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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pete Seeger, our Twitter Follower remembered

Pete Seeger, who died yesterday, at ninety-four, lived into his posterity. For years, he occupied a house up a rising dirt road in the woods. The house was on a cliff, overlooking his beloved Hudson River. He had cleared the land, like a pioneer. In the New York Public Library, he had found instructions for building a log cabin. In the decades since, he cut trees for firewood. A teacher at the boarding school he had attended had taught him to split logs. The woods were orderly, having been pruned for so many years. He believed in the dignity of the individual life, but he wasn’t comfortable with people close at hand. He had no taste for light conversation. He was like the parson of a small parish, constantly engaged with the welfare of his church. Did the farmer whose child had drunk tainted well water and whose wife had died have someone to watch over the child, so that he could tend to his crops? Would it be possible to interest the rich man who came only at Christmas and Easter to pay for the repair of the church roof? Were his sermons sufficiently inspiring? Was his life exemplary? Was he a beacon for his flock? In fact, his life was exemplary. The courage he showed in facing down the House Un-American Activities Committee, his refusal to give names, and his insistence on his right to entertain his own conscience are not common behaviors. Plenty of people gave names. Plenty of people pleaded the Fifth Amendment, but Seeger refused to, because the plea implied a person had something to hide. He chose jail rather than collaboration. At the time, he was a member of the most successful group in show business, the Weavers. He was not surprised when the government threatened night-club owners if they hired the Weavers, and the group’s opportunities withered. In the year before he was to go to jail, he performed as often as he could, in order to make money for his family to live on while he was gone. An appeal kept him out of prison, but he hadn’t expected it to. He was happy to step away from celebrity and the night-club life, which he never liked, and to return to what he always had done: singing folk songs and union songs for children in classrooms and around campfires. There may be a famous person these days who would choose jail over coöperating with the government against its citizens, but I can’t think of one. As famous as he was, he was half of a couple. When his wife, Toshi, died, in July, it was just short of their seventieth anniversary. He was reserved up close and sometimes aloof, as if he were entertaining a reverie. He might have disappeared into private life, but Bruce Springsteen revived him. It was on Springsteen’s plane that Seeger flew to Washington to sing at Obama’s first Inauguration. It was a period when the world’s interest returned to him. After I wrote my Profile of him for the magazine, I wrote a small book about him. He had wanted a biography that could be read in one sitting, and I tried to do that. The book had been a publisher’s idea, and when I called Seeger to ask if he would take part, I said that a publisher had asked me to expand the Profile. I heard Toshi, in the background, ask what I wanted. Seeger said, “He would like to expand the Profile into a book,” and Toshi responded, “Tell him you’ve been expanded enough.” Photograph by CBS/Getty

Monday, January 27, 2014

Hinges and Hearts Presentation on With Love from Tin Lizzie

Last Sunday was the first of two programs we had done on metal dolls and automatons, based in large part on my book, With Love from Tin Lizzie... featured here and elsewhere, including Amazon, Barnes and, Albris and Doll Pile. We had a very good crowd, and I include here some of the photos from the display. My thanks to Kelly Lao, the director who made it possible, and to my husband, Dino Milani, who took these photos.

The Chronology Continues; The 19th into the 20th Century

We continue our timeline with some observations about the end of the 19th century and the types of dolls being made at the turn of the century. Between 1897 and 1908, there were at least three major books about dolls and doll collecting. G. Stanley Hall, a sociologist, published A Study of Dolls, which can be downloaded today for free on Google Books. As an aside, 1897 was a great year for me; Dracula was published, and my Grandpa Steve, who contributed many dolls so The Museum, was born. In 1908 Laura Starr published The Doll Book, available on Kindle and free on Google Books. The same year, Emily Jackson published Toys of Bygone Days. All three are invaluable to collectors interested in doll and toy history. Hall talks about the roles doll play in children's lives, because he surveyed around 600 children from all economic strata, and asked them questions about doll materials, doll play, types of dolls, number of dolls owned, etc. We learn that even in 1897, dolls were important in children's lives and development, but also that long before The UFDC or any other doll clubs, there were doll collectors. Starr took a year to travel the world to collect dolls. Puppentour has nothing over her, wonderful though the tour is! Starr talked about dolls in every aspect of life and society. Her work should be valuable even today to anthropologists. She talks about dolls in museums that existed over 100 years ago, including examples in Naples and collections by actress Ellen Terry and other royalty and celebrities. Starr discusses Queen Victoria's collection in detail, as well as Queen Whilemina's. She writes about the Japanese doll festivals and Native American Dolls and Katchinas in great detail. These types of dolls are often neglected in books about antique dolls. Were it not for Starr, we would not know of these collections and collectors. She also discusses Native peoples and cultures who no longer exist; we only have her descriptions of their dolls. Jackson covers toys and dolls from prehistory to 1908. Her section on puppetry and mechanical toys has yet to be rivaled. By the end of the 19th century into the mid 1920s, dolls were catching the attention of artists and becoming decorative objects. Rainier Marie Rilke wrote his essay "Dolls" and Max von Boehn wrote Dolls and Puppets. Armand Marseilles, Kestner, Simon and Halbig, and the SFBJ were producing dolls in Europe. Kathe Kruse had begun to make dolls, too. Schoenhut was doing great business in the US and was already being collected. Metal dolls were very popular and made in large quantities. Composition and celebrity dolls were becoming popular, and the quest to find an unbreakable dolls continued. Old favorites like penny dolls and low brow china heads were still around. The dolls as decorative object was very popular. Boudoir dolls and half dolls abounded, and famous makers like Goebel and Lenci created them. Early movies like the Nick and Nora Charles series sometimes features a bed doll or two. Dolls as antiques were gaining in popularity. Kewpie was born in 1913, and Raggedy Ann in 1918. Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan were created as dolls; so was Mary Pickford, Clara Bow, and Rudolph Valentino. There were terrific paper dolls like Lettie Lane and soon, Dolly Dingle. Others appeared in The Funny Papers. Mamma dolls and drink and wet dolls were reinvented and hit the doll shelves, and friendship dolls were being exchanged with Japan. Romantic doll lore about Meissen heads, Court Dolls, Iron Maidens, and Parian dolls were being spun, and many stuck. Madame Alexander began business in 1923. Albert Marque created unwittingly the most expensive doll perhaps ever made, at least one meant to be originally a toy. People travelled more and more and souvenir dolls became popular items to bring home from trips, especially costume dolls, dolls made from shells, cloth dolls, and folk dolls of all materials. Even in Lolita, written about 20 years or so after The Flapper Era, mentions a small souvenir Indian Doll. The Modern Era was born. For those who would read more, I recommend The Twentieth Century and More Twentieth Century doll books by Johanna Gast Anderton, and Pat Smith's early Modern Dolls pictorial series, compiled during the 70s. Here are some new photos from my Hinges and Hearts Exhibit on metal dolls, and from an estate doll collection I was lucky enough to view. Happy New Year!

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Friday, January 17, 2014

5 Star Review for Tin Lizzie!!!

5.0 out of 5 stars We love this book!, January 17, 2014 By Ellen M. Tsagaris - See all my reviews (REAL NAME) This review is from: With Love from Tin Lizzie: A History of Metal Heads, Metal Dolls, Mechanical Dolls and Automatons (Paperback) My wife purchased a copy in October, read it, loved it and talked about it for weeks. I got interested and read it, WOW!!! The details are great, the history is great, the photos are great and it reads well. I particularly liked the section on Toy Soldiers, then went out and bought some for our son. We even purchased 5 more copies and gave them to relatives and friends as Christmas presents. They also loved reading the book. It's obvious that the author spent years getting the information in the book and it's well presented. People in my wife's collecting club had never heard much about what was written but found it to be true and exactly right. They enjoyed reading it and they use it for their collecting. If there's another book by the author, buy it, you will not be disappointed. Why no voting buttons? We don't let customers vote on their own reviews, so the voting buttons

Friday, January 10, 2014

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy 2014 and some Photos

I am typing with a kitten curled up against me; occasionally, she likes to type a word. Her name is Ms. Bangles, and she sends a picture to you here:
The rest of the photos come from The Milwaukee Public Museum, The Princess Diana Exhibit, The Czech Museum, and various private collections we viewed on trips in 2012 and 2013. Peace in 2014.