Forgotten Dolls

an encyclopedia of dolls and doll collecting

Nut head dolls -- an American folk art doll


nut head dolls

Foremost among American folk art dolls are the nut head dolls. These consist of a head made from a nut and a cloth-wrapped wire body -- either a full semi-posable body or for girl dolls a wire torso with arms over a conical skirt shape. Common nuts used for these dolls include hickory nuts, pecans, and walnuts. Cherry pits or hazelnuts are often used for smaller dolls. Their clothes sometimes consist of sewn fabric scraps, but many tourist souvenir dolls are dressed in "local materials" such as banana leaves. The character of a particular doll is in many cases determined by the type of nut used.

Nut head dolls range in size from 3 inches tall to 10 inches. They were individually handmade by folk artists from the early 1800s through the 1940s, primarily in Appalachia. Dolls created in the 1920s or later for the tourist trade tend to retain their original tags.

Are nut head dolls rare?

Nut head dolls are fairly common as collectible dolls go, unless you are looking for a specific doll by a specific manufacturer. If you are simply looking for any nut head doll in acceptible to good condition, they can be acquired for $20 to $30 each.

Where to find nut head dolls

Miss Hickory book

Miss Hickory Perhaps the most famous nut head doll is Miss Hickory, who is the heroine of the 1946 book Miss Hickory by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey. This book won the 1947 Newbery Medal of Excellence in American children's literature. It is a delightful if slightly disjointed book about a doll with a hickory nut head and apple wood body. Some of the adventures don't fit the storyline properly, but the surprising ending when spring comes is strangely hopeful.

Note: The first edition of Miss Hickory (hardcover with dust jacket) is illustrated, but no colour plates are included.

These books can be difficult to find since many are out of print. Some great places to buy used books online include:

How to make a Miss Hickory doll

Miss Hickory dolls are easily to make at home by drilling a hole into the bottom of a nut, and gluing it to a wire body. Wrap the body in thread or cloth, and dress as desired.

If you prefer a fully-wooden articulated body, try to find an artist to carve one for you.

Miss Hickory
  Medium: cherry wood head + body
Year: 2017 #42
Made by: Judy Brown
Signed: on back
Size: 6 1/4" tall
Miss Hickory
  Medium: bass wood head + body
Year: 2014
Made by: Natalie Cooper
Signed: on back
Size: 7 1/2" tall
Miss Hickory
  Medium: pecan head + articulated basswood body
Year: 2018
Made by: Laurel Parker
Signed: no
Size: 9" tall
Miss Hickory
  Medium: hickory nut head + thread over wire body
Year: 2017
Made by: me
Signed: no
Size: 10" tall
Miss Hickory
  Medium: hickory nut head + thread over wire body
Year: unknown
Made by: Just Lisa
Signed: no
Size: 3" tall

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