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Monday, August 5, 2013

19th c Folk Dolls

Our next post or two will dwell on folk dolls of the 19th century. As writings by writers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries show, collecting folk dolls and making them was a popular hobby for men and women. Some of these collectors also wrote about their doll adventures. These authors include G.Stanley Hall, 1897 A Study of Dolls, Laura Starr, The Doll Book, 1908, and Emily Jackson, Toys of Other Days, 1908/. All can still be purchased, and they should be free on Google Books. These authors talk of dolls and doll making in countries that no longer exist on the world map. Loretta Holz's How To Book of International Dolls has great information about making folk dolls, but also the history of international dolls around the world. Wendy Lavitt's American Folk Dolls is a great source, as are also The Collector's Encyclopedia of Dolls, Volumes I and II. Helen Young's The Complete Book of Doll Making and Collecting and Mary Hillier's Dolls and Dollmakers have great chapters on folk and foreign dolls. My book, A Bibilography of Dolls and Toy Sources has many entries on them, too. You can still get this book from me, or from Amazon. My book on metal dolls, With Love from Tin Lizzie, addresses folk dolls made of metal. That book is available from me or My friend, artist Jeanne O'Melia is well known for her dolls and figures made of found objects, both old and new. Godey's and other magazines of the era include ideas for paper dolls, paper dolls themselves, doll dress patterns, and doll patterns. Worsted or knitted dolls were popular at this time, and dolls made of shells for Britanny and elsewhere were popular souvenirs from about 1830 on. We have one in the museum from this era; it is of papier mache, and is covered with tiny shells of brown and white. The doll has black, inset glass eyes that do not move and stands about 9 inches. I also have a shell doll from Delphi, and many dolls from Florida and California. made of shells. Our doll house has a chaise lounge decorated in shells that was probably a Sailor's Valentine pin cushion. Sailor's Valentines are small objects often decorated with shells and bits of marine flora/fauna made on long voyages for loved ones. Scrimshaw is another example. Dried apple dolls date to the 19th century and early. We have already discussed the ancient origins of bread and gingerbread dolls on this blog and on Dr. E's Doll Museum. Dr. E's Greening Tips for the Common Person has articles on Corn Dollies from England and Europe, and other pieces and photos of folk dolls. Cornhusk and corncob dolls date from the 19th century and earlier and originated with Native American Culture. The Little House Books feature Susan the corncob doll and discuss dolls of husks and tiny twigs made of acorns. Dolls from Africa an dry climates are often made of grasses or even banana leaves. Rushes, all kinds of paper, plants and dried flowers like Holly Hocks were made into dolls and still are. Pansies look like dolls all by themselves. Small clay dolls have been made around the world for centuries, including ancient terracotta and faience dolls of Egypt, Greece, Rome, and Latin America. They also existed in Ancient China and Japan. Laura Ingalls Wilder also writes about rag dolls, and paper dolls, all home made. Lois Lenski wrote stories about a little girl who made dolls of gourds. Our local gourd fesitval boasts examples made as large, jointed dolls, all made of gourds. Old bowling pins show up at craft and doll shows, too. Louisa May Alcott, like the fictional Dickensian Jenny Wren, dressed dolls for a living at one point. Alcott collected chicken feathers to use in dolls hats. The Edinburgh Museum of Childhood boasts a doll made of an old shoe. Lobster and crab claw dolls have been made as souvenirs since the 19th century, too. Our museum has hundreds of folk dolls made of Kleenex, plants and flowers, pine cones, seeds, found objects, old tins and cans, borken doll parts, wooden blocks, bricks, shells,leahter/furs, dried fruit, rolled up newspapers, old magazines, old bottles, blocks of wood, paper towel holders, soap, wax, gourds, pumpkins, fake snowmen, wood, cloth, woven materials, mixed media, paper, clay and mud, elephant excrement made into paper, dried nuts, pasta, candy and sugar, salt dough, dried fish, paper clay, play dough, corncopbs, cornhusk, rushes and grasses, raffia, canvas, old rags, animal bones and other fossilized materials, pecan resin, coal, metal, lobster claws, buttons, knitted material, crocheted material, tatting, and much more. Many are now over 100 years old. One of our favorites is a dried apple doll laid out in a coffin, created to explain death to a family of children born nearly a century ago.

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