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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Early 19th Century and the History of Paper Dolls, Part I

Now it is time to return to our doll chronology by turning to the early 19th c. We last discussed a baby house beloning to Ann Sharp, Queen Anne's goddaughter, and now can talk about some early 19th c. dolls.  Please forgive typos; I'm still battling early onset arthritis in my fingers and hands, and I am typing outside, but I do love the biting autumn chill, and these days won't be many for me. 

England, according to Loretta Holz in The How To Book of International Dolls, takes credit for being the first to produce "true" paper dolls in about 1790.  These were printed in sheets, ready to cut out, featuring the latest fashions, intended for adults.  Yet, our earliest records of China and Japan show paper dolls were used in religious rituals where images were hung on trees, perhaps during The Milky Way Festival, and sometimes thrown into bodies of water with prayers.  China, I think, also takes credit for inventing paper as we know it.

France had its pantins, even around the time of the French Revolution, and these were forbidden by law at one point per Mary Hillier and other authors, because there was fear expectant mothers playing with them would bear deformed children.  Up to the Industrial Revolution, paper was very expensive; scrap paper was kept, bought,and sold.  Early manuscripts by Cervantes, Wordsworth, Byron, Keats, and others show that the writers wrote all over the paper, then used the margins, then turned the paper over, etc.  The idea of paper toys must have seen absurd to people who had their porraits painted with their libraries to show they could afford expensive books, and who collected books if they were wealthy enough, to the point of obsession  One continental expert wanted a copy of every book ever printed up to that time.

In any case, these sheets of paper dolls came to the US by 1840, and with The History of Little Fanny and Henry, became children's toys.

Holtz writes that by the 1850s on, paper dolls of famous people were all the rage, and there are examples of Jenny Lind and Maria Taglioni in prized collections, like the former Mary Merrit doll museum collection.  If you have the auction catalog, you will be able to see for yourself.  I also recommned key word, Marilee's Paper Doll page on The Internet and books on paper dolls by R. Lane Herron, and my own Bibliography for sources.

Firms like Raphael Tuck, which was still producing greeting cards in the 1990s, began to create lithographed dolls, and commercial concerns like McLoughlin and Lion Coffee made historical dolls for the Columbian Exposition, especially of Queen Isabella and other historical figures.  By the 20s, there were many homemade dolls, like those Laura Ingalls Wilder talks about, and celebrity dolls like those of Mary Pickford became popular.  These were extremely popular between about 1930-1970, with Gone with the Wind Dolls [bought for a little friend who later wrote about her by Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia murder victim], and represented every major actress from Gene Tierney to Shirley Temple to Lucille Ball and The Partridge Family.  Many were made by an artist named Queen Holden, and others were printed by Whitman Publishing.  Three-D dolls like Barbie, Raggedy Ann, and Cheerful Tearful also had paper counterparts.  Some doll had joints, or houses, other were magnetic and had wigs.  The scouts had many varieties of paper dolls, and Lettie Lane, Dolly Dingle, and Betsy McCall began to appear in magazines. ODACA is an organization for paper doll artists, and The Paper Doll Quarterly and Paper Soldier were publications that featured them.  Many doll magazines had paper dolls, and some like Doll Castle News still feature them.

I have many, many examples in the museum, from miniatures to nearly life-sized mannikins. Some are handmade, and even done on my computer.  Virtual paper dolls exist online for doll play, and there is software for creating them.

Early 19th c. dolls were made of wax, wood, wood pulp or papier mache,and by the 1840s or so according to John Noble, china or glazed porcelain.  The so called 18th c. Nuremburg china head has turned out to be an early 20th c. Art Deco type doll, as have some rare pin cushion dolls featured in the books of Eleanor St. George.

Next time, we will talk some more about these early Georgian and 19th c. dolls and feature some pictures.

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