le Groom Des Grands Magazine Du Louvre" (Theimer 11). In this example, the child pulled the wheeled figure on its platform to make it "walk," thereby providing the mechanism. This is probably not a true automaton, then, because no motor or mechanism allows the doll to move on its own power. One might think of the difference as one between a horse and buggy or trailer pulled by a car, and a motor vehicle of any kind which operates with its own mechanical force.

Those that Got Away!

Today is beautiful and clear, with a cool, crisp feel in the air. Yet, there are threats of tornadoes, hail, plagues of locusts, you name it looming for this evening. The hard rain last night did not kill my geranium or other plants, and there was no flash flooding, thank goodness.

Today's blog is a brief one of rather sad subject matter. Like those who fish, we who collect enjoy discussing out of some morbid, masochistic ilk, "The one's that got away!" We should all keep journals of the cliches connected with collecting, including "strike while the iron's hot," which is my favorite. Below are a few of those that "got away" from me. Don't feel too badly, though, I've found more than adequate replacements to represent them, and the hunt is always on for the next available "desired object:"

1. 16" wood and papier mache doll with molded hair and orange boots. The body was jointed at five points and all wood, the features and hair molded and painted. I was at the San Jose Doll Show about 20 years ago. The doll was a little high at the time, and came from a collection in Argentina. It was a good doll, and I've since read articles about her, though the name of the doll and brand now escape me. I went around once, as is my bad habit when considering an expensive purchase. When I returned, someone else had it in hand. It was clearly over. I was able to buy a nice china head from the Argentinian connection, but I still feel a few regrets.

2. French bisques- when I was very small; I knew what a Bru and Jumeau were by the time I was seven because I had struggled through John Noble's "Dolls." After the age of five, I could identify an antique bisque doll. I viewed my first example at now defunct Fantasyland in Gettysburg, PA. French bisques and fancy chinas were available for anywhere from $50.00 to $500.00 when I was in school, K-12. Ralph's antique dolls used to bring amazing examples to our local antique shows. I even stumped Santa one year by asking for an antique Bru, but $500.00 for a doll for a nine year old in the mid-sixties was unheard of. Ralph did have a 3" all bisque with a red haired wig, class eyes, and open mouth I fell in love with. She was dressed in a little bonnet and white christening dress. All these years, I still remember that doll.

3. Unmarked Bru of white bisque. This was an unmarked lady Bru, as pictured in Mary Hillier's "Dolls and Dollmakers." She was at the Lasalle-Peru Doll Show over thirty years ago for $95.00. Again, we didn't have enough funds.

4. Dozens of Frozen Charlottes for $5.00 each at the old Black Hawk antqiues. There was even one in a perfume bottle. I was ten and didn't ahve $5.00. We were going to return but never did.

5. German bisque dressed as red-satin Harlequin in The Old Curiosity Shoppe, now gone. I think now it was an A and M, dressed in a red-satin Harlequin type outfit without the patterns. It was $28.00, and a smaller version of the the German bisques then popular.

6. A metal head baby alleged to be a Minerva and hand-carved puppet made by the owner of the Minerva. We had, as they say, "spent our wad" on a Schoenhut, and didn't have the extra $80.00 to cover both.

7. A bone or walrus ivory faced Eskimo at the gift shop of the Peabody museum. I wrote to them, but they denied having such a thing. They did. There was a whole family of them. One would have thrilled me.

8. A closed mouth German doll, in bad shape, but with original dress. It's my fault for hesitating. I went back the next day to retreive the doll, but the owner of the Mall would not sell it to me. She claimed another dealer was buying it, but the doll was not marked sold. I never went back to that antique mall.

9. A gorgeous Marin historical doll representing a woman in a Goya portrait from Madrid. I had to buy the 14th Century doll, Jimena, because the shop owner didn't want to get the Goya doll out for me. Years later, I bought the Goya doll from a friend in Galena.

10. Bisque heads, probably German, from The Monastiraki, flea market, in Athens. We just didn't know any better.

11. Bisque headed Pierrot, probably Verlingue, Madrid 1981. It was the equivalent of $38.00, and a litte pricey for a travelling student. Again, I returned the next day. The doll was gone, but the shop keeper told me it was actually over $300.00 and sold for that amount. I know my pesetas; don't think that was correct. Also, there were handmade dolls at The Madrid Flea Market I wish I had brought home.

12. Rome 1969: There was a shop full of dolls near the Trevi Fountain. There were Furga dolls that were over three feet tall. I bought a small marioneete of Raggedy Ann and some Lenci dolls, but those big beauties stil haunt me. Nevertheless, I didn't come home empty handed from that trip! Also, there were the many gorgeous French dolls at Orly Airport. There were some that appeared to be made from Skipper molds, but they were celluloid and dressed in rich 19th century costumes. I did get some other dolls, but the whole display there was breathtaking.

But, enough "sad stories." What I learned is that there is always another doll. I don't enjoy having a doll I'm interested in snatched right out from under me, especially when one of my friends does it, but I don't collect for the competitive aspects. I always find something else I like. The moral of the story is go alone on doll hunts.

Happy Dolling! Till next time.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Thems the Breaks

It is Easter Morning 2010. We are a little cloudy, and as is, perhaps, biblically fitting, it rained on Good Friday, but there was no storm and earthquake, though Tuesday is the anniversary of the San Francisco Quake. In 1990, on April 6th, we who lived in California had aftershocks from the October Loma Prieta Quake at the very moment the 1906 quake had struck. There were still survivors alive then, and they were having a memorial and were very surprised. I have a doll from the Bay Area that allegedly survived the quake. She came from Indiana Antiques in San Jose, which used to be very well known for their wonderful dolls. Visiting them was like visiting a museum. I was lucky enough to get the Earthquake China Head, as I call her, and some other small dolls from them.

I guess when I think of earthquakes and Breaking easter eggs for good luck, which we do at church, I then think of dolls that have been cracked or broken, but that still serve a purpose. Of course, I have dolls with real eggs for heads. They are delicate, and have to be watched carefully, lest they really "crack up," but some are now forty years old, and they are hanging on fine. My mother and I also collected Ukrainian eggs and other fancy decorated eggs. We loved the ones with scenes in them, and I used to love to paint designs a la Tasha Tudor on them. We started making Easter trees from branches when I was in kindergarten, and we never really stopped. My friend Bev in San Jose made spectacular Easter trees at work, decorated with almost every type of egg design imaginable. She made almost all of them, then shared her leftover materials with me. Her trees were about five feet tall with lights and surrounding scenes. Mine were strictly table top variety, but I loved the lights and little wooden ornaments.

Small doll heads that are either broken at the neck or badly cracked have proved to be very popular with mixed media artists and collage artists. I love to use them, too,and have made some into pins and jewelry for the last 20 years. I have a barrette decorated with Frozen Charlottes in various stages of disrepair that is charming, but I'm too afraid to wear it. The trouble with this kind of art is I can never find a good, strong glue for everything!

When the Wall came down in Germany, many of the old doll factories came to light again. According to Puppentour and many witnesses, there were discarded heads and shards from bisque dolls lying on the ground. Tour guides allowed them to scoop up as many as they could carry. Maybe it's a good thing I wasn't there. I fear I would have a nervous breakdown trying to gather them all, and then would never clear customs. I'd have to mortgage everything to ship them home, etc. More likely than not, many of these were purchased at reasonalbe rates. Many are showing up on eBay and Etsy and they are selling well.

Mom and I loved our little "broken heads," and headed out for many an antique show and doll show to find them. Some came from old dumps, and were dug up by bottle collectors. In grad school, I met a minister who used to dig them up for a hobby. From him I bought many, many treasures, including some very nice old bottles and nearly complete china dolls. Another young, innocent guy told me that he sold and gave some to his mother or aunt, who then made them into dolls and sold them for "thousands," well, thousands of pennies, maybe.

Still, I've seen the prices of damaged but fixable heads climbing recently, probably because of the craft market for them. One dealer in Alto Pass, IL, didn't sell his shards and fragments. Instead, he used them fill wall space he had created with plexiglass. He was surrounded with them. Anyone who has seen "How to Make an American Quilt" remembers the walls in Anne Bancroft's "infidelity" room where she plastered heads of figurines she smashed into her wall to remind her husband of how unfaithful he had been.

We bought our first damaged doll head in Gilroy at the flea market, and my mom called her "the little burned head" because it was obvious she had been in a fire. She was a small A and M 370, as many of these are. We dressed her in Victorian eyelet with leg o'mutton sleeves and a wig of long, red banana curls. We found her small, grey glass eyes, and were realy thrilled with her. Another time, we found a Small, French head with pierced ears along with a wooden frame for a body, an old cloth body with limbs, and a pair of arms. I got at least three dolls out of that cache.

I want to have a museum display devoted to these "fabulous fragments" as I call them, and that will be the name of my Museum Gift Shop. I have been collecting unusual figurine heads as well, and unusual hand carved limbs and cast lead arms. It sounds goulish, but no more so than any good doll hospital. I always loved fixing dolls, though I'm just an amateur. These little fragments let me have an example of a great antique doll that I could otherwise not afford, and let me learn about making and repairing dolls, too. I picked up a carved Milliner's model this way, a fragment of a Jumeau fashion head with the red label stamped on the back intact, JDK Hilda [2 of them, one not broken], several more French heads, many rare and beautiful china heads, including a lady with a snood, and a whole dynasty of Frozen Charlottes, some very large. Carl Fox likened these little Charlotte fragments to the Venus of Willendorf figures, the 40,000 year old artifacts which are really the first dolls.

Over the years, I loved taking them out and rebuilding shoulder plates with plaster, and sometimes filling in "ouchies" with Play Dough or sculpey. My mom was very good at dressing them with hand knitted or crocheted outfits, or sewing of the smallest design. I learned from my friend Violet how to make bodies, and even to restring, though I could never get the same tension she could. I used to make wigs out of goats wool [Dr. Scholl's] and craft hair which got very elaborate. We dressed one old china head like Lady Macbeth, and another like Boadicea. Violet, who loved me like her own grand daughter, used to give me the "mistakes" from her kiln because in part, she liked to see what I could do with them. I used waterbased paints on some that have held up now for nearly forty years.

So, never underestimate or ignore "lucky breaks." They are a great way to teach kids about antique dolls and doll repair, and for collectors who hav a little bit of Beth March in them, they are a wonderful hobby in themselves.

I hope everyone has a blessed Easter. I hope to add a few doll stories next.