Forgotten Dolls

an encyclopedia of dolls and doll collecting

Collecting antique and reproduction dolls

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Collecting antique and reproduction dolls Although perhaps harder to find than in previous years, both antique dolls and antique reproduction dolls are still popular with doll collectors.

French bisque and porcelain fashion dolls, whether antique or reproduction, are generally considered to have a higher value than the German or Japanese dolls of similar vintage.

Antique cloth dolls (sometimes termed "rag dolls") in good condition are highly desirable to collectors. The value of course decreases with the amount of damage to the doll, but no collector expects to find a mint condition antique cloth doll due to the nature of the material.

Antique Jumeau SFBJ French Bleuette dolls

La Semaine de Suzette Bleuette

Bleuette, produced by the Société Française de Fabrication de Bébés et Jouets (SFBJ), was the mascot of the French magazine La Semaine de Suzette ("Suzette's Week") by Gautier-Languereau from 1905 to 1960. The original version of the Bleuette doll was a premium for subscribers to the magazine. The doll proved so popular that the first run of dolls was sold out before all the magazine subscription orders were filled.

Many issues of the long-running magazine featured patterns young Suzettes could use to sew clothing for Bleuette, totaling over 1000 patterns over the life of the magazine!

Today collectors enjoy displaying both antique Bleuette dolls and the many modern reproductions created by talented artists.

Bleuette's head molds

Bleuette has had many head molds over the years. The earliest molds were bisque, while later ones during World War II and later are of composition. The final Bleuette dolls created in the late 1950s had hard plastic heads.

Some of the markings seen on Bleuette's head include SFBJ 301, SFBJ 60, UNIS France 301, and UNIS France 60. Most of the Bleuette heads can be distinguished by the open mouth with four teeth.

It is particularly important to remember than many dolls with these marks were produced, and not all of them are Bleuette dolls.

Bleuette is on a fully jointed composition body. Until 1933 she was 27cm tall; due to changes in the manufacturing process her height was then increased to 29cm. Bodies are usually marked "2" on the torso and "1" on the soles of the feet.

Stands for Bleuette dolls

If you intend to display your Bleuette in a standing position, you will probably need a doll stand for her.

I find that the #2101 Kaiser brand stands are a good fit for a "standard" (10" to 11") Bleuette body.

Profiles of my Bleuette reproductions

 
Adelaide
  Name: Adelaide.
Model: reproduction SBFJ 301 Bleuette doll.
Medium: bisque head, standard compo Bleuette body.
Skin tone: normal.
Eyes: blue glass eyes.
Hair: France poupees wig WD-480 mohair dark brown.
Markings: signed on back of neck by artist, no paperwork.

Notes: Created by Carol Hanson, 2006.

 
Margaux
  Name: Margaux.
Model: reproduction Bleuette doll.
Medium: resin.
Skin tone: normal.
Eyes: Glasaugen 10mm glass eyes in Blau.
Hair: sz 6/7 France poupees wig WD-481 mohair ash blonde.
Markings: unmarked, no paperwork.

Notes: Cast in resin by Ruby Red Galleria, circa 2009 original version with headcap.

 
Sophie
  Name: Sophie.
Model: reproduction Bleuette doll.
Medium: bisque head, standard compo Bleuette body.
Skin tone: normal.
Eyes: hazel glass.
Hair: sz 6/7 blonde mohair wig.
Markings: unmarked, no paperwork.

Notes: Created by Donna Larsen.

Further reading

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Bleuette patterns

Who is Izannah Walker?

Izannah Walker (25 September 1817 to 1888) of Bristol, Rhode Island was one of the earliest known female dollmakers in America. Her cloth dolls were all handmade by herself and her sisters, and each individual doll possesses a distinct and recognizable style. They are three-dimensional works of art in a similar style to that of contemporary portraits. Izannah applied for, and received, a patent for her unique doll design in 1873 although her earliest dolls appear to pre-date the patent by some thirty-odd years.

Izannah's doll making process

Izannah began by forming the head and shoulders by applying glue to cotton fabric. This shoulderhead form was pressed into a mold until it hardened. Ears were appliquéd to the head to add dimension. At this point, another layer of glue was applied and allowed to dry. Then, Izannah painted the doll's head, often in a portrait-style likeness, before sewing and attaching the torso and limbs. Elbows and knees were properly jointed before painting the limbs to match the head. A fabric 'second skin' would be sewn over the torso to conceal the jointing.

As an entirely hand-sewn work of art, each finished doll was as unique as its original owner. She and her sisters are said to have produced over 3000 dolls during their careers, although very few have survived to the present day in any recognizable condition.

Distinguishing characteristics of Izannah's dolls

Izannah Walker dolls can be recognized by their stockinette-covered painted heads with either wisps of hair or curls surrounding the face. All of the dolls have applied ears, and their hands have both thumbs and stitched fingers. Many of them have painted boots. Those that do not have painted boots instead have bare feet with stitched toes. The sizes of these dolls range from 15 to 24 inches tall.

Izannah Walker stamp

The popularity of Izannah Walker's dolls

In recent years, the obvious beauty of Izannah's dolls has attracted quite a following. There has even been an Izannah Walker doll featured on a postage stamp in the "Classic American Dolls" series in 1997, which was issued in conjunction with a reproduction Izannah Walker doll.

In addition, there are several artists who offer either a kit to make an Izannah-style doll (with varying degrees of accuracy) or a completed reproduction doll. Fortunately the completed artist-made replicas are signed by the artist to distinguish them from the genuine antique article.


Izannah first day cover
First Day postal cover by Fred Collins

Profiles of my Izannah Walker reproductions

 
Juliannah
  Name: Juliannah.
Model: reproduction Izannah Walker doll, 18" size.
Medium: cloth.
Skin tone: normal.
Eyes: brown (painted).
Hair: brown (painted w/ long curls at back).
Markings: signed on back of shoulderplate by artist, no paperwork.

Notes: Created by Jane Clark Stryker, #33, 1983.

 
Mariah
  Name: Mariah.
Model: reproduction Izannah Walker doll, 14" size.
Medium: cloth.
Skin tone: normal.
Eyes: brown (painted).
Hair: brown (painted, wispy).
Markings: signed on back by artist, no paperwork.

Notes: Created by Inez Brasch, 2006.

Further reading

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Miss Columbia dolls

The Columbian Dolls were made in 1891 in Oswego, NY by Emma and Marietta Adams. They are a type of rag doll were made in several sizes, with 15-inches and 21-inches being the most commonly seen. Marietta did all the sewing while Emma painted the faces in oil paints.

The term "Columbian Doll" derives from the dolls being shown at the 1893 World's Fair (aka the 'Columbian Expedition') in Chicago. The dolls received a Diploma of Merit at the Exposition. After that time, one of the dolls became a true 'travel doll' who spent three years traveling the world to benefit popular children's charities. A travel log of her journey was recorded at each stop of her world tour. This doll presently resides at the Wenham Museum in Wenham, MA. Her travel log remains with her to this day.

Distinguishing characteristics of Columbian Dolls

Columbian Dolls are crafted entirely of cloth in one of two body types. The smaller dolls generally have a baby-type body with bent limbs, while the larger dolls have straight child-type limbs.

All the dolls have needle-sculpted fingers and toes, portrait-style oil-painted faces and hair, and stitched shoulder- and hip-joints.

Miss Columbia herself wore a simple dress, pinafore, and tricolor (red, white, and blue) striped sash to represent America. Other Columbian dolls may have a plain dress (girls) or a sailor suit (boys).

The popularity of Columbian Dolls

The beauty of the original Columbian Dolls has begun to attract a following in the doll collecting community. There has even been an Columbian Doll featured on a postage stamp in the "Classic American Dolls" series in 1997, which was issued in conjunction with a reproduction Columbian Doll.

In addition, while I have yet to see any kits for a Columbian Doll, there are several artists who offer patterns to make an Columbian-style doll (with varying degrees of accuracy), or an occasional signed artist-made reproduction pops up for sale. Dolls made from these modern patterns will frequently be of a different size than the original, making them easily to distinguish from the genuine article.

Columbian Doll stamp
Columbian Doll stamp

Columbian Doll first day cover
First Day postal cover by Fred Collins

Profiles of my Columbian doll reproductions

 
Emma
  Name: Emma.
Model: reproduction Miss Columbia doll.
Medium: cloth.
Skin tone: normal (painted).
Eyes: brown (painted).
Hair: brown (painted).
Markings: tagged.
Size: 16 inches.

Notes: Created by Rappahanock Rags for the 1993 UFDC Columbian Centennial event in Chicago.

 
 
Carlos
  Name: Carlos
Model: reproduction Columbian Sailor doll.
Medium: cloth.
Skin tone: normal (painted).
Eyes: brown (painted).
Hair: brown (painted).
Markings: tagged.
Size: 16 inches.

Notes: Created by Rappahanock Rags for the 1993 UFDC Columbian Centennial event in Chicago.

 
 
Carlos
  Name: Liberty.
Model: reproduction Miss Columbia doll.
Medium: cloth.
Skin tone: normal (painted).
Eyes: blue (painted).
Hair: blonde (painted).
Markings: signed by artist Connie Tognoli on back, undated.
Size: 10 inches.
 

Further reading

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Antique Japanese Sakura Bisque dolls

The Sakura Bisque (サクラビスク) dolls were created in Japan between 1910 and 1950. They have bisque heads with composition bodies. The rare larger ones have a nine-piece jointed body instead of a five-piece baby-type body. The larger dolls have glass sleep-eyes, hence the common name of "Sleeping Doll" (眠り人).

Most of those commonly found today are dressed in Western style wearing a bonnet and dress. Some have also been redressed in traditional Japanese fashion. There is also a series of boy-girl pairs dressed in Chinese style silk clothes. The smallest set of these at 3 1/2 inches tall is all-bisque, and the pair comes in a woven basket with a hinged lid.

Sakura bisque dolls Sakura bisque dolls

Further reading

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Paper dolls -- a classic retro doll

paper dolls

Paper dolls are a classic vintage toy with a huge appeal to collectors. Styled after movie stars, famous individuals, or sweet and sassy fictional characters paper dolls were a toy that transfixed young children worldwide. Paper dolls usually came equipped with their own wardrobe of tabbed clothing and accessories.

These delightful dolls quickly sparked a magical world of imagination and melted the hearts of those who owned them. The dolls would occupy a child for hours, and when play time was done, the dolls and their accessories would be stored away in cardboard boxes till the next time that they could be taken out for play.

A brief history of paper dolls

The very first paper dolls may have been those created through the Japanese art of origami. This traditional art of paper folding has been around since about 800 CE. Both puppets and animal characters were fashioned by origami. These would of course been played with, thus making them the first paper dolls.

Antique paper dolls dating to the 1780ss can still be found in museums. The largest US producer of paper dolls (McLoughlin Brothers) was opened in the early 1800s and remains in existence today.

Are paper dolls rare?

Paper dolls are in a class by themselves as a highly collectible item. After being played-with by young girls for virtually as long as paper has existed, the dolls and their outfits experienced a lot of wear, and tear throughout their existence. This makes finding intact books or even pages of vintage paper dolls difficult.

If you happen to stumble upon some paper dolls while digging through the attic or cleaning out the garage, treat them with the tender loving care that they deserve. They are a rare find indeed.

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