Forgotten Dolls

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Antique Miss Columbia painted cloth dolls


Columbian 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 'Columbian Expedition') in Chicago. The dolls received a Diploma of Merit at the Exposition. After that, 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.

Collecting Columbian Dolls

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).

Columbian Doll repro

Columbian Doll repro Columbian Doll repro Columbian Doll repro Columbian Doll 10" reproduction by Connie Tognoli.

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

Further reading

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Columbian Doll links

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