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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chapter 2 Toy Soldiers from my Book; With Love from Tin Lizzie: A History of Metal Dolls, Dolls with Metal Parts and Mechanical Dolls

Chapter 2
Toy Soldiers

In the First World War soldier dolls and tin
soldiers sometimes served in the chauvinistic and militant training of the young. The spirit of war
entered the nursery.
Manfred Bachman
Dolls the Wide World Over

Millions of children throughout the centuries have enjoyed fighting mock battles with toy soldiers. Little boys and girls have long saved their pennies and pocket money to buy small figures of lead and tin with which to people their dreams of heroism nd glory. In fact, the Brontë children's earliest literary endeavors were stories that they wrote about a set of toy soldiers that belonged to Branwell Brontë. Much has been written about the dangers of war toys, including soldiers. Yet, all the criticism does not seem to quell interest in them. One wonders why this is so; recent films including Apocalypse Now, The Killing Fields, Platoon, and Saving Private Ryan have accurately, perhaps too accurately, portrayed the horrors and senselessness of war. In the same light, many novels like Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage and Wilfred Owen's poem "Dulce et Decorum" have also done much to debunk the romanticism of a soldier's life. Yet, children still adore toy soldiers. Some may claim that playing with war toys is cathartic because such play allows children to act out their aggressions in harmless settings, while others may seek to foster courage and patriotism through soldier play. One need only think of Lovelace's famous poem, "To Lucasta on Going to War" and its famous line, "I could not love thee so, dear, loved I not honor more."
At least one teacher I know who is an expert in children's literature has implied that war games, and even violent play, are an innate part of childhood. She has observed that, even if one takes away all toy guns from a little boy, he will chew a peanut butter sandwich into a gun, point it, and shout, "Bang! Bang!" Whatever the reason for their existence, however, toy soldiers, particularly of metal, are here to stay, and are more popular than ever.
The earliest model soldiers were probably made of wood. They represented Prince Ensah's guard and date to the twelfth Egyptian Dynasty, 2000 B.C. Like other dolls, the early toy soldiers were not meant to be toys. Rather, they accompanied their deceased owners to the underworld. One historian has said that model solders were not really popular in the Ancient world, (Alberini 5), but he then cites a Roman legionary made of tin from the Imperial Epoch (6). Also, a fifteen inch bronze model of an equestrian survives from ancient Greece. Flat lead soldiers existed in Rome in the third century A.D. The most famous model soldiers of recent times are probably the life-sized army of Chinese figures which numbered in the thousands and once adorned an emperor's tomb. These are currently reproduced as clay miniatures and may be purchased in many import and specialty stores.
As toys, model soldiers first appeared in the Middle Ages (Fawcett 215). Of these, Leslie Gordon has said that "[e]xcept for the ancient 'magic' doll, it is possible that the toy soldier, who made his first appearance in Europe in Medieval times, was the first doll to be made of metal" (43). Some of these soldiers may have had model accessories and buildings. For example, there is a four inch wooden model of the Bloody Tower of the Tower of London which may have belonged to the Little Princes murdered there. One author speculates that this model had little figures, perhaps made of metal, to go with it (Garrat 12). Such a concept is not hard to envision; even ancient dolls had tiny dishes and other accessories with them, and companies like Playskool and Lego, manufacturers of educational playthings, make toy castles complete with knights and guards.
Interest in toys that teach is not unique to our centuy. In the fifteenth century, historical model soldiers first appeared. Marie d' Medici is supposed to have had silver toy soldiers made for her son, Louis XIII (Alberini). As an adult, Louis supposedly melted them down to fund his wars (6). Bronze-cast tournament toys existed as early as 1490 and the Kunst Historiches Museum in Vienna has several examples. Also, the toy museum in Salzburg has a large collection of toy soldiers and model figures. One group represents five members of the ski patrol. They are complete to their clubs, rifles and ski poles.
Another group from the Salzburg Museum represents an open carriage with two, well-dressed passengers. The driver and his groom wear plumed helmets and the horse are white. The entire piece is well- painted and appears to be beautifully preserved. Still another interesting arrangement represents a group of jockeys. Part of the display includes dice, coins, and other paraphernalia of gambling. In the background is a flier explaining the steeple chase.
Some of these early soldiers and models were breathtaking in detail. One incredibly intricate lead musketeer is French and dates from about the time of Henry IV. It stands three inches (Garrat 13). At Cluny are two Medieval knights made of tin. Some of the Cluny soldiers were worked in gold and silver decorated with enameled bronze (Harris 8). A similar ship with soldiers in the Victoria and Albert Museum is German in origin. One of these ships represents Charles V and his court moving on deck (8).
By the early sixteenth century, some model and toy soldiers were on rollers and held miniature lances. The eighteenth century discovery of alloys facilitated the manufacture of toy soldiers (Alberini 7). Now, other metals could be mixed with the inexpensive tin to make a variety of goods. Standardized uniforms also came into use. As a result, the figures could be mass produced. Early boxed sets were sold unpainted by military unit in wooden boxes. They came in weights of 1 lb, 1/2 lb and 1/8 lb. Each kit contained from twenty to 150 soldiers (7). It is difficult to determine which manufacturer made these early soldiers because they were made before registration laws existed. Some manufacturers, however, marked their figures with initials (White 58).
Apparently, Frederick the Great inspired the creation of model soldiers in England (Hillier APOT 70). One early version was a "flat soldier," 30 mm in height (70). This height became standard for one maker, Henrichsen of Nuremburg, and was gradually adopted by others (70). Heinrichsen's sets included well-written histories to educate children (70).
In France, Ronde-Bosse created solid, three-dimensional soldiers in the eighteenth century (Alberini 7). Lucotte produced lead soldiers in 1789. Other sets came in elaborate boxes with the trademark CBG for Cuberly, Blondel and Gerbveau. This trademark is still used today. The Napoleonic sets wrapped in cellophane are popular.
Interesting and amusing stories about toy soldiers abound. the most famous is, perhaps, Hans Christian Andersen's "The Brave Tin Solder." Webster's play The Duchess of Malfi mentions toy soldiers as does Ben Jonson's The Devil is an Ass. Furthermore, in her memoirs, Catherine the Great discusses how the Czar Peter played with his model soldiers when he was Grand Duke (Harris 12). Some of these were lead (12). Supposedly, Napoleon used toy soldiers to plan battle strategies (Wenham Museum Collection 81). Some of his soldiers have been exhibited at the Coopers Union in New York. Also, a goldsmith named J.B. Odfiot is said to have made toy soldiers for Napoleon's son in 1812 (811).
Because of their popularity in the nineteenth century, old sets of soldiers were often forged. There is one anecdote of a dishonest shopkeeper who threw new solders made in the Medieval style in the Seine, then fished them out to sell as antique
(Alberini 6).
The historical archives of Barcelona, Spain, have a variety of metal figures and soldiers made from nineteenth century molds. These include dancers and figures in costumed, religious figures, etc. They are platy, painted in bright colors (Galter 498). The Salzburg Toy Museum has a large collection of unpainted, flat figures.
In 1820, William Britain devised hollow metal soldiers. This development was quite an innovation because now, more and cheaper soldiers could be produced, and more could afford them (Alberini 8). The United States contributed to the popularity of hollow soldiers by beginning to sell kits with molds and ready-yo-paint soldiers (Wenham Museum Collection 81). American poet Robert Lowell describes an amusing childhood incident were he convinced a friend with a fantastic collection of model lead soldiers to trade whole battalions of them for his own crude, papier maché models.
A variety of metal soldiers are still made. Several years ago, the television show "Falcon Crest" even had a character with a whole collection of them. A 1965 Hauser catalog shows of variety of soldiers, animals and fairy tale figures done in the style of the older, three-dimensional models. All, however, are plastic. The cover of the catalog shows a smith hammering with a red-hot iron on an anvil. The latest movie to star Robert DeNiro, Ronin, features an enviable collection of Japanese samurai lead soldiers.
Furthermore, Helmet Kranks of Salzburg has created an incredibly detailed model of an armoured general, circa 1580, in papier maché, wood, leather and metal. Every feather in his helmet is in place and his real sword rests properly in its tiny scabbard (Garrat52). The author's favorite model soldier are those of English artist Russel Gammage. His Gauls, Celts and Barbarians are complete with long hair awash in lime, long moustaches, breeches and colorful tunics. The Gauls lean against their long shields, arms crossed in defiance. They look as if they are awaiting further orders. These life-like figures are interesting to compare with the original Celtic bronze idols made centuries before. Gammage is a trained artist who used to design figures for the firm of Graham Farish (89). These lead models have influenced current action figures like the Spawn series by Todd McFarlane. Many of these are also created in cold cast resin, but are painted in the colors and traditions of the old metal soldier. McFarlane Toys also insists on paying great attention to detail, so that figures like Cosmic Angela are near-perfect miniatures with life-like dimensions. These "soldiers," however, recreate in three dimensions characters from old comic strips based on Celtic and Medieval Epics. Hence, the Spawn figures, and other dolls like them, allude to the Celtic Warrior Queens like Cartimandua and Boadicia.
If warrior queens and women soldier figures are popular as collectibles, one has to observe that many of the artists who design and create them are also women. Women also collect toy soldiers. Two are Kathleen Ball Nathaniel and Mme. Fernande Metayel, Paris. Mme. Metayel is an outstanding artist who took-up painting models after the deaths of her husband and father. She has won many honors for her work (Garrat 77). Margaret Cruikshank, who started the Mystery Doll Club, a mail order club where girls received a kit for dressing dolls from foreign countries, collects dolls in military dress. The author, too enjoyed toy soldiers when young and remembers playing nurse to the fallen plastic models of a childhood friend. He relegated her to this position because "she was a girl." A noted collector and doll author, Mary Hillier, has similar memories. Another time, the author rescued and reclaimed a number of tiny, red plastic revolutionary patriots from t he gravel of a friend's drive way where they had been abandoned. Aramis men's cologne offered lead British guards as a Christmas promotion in 1988. Other figures in lead were made by the same companies, but they represented other people besides soldiers. The author has figures dating from the forties which once belonged to her uncle. One is of a tiny farm woman. In her molded left arm, she holds a basket, but her right arm is separately jointed and swings back and forth. The author also has older figures representing comedian Charlie Chaplin and Abraham Lincoln. These remain unpainted. Many painted models from the forties and fifties of this century represent Native Americans of various tribes in different poses, horses, Civil War soldiers, and Arabs and their Steeds, the latter, perhaps, in tribute to Lawrence of Arabia. All these are marked "England" in embossed letters underneath their stands. For awhile, British companies painted the skin tones of their soldiers according in various shades of brown and tan, so that African soldiers were dark brown, but Greek and Turkish soldiers were light brown.
Toy soldiers, then, were among the earliest toy dolls and metal dolls. They are a colorful source of history for everyone and continue to be created to the delight of children everywhere.
Since the days they were made in metal, they have been recreated in many materials. One unusual doll in the author's collection hails from Hong King. He is a china head doll with china limbs, dressed as a British soldier. What makes him interesting is that, while his dress and painted blonde hair and blue eyes are European, his sculpted features are Asian. To the people of Hong Kong who created him, he is their portrait of the British who colonized them. Also, besides the famous G.I. Joe still made today, their are companies making historical soldiers of plastic representing Napolean, Civil War Generals Lee and Grant, George Washington, and others. There is even a set raising the flag at Iwo Jima. G. I. Joe by Hasbro has several series of soldiers, including one representing Generals Patton, Colin Powell, and MacArthur. Another doll fittingly represents Bob Hope, who entertained American Troops so many years overseas. Women are not ignored, either. Israel produces female army soldiers, and the G.I. Joe nurse is among the most desirable Hasbro figures. Recently, the company created a special edition G.I. Jane, after Demi Moore's movie. (Ms. Moore, it will be remembered, is also an avid doll collector). That dolls often echo social and political trends is apparent in the history of G.I. Joe. Betty O. Bennett writes that G.I. Joe's sales suffered during the height of the Vietnam War because of the outry against war toys (78). Before that time, G.I. Joe and his buddies were bringing Hasbro thirty-five to forty million dollars in revenue.
For those with more exotic tastes, there are female warrior figures including Lady Death, Xena Warrior Princess, The Golden Girls by Galoob, and She-Ra from Mattel's Masters of the Universe series. Ironically, many of these soldiers are static; that is, they are not mechanical, though they represent men and women who needed to be agile and in constant motion to survive in battle. The next chapters describe dolls from all "walks of life" that not only portray certain characters, but also move and even speak like them. They are the "uncanny dolls" of which Rilke and Freud wrote, and the muses of both nightmares and dreams. In short, the next two chapters discuss automata and mechanical dolls.

Tin and Metal Dolls Through History; A Special Blog Exhibit

I am including some photos of various dolls of tin and metal this time. Metal has been used for ancient dolls, including amulets and ritual figures, jewelry, badges, utensil dolls, since almost the beginning of time. Iron Age people knew the value of good metal, and golden idols are mentioned in The Bible, remember the golden calf, though not with the happiest of connotations. Ancient Sumeria, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, Etruscan regions, Asia, and America all had their figures of metal. The Benin people specialized in objects of iron and various metals. Cast iron has been wrought into toys and figural objects like door stops and book ends for centuries, too. Cellini brought us fantastic figural salt cellars, and jointed silver and gold dolls with clothes have been found buried with sacrifical victims in Peru and other places in South America. Charm dolls abound today, and companies like Juicy Couture and Betsey Johnson Feature them in their work.

One of my first metal dolls was a tiny, jointed gold bear my mother had put on my first gold charm bracelet. Tiny ballerinas, more bears, jointed fish, and pewter "Penny woodens" followed. I have trojan horse charm that opens to reveal treacherous Greeks [my ancestors, after all!], and a Cinderella pumpkin coach that opens to reveal Cinderella. I have a little house that opens with a family inside, and a mini dice table with miniscule dice in it.

Statues in the ancient world, and masks, like those of Agamemmnon and King Tut are famous.

If you follow Sadigh Gallery catalogs, you will note many artifacts detailed there that are made of bronze and iron.

I include here some photos for you all to enjoy. Thanks to my almost 600 viewers for this blog, and to the nearly 11,000 viewers who read Dr. E's Doll Museum Blog!

Merry Christmas, and Happy Hannukah!

Dr. E

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Creche Dolls, Nativities, Santons and Santons-Angels we have Heard on High

My first memories of these dolls are of the vintage 40s and 50s nativites at my Grandma's every Christmas. I fell in love with the miniatures then, and with their tiny stables strewn with miniature pieces of hay. One even played music, and it fascinated me. My first encounters with religious images were with the pictures my Uncle showed me in my childrens book of Bible stories, and of the icons we had at home and in church.

When I was about 5, and my grandparents and aunts and uncles moved, my mother took me to Woolworth, and my collection of nativities and religious dolls was born. There were bins and bins of tiny plaster figures, from one inch to six inch high, of The Holy Family, angels, shepards, The Magi, lambs, donkeys, cows, and all sorts of animals. They were made in Italy and Japan, and each year, we added to the set. I also had figures from my Grandma's nativity, and later, my babysitter gave me her first set, bought at Woolwoorths, in the early ears of her marriage, now over 70 years ago.

I became aware of the various other types of religious figures when I was 8, and received a much wanted book, The Complete Book of Doll Collecting by Helen Young, where I first saw photos of Santons de Provence, Creche dolls from all over the world, and religious jointed figures. I learned of the Neopolitan Creches and Spanish Precipios from my friend Mary Hillier and her landmark book, Dolls and Dollmakers, when I was nine. She also had antique figures made of cake and gingerbread, somehow preserved, of Ruprecht carrying off a naughty child.

It was St. Francis of Assisi who is credited with creating the first creche. This was in the 13th century, but religious figures exist from Coptic Egypt, and paitnings and sketches are even earlier. In the Catholic countries, from the time of St. Francis on, there were competitions among those who could afford them, to set up the most elaborate nativity. These were articulated dolls of gesso covered wood, carved ivory, plaster, precious metals, you name it. Some of the female dolls were built over cages like the fashion dolls of hte 13th-19th centuries made of wood and gesso. These are popular today. The child's book Maria, and The Museum of Mary Child talk of handcarved religious figures like this, often mistaken as dolls. An artist of these is featured in the excellent film The Extraordinary World of Doll Collecting, and in July Taymor's Titus [based on Titus Andronicus by Shakespeare].

Before Christianity, there were the Goddess figures, featured in our first weg exhibit, and the images that appear in early Judaism and Islam. Many of these appear in illuminations and mosaics. There are many representaitons of Buddha and asian deities, the ancient world's Greco-Roman figures and statutes, and of course, the Ancient Egyptian representation of the gods, often Ushabti. Here, are some pictures of these, of angel dolls, Santos, Indus figures, and others in the spirit of the season. There are angel museums in Beloit, WI, and many avid angel and Christmas collectors and clubs all over the world. The Metropolitan Museum's Renaissance and 18th century angels, featured on magnificent trees also have many fans.

Myself, I have more angels, Christmas dolls, and figures than I can count and I love them all. I have aobut 100 nativites from all over the world, some miniscule, others jewelry, some dolls with clothing, and of course, my Woolworth's figures that started it all.

Merry Christmas; take advantage of visiting exhibits of nativites and religious statutes, of live nativities, and of Christmas Displays set up all over. There are many wonderful sets from SERV and UNICEF, and even fantastic Gingerbread molds and hand blown ornaments. Don't overlook plaster religious statues, nite lites, or ornaments.

God Bless Us, Everyone! Peace in 2012.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Idols of Mexico

From Ancient Mexico come these images, some from a book published in 1887, now in the public domain. They are clay, and may have been set up in temples. The Emperor Monctezuma is said to have collected these and other dolls. There is a story that when Cortez came to christianize him, and showed him Santos, The Emperor told him to put his idols up on the shelf and they would be revered, true multiculutral insight on the part of Monctezuma. Some of these idols were also broken at volcanic sites, and later tourists found them there much as they find the shards of porcelain dolls in the old German doll factories today. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

U of Iowa Clay and Travel PreColumbian Artifacts

Thompson Travel and Ethnic Art Artifacts

Collection Dates: 1950s-1960s

Access and Restrictions: This collection is open for research.

Digital Surrogates: Except where indicated, this document describes but does not reproduce the actual text, images and objects which make up this collection. Materials are available only in the Special Collections Department.

Precolumbian Dolls - Gold

Figure of a Warrior
Central Mexico, Aztec, from Tetzcoco?, 14th century
after 1325 cast gold-silver-copper alloy Overall: 11.2cm x 6.1cm

Above is just one link on this topic. Dolls from the ancient Americas have been found made of cloth, precious metals, jade, precious and semi-precious stones, and clay and stone. They are written about in Anne Rice's Merrick, and the Emperor Montezuma himself is said to have had a collection of dolls.

Fragments and heads have been found with sacrifical victims, in sacred places, and in graves. In Peru, there are grave dolls of clay and woven cloth, and reproductions made of old materials abounded in the 80s. Some, like the clay doll that graced the old Kahlua adds, were jointed. One silver example, jointed, with woven clothes, was found buried with a mummy of a young girl, probably a sacrifical victim.

From the same site, on casting gold [some were done by lost wax method]:

Like wax-resist ceramics, gold working seems to have begun in Peru, perhaps as early as 1500 B.C. Knowledge of casting, hammering, repoussé, and inlay spread from Peru and possibly Colombia northward, passing through Panama and Costa Rica on its way to Mesoamerica, where it finally arrived in the 10th century A.D. These same methods are still in use today for the making of fine jewelry.

The lost wax method consisted of making a wax sculpture of the item, then covering it in a ceramic outer cover, then melting and pouring out the original wax. The gold is then poured into the ceramic and cooled. The ceramic is then removed leaving only the gold. Very complex figures can be created using this simple method.

The wax was typically bee's wax warmed to be pliable, then carved into the desired shape, then cooled in a river or water to harden and hold it's shape. The clay/ceramic used to form the mold is itself wet and soft, which helps keep the wax hard, and also allowing it to better mold to the shape of the wax. Since it is more difficult to maintain the integrity of larger pieces, often the appendages are made separately. This allows for the fine details to be created without worrying about the model being maimed or destroyed. with separate pieces, a drop or two of molten gold can be used to solder or join pieces together.

Once the wax is fully coated with clay/ceramic, it is then "fired" (hardened) in some form of a kiln or fire - this hardens the ceramic, and liquefies the wax. After the mold is hard, the wax has either burned away, or can be poured out of the mold, leaving it ready for the molten metal. This leaves a hollow where the wax was inside the ceramic. After the ceramic is cooled and ready for use. The metal is then poured into the mold, and either temper cool by immersing it in water, or allowed to air cool. After which, the ceramic is broken off the gold piece. Thus both the original design in wax, and the mold are both destroyed in the process. So each and every piece is an original and unique. Click here to visually see how this process is done.

A variation on the lost wax method is a half cast, where the cast is open and reusable (like an ice tray). This allows repeated use of the mold (under ideal conditions), but does not permit complex designs, since the design must be removable without breaking the mold. In fact, the author once used a variation on this process: caved a pattern from wood, then used plain mud (as well as raw clay) as a mold - since the pattern remained intact, this was an easily repeatable production process. While there is no factual proof that this latter process was ever used in Precolumbian times, it is nonetheless workable for simple designs. Enigmatic stone hollows found throughout the region may also have been used in this fashion.