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Schoonmaker, Patricia N

LEARNING ABOUT COMPOSITION DOLLS

VOGUE TODDLES

Q I received these dolls from a relative, who got them as a child. I know that they were made by Vogue as they have “Vogue” written on their backs. Their clothing is original, and they are in excellent condition. I don’t think they fit the description of Vogue Toddles dolls. Could you give me more information about my dolls?

A What confused you might have been the markings. Toddles could be marked “R and B” or “Vogue” on the back of the neck, and “Doll Co.” on the back. Others were marked “Vogue” only on their heads. Yours are marked “Vogue” on their backs. This reflects marking changes on different batches of undressed dolls. Yours are early composition Toddles, with both arms out straight. Later, some versions had the right arm bent at the elbow. (The name came from the term “toddler”, a young child just learning to walk.)

Your dolls are part of the Foreign Countries series. I don’t have a complete list, but I have seen Russian, Dutch and Japanese examples. Yours are believed to be Swiss. They have white blouses, navy-blue trousers and skirts with apron effects of yellow felt with blue-and-white braid trim. The girl’s peaked hood is yellow felt with a matching navy band around her face. The boy originally had a similar cap. His wig is light blonde; her wig is golden blonde. They have the typical side-glancing-to-right blue eyes and center-snap shoes. Other examples called “Swiss” or “Alpine” are the same in orange or green rather than navy blue. Toddles were on the market from 1937 to 1948. They were the forerunner of Ginny, who was named in 1951 by Jennie Graves. By 1951, the doll was hard plastic.

BOUDOIR DOLL

Q What can you tell me about my 27-inch lady doll? She has only her pink-satin cap and pink leggings left of her costume. She has one– stroke black brows and long, upper– painted lashes over bronze eye shadow highlighting her two-tone blue eyes. Her eyelids are edged in the same black as the lashes. She has molded composition high heels and legs to above the ankle. The tip of her patrician nose has been bumped, and the surface paint has flaked from her neck and bust. She had not been restored when these photos were taken. How should she be dressed?

A Collectors have come to call these dolls “Boudoir Dolls”. They were never intended to be played with, but were art objects to decorate adults’ rooms. They also are referred to as “Bed Dolls” because they reposed there, often in elaborate full skirts and hats. Your doll has lost the bits of mohair that would have shown at the sides of her face. Some had full wigs as well. It is so fortunate that most of the original face painting and lips are in perfect original condition. These dolls were extremely popular in the 1920s. With the well-molded arms and legs, your doll is probably from the 1930s. McCall’s patterns are known to have published six patterns for Boudoir Dolls, and one of these should be available in the classified ads that sell reprint patterns.

CHARLIE CHAPLIN DOLL

Q This doll was shared at an identification clinic in Oregon. He is 13 inches tall, with black sculptured hair, dark brows and two-tone brown eyes with white highlights. He sports a tiny black mustache under his nose. His original jacket is black and white patterned, and it has a label on the sleeve. The trousers on this particular doll are brown and tan plaid. The feet are black cloth.

A This highly collectible character– faced doll of 1915 by Louis Amberg is the first and finest example of many depictions of actor Charles Chaplin. It is fortunate that the label was carefully stitched on the doll’s sleeve. It read: “Charles Chaplin Doll//Worlds Greatest Comedian// Made exclusively by Louis Amberg and Son N. Y.//By special arrangement of Essanay Film Company.” Many look-alikes would soon follow. In July 1915, Playthings magazine included a photograph of J. L Amberg with two of the dolls, which looked as if they were Chaplin’s twin brothers and hence were nicknamed Charlie Chaplin by friends in the trade. The dolls, in two sizes, each had a cane and derby hat to represent the actor’s role in The Little Tramp.

ROCK-A-BYE BABY

Q I have been meaning to write you about one of my childhood dolls for years. She is an all-original Averill Rock-A-Bye Baby. I once had a box for my Rock-A-Bye, but it was discarded by mistake. The mechanism inside the head has a slanting rod that allows the doll’s celluloid– coated eyes to close very slowly as she’s being rocked. The to-and-fro motion of the cradle (the box converted into a cradle) made the eyes close as she lay in it. She wears a Dutch-type pink-and-white romper over a diaper, white socks with pink tops and black oilcloth Mary Jane slippers. She has three criers. The one in the body works in the regular way (by tipping her forward and back); the two in the tops of her hips make her cry as she is being rocked horizontally. She is of a glue-type composition with only one coat of paint.

A Headlines about the first appearance in the 1921 Sears Roebuck catalog of Rock-A-Bye Baby read, “It Walks! It Talks!//It Rocks To Sleep.” The catalog doll was dressed in a below-the-knee white organdy lace-trimmed dress and bonnet and was said to come in its cradle, which was a heavy cardboard box that came with easily attached rockers. The rockers seemed to be an entire cardboard end fastened over the box. This description carried into the 1922 catalog, but in the 1923 illustration, the rockers are described as metal that insert into the box end. The price of $11.50 was very expensive when other dolls on the same page were 69 cents, $1.89 and $2.49. (Heubach’s bisque whistling boy, called “a popular imported doll”, cost 98 cents!)

By 1922, three sizes were offered: 18 inches, 16 inches and 14 inches. In 1923, a 20-inch size was available as well as 18– inch and 16-inch sizes. Ursula Mertz’s book on composition dolls illustrates the inside view of the head mechanism. This example is wood pulp composition.

ITALIAN DOLL

Q Can you help identify this doll? Her long, green-ribbon sash has the word “SATURNIA” on it. There is also a pin with the following: “UNIVERSITA POPOLARE DI TRIESTE //1947-1957”. On the back she is marked: “MADE IN ITALY//CARES”. The shoes are marked “Mod, Brev”. Her head and body are compo.

A If your doll is composition, it is the papier-mache type, not wood pulp. I have known of Italian dolls identified by a paper wrist tag, including Bonomi, Ottolini, Ratti and Furga. Because you have so many clues on your doll, I will publish her picture and see if a reader can tell us more. This appears to be a special commemorative doll that dates in the 1950s. Unfortunately, I lack the Italian catalogs.

For answers to your composition doll questions, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to: Doll Research Projects, Patricia N. Schoonmaker, clo Doll Reader 6405 Flank Drive, Harrisburg, PA 17112. Photographs and/or illustrations submitted to Mrs. Schoonmaker carry permission for reproducing in this magazine unless otherwise requested. Once printed, they become the property of PRIMEDIA Enthusiast Group, and cannot be returned.

Copyright Cowles Enthusiast Media Feb 2002

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