I spent this weekend setting up a doll display at the museum where I volunteer, to celebrate World Doll Day this coming Saturday. So, I thought I’d share the display with you all! Everything in the photos to follow is the property of [redacted museum].
(If you’re in the area, please come by and see the exhibit! At the moment, it’s scheduled to stay up until the end of July. Though that might change; the dates haven’t been run by the director yet. I doubt she’ll object, but…one never knows anything for certain.)
The exhibit is exclusively on the first floor, in the two parlors. The house dates to 1850, and has two parlors because at that time houses for the well-to-do had to have a “gentlemen’s parlor” and a “ladies’ parlor” so that men could visit with the man of the house and women could visit the lady of the house without them having to consort with each other. (How shocking it would be to have to speak to the opposite sex in public!) The gentlemen’s parlor faces the street, so I’ll start there, just as a tour of the house would. (I will not be trying to share the basic tour information, however. In part because I work down in the basement with the collection, and have only spotty knowledge of the basic tour’s contents.)
I didn’t photograph the sofa in this parlor, because only one of the dolls on it was put out for the display; the rest were already out. (As the museum is half toy museum, half historic house, there are always some toys on display. I just like seeing the toys take over like this, the way they always do at Christmas.) Turning along the same wall the desk is against, we pass by the fireplace and reach the piano:
Since it’s the gentlemen’s parlor, I thought all the dolls on the piano should be male dolls. Hopefully he wouldn’t be offended that I put Mortimer Snerd right beneath his photo. (I think he wouldn’t, though; I think he’d have enjoyed Mortimer Snerd.) I’ll show close-up photos of the various dolls in a bit, but for now let’s move on to the ladies’ parlor.
The table is set up for a tea party, so I decided to turn into a dolly tea party by putting a Nancy Ann doll at each place setting:
There are two sofas in the ladies’ parlor, and I filled both of them with large(ish) dolls:
I’m not sure why the picture came out sort of yellowed like that. But considering I was having to use a flash (normally not permitted, naturally) I didn’t want to take any more photos than necessary.
Opposite the sofas is the piano. As with the one in the gentlemen’s parlor, I opted for all ladies on the ladies’ piano. (I don’t think there would have been two pianos in the house in the 19th century, btw. But what furnishings the museum has was partially dictated by what people donated, you know?)
Beside the piano is a chair that I filled with a particularly large doll:
And this seems like the ideal time to shift from showing the over-all room to showcasing some of the individual dolls. So let’s talk about that huge doll for a moment. Her name is Esme, and she’s from German doll creator Annette Himestadt.
She’s astonishingly lifelike, in addition to being about the size of an actual child. The eyes are particularly well done, and I love that curly red hair. (I’m a bit of a sucker for red hair, after all.)
For the most part, I tried to use this exhibit to showcase some of my favorite dolls from the collection. (I’ve been trying to make sure the whole collection is in the computer, so I’ve seen a large percentage of the collection at this point. Well, maybe only about half…or maybe less than that, when you take the stuff in outside storage into consideration.) One of my starting points was to put out a number of my favorite vintage Madame Alexander dolls from the collection:
I didn’t care for this doll at all the first time I saw her, but now she’s one of my favorites. I think it was her eyes that put me off originally. Like many dolls of her age, her glass eyes are cracking, which is eerie at first, but after a while you get used to it, and realize that it has its own mournful charm. (Or maybe that’s just me?) It’s a pity her shoes are missing, though.
This is a “Princess Elizabeth Personality Doll” released in 1937, following the December 1936 coronation of King George VI. In other words, this doll is of Queen Elizabeth II when she was a little girl. That being the case, how could I not put her on display? She’s even got a little crown and everything. 🙂 And, astonishingly, her eyes are not cracking, despite her age.
This Alice doll is from the 1940s, according to the file. Other than the detrimental aging on her eyes, she’s in wonderful shape, and a lovely doll all around. As I said, one of my favorites.
In the full image, you should be able to read her tag, which identifies her as a Madame Alexander Alice in Wonderland doll. Of course, she’s cloth, whereas the blue one is composition. According to the computer, this one dates to 1940. I love this one because you don’t usually think of cloth dolls when you think of Madame Alexander, yet apparently she actually started out doing exclusively cloth dolls.
And while we’re on the subject of Alice in Wonderland, let’s move over to the tea party table!
Nancy Ann dolls have a charming simplicity to their faces, I think. The museum’s collection includes several Nancy Ann Alice dolls (some in Wonderland, some Through the Looking Glass) but this is my favorite of them.
I’m pretty sure the computer said this was one of the “—day’s child” dolls, but I forget which day it was. For that matter, I don’t even remember the whole rhyme…
Even more embarrassingly, I didn’t look up the name of this doll. I just saw her pretty purple dress in the photos on the computer, then went to the box to grab her for the display. Maybe this weekend I’ll remember to check who she is so I can update this…
This is the closest I could find to any dolls with rainbows on them. Very odd that.
Anyway, let’s go back and I’ll show you the other dolls on the piano in the ladies’ parlor.
This is Jill, from the Leggy line of dolls released by Hasbro in 1972. (Which, coincidentally, is the same year that Kenner released its Blythe doll. So while Hasbro was experimenting with long legs, Kenner was experimenting with huge heads. Neither doll line survived more than a year. But Blythe was revived in Japan in the 1990s, so I guess Kenner won. (Which would mean a lot more if the companies hadn’t merged, naturally.)) I wish her face wasn’t so badly smudged–an odd state of affairs, considering she still has her bang-protecting plastic band on–but she’s one of my favorites in the collection. Why? Because MGA experimented with an almost identical body type around, uh, I want to say about 2008? Maybe a few years earlier? Somewhere around there, anyway. They called the line something like Hi Glam. I only got one at the time, and immediately regretted not getting more as soon as the line vanished. So seeing that the line had an obvious ancestor/inspiration, of course I have to love the older one, too! (Okay, maybe that doesn’t make sense?) Anyway, at some point I’ll photograph that MGA doll of mine and post it on here. (I wish I could do side-by-side comparison shots with the MGA and Hasbro dolls together, but I don’t know if the museum would like me bringing one of my own dolls to photograph with one of theirs. That might seem a little, uh, weird.)
Isn’t she gorgeous? I love this type of doll entirely, but this one is probably my favorite of all the ones I’ve seen. The little sticker by her foot reads:
This is a scene from “Dohjohji,” a famous Japanese drama.
At some point, I’ll look that up and get more information. But right now I’d like to get this post finished, so let’s just move on!
I have no idea who this doll is or even who made her, though she might be from Ideal. I’ve done some searching on the ‘net looking for info, and so far never quite found a match. So why do I think she’s from Ideal? Well, I have a doll almost identical to this one in my house. She’s one of my mother’s dolls, which she gave me years ago because I told her I thought I’d be able to re-string her. That turned out to be a naive fantasy, because the way the doll was strung does not allow clumsy amateurs like myself to repair her. (There is a doll hospital not too far from here though; I keep meaning to take her there and get her repaired.) Anyway, while my mother’s doll is unmarked, one of the dresses with her has a tag identifying it as having been made by Ideal. My mother’s doll is from the mid-1950s, so this one probably is as well. This one has much fancier clothes, though.
I’m not usually one for Kewpie dolls. But this one is really remarkable, because it’s made from celluloid. So it’s hollow and incredibly fragile. I’m trying to think what the dates on most of the other celluloid items have been–this one was undated in the computer–and I think they tended to be from the interwar period. This particular one says 1920s to me, but that’s just a (random?) guess.
There actually aren’t very many Barbies in the museum’s collection; most of the toys are older, and a number of them aren’t so much toys as souvenirs. (More on that later.) Anyway, this Barbie, like many vintage dolls, has considerable wear to her hair, which has been cut, and her lip paint is almost entirely gone. On the other hand, her hands haven’t been chewed on by children or dogs, so it could be worse, right? More importantly, her dress is in stunning condition! The photo doesn’t really do it justice at all. It’s a gorgeous dress.
And I guess now we need to cover the gent’s piano, because you have to follow Barbie with Ken, right?
The museum only has two Ken dolls, and I really ought to have put out the other one instead of this one. The other is in a nicer outfit and is a bit more…uh…certain. I mean, I checked this guy for marks, right? And he does have the same Mattel markings on his rear end that Barbie has. (Except his say Ken instead of Barbie and Midge, obviously.) But look at his arms! They’re turning white! So are his legs, and even his head to a lesser extent. Now, maybe he was just made with a defective batch of material or something, but…every time I look at him, I hear alarm sirens going off, you know? Especially since his files said “goes with # (Barbie)” but the “Barbie” in the other number was actually a vintage clone. (Considering she had white eyes, like Bild Lilly, as well as legs without hip joints, and no Mattel markings, I’m astonished anyone thought she was a real Barbie.)
A very different kind of Mattel doll, this is the grandfather from the Sunshine Family dolls produced in 1976. However, he’s wearing the clothes of Steve from the same line, rather than his own clothes. No idea why. I like the fact that these dolls had inset eyes, though. Inset eyes are so nice!
I only know Mortimer Snerd from the Edgar Bergen episode of The Muppet Show, but he was absolutely adorable. Much nicer than Charlie McCarthy. (Though that was, of course, the point.) Imagine how popular Bergen was that they merchandized his ventriloquists’ dummies! (For that matter, imagine how popular he was that he had a radio program! Radio rather taking away one of the primary points of ventriloquism, after all.)
It wasn’t intentional, but the way I’ve placed them, Native American doll seems to be eyeing that G.I. Joe with marked distrust. (Then again, who can really blame him? I’ve seen the size of the gun that Joe was packed with! And it was intended for use on people, y’know?) Okay, I know G.I. Joe is more of an action figure than a doll, but…this kind is close enough to a doll. I bet he could share clothes with Ken.
Okay, back into the ladies’ parlor so I can point out a few of the other dolls on the sofas. But in keeping with the manly theme, we’ll start with this guy:
I love this one. My favorite piece of Superman merchandise, ever. Period. He’s all wooden, except his cloth cape, and so old that the copyright is to “Superman Inc.” This is one of those toys that I’ll put on display at the slightest possible provocation, just ’cause he’s so freakin’ cool.
Strange as it may seem by looking at them, these three were all made by the same company: the Ideal Doll Company. As was Howdy Doody on the end of the sofa, though for some reason I didn’t get a photo of him. (Superman and Mortimer Snerd are both also from Ideal. They made a lot of dolls.) The solid plastic one in the bright orange dress is Crissy, from 1969, a growing-hair doll. And seeing how badly chopped this one’s hair is, I’m starting to think I shouldn’t have passed on the one in the antique mall after all; I think she actually had more hair left than this one did (well, okay, actually this one has that fairly nice braid, but the rest of her hair has been badly chopped off) so I may go back and get her if she’s still there. Uh, anyway, the one in the middle is a Shirley Temple doll. There are three Shirley Temple dolls listed in the collection, two with photos and one without. This was the better of the two with photos, and I couldn’t check the one without a photo because her location was listed incorrectly. 😦 But I thought it was important to have one out! The Scarecrow there is based on the original illustrations from the Oz books, which makes me wonder if he pre-dates the movie version. (Forgot to check if there was a date on his file…)
Anyway, back to the gent’s parlor now! The photo below is the desk display as I originally set it up. By the time we left on Sunday night, it had already been re-arranged to look more professional and less like a kid forgot to put up their toys. (I was actually going for the “forgot to put away the toys” look, naturally, but I wasn’t surprised that that hadn’t been deemed acceptable.) However, when I noticed it, the house lights were already off and we were getting ready to leave, so I couldn’t take a new photo. I’ll try and get a new one next week. (I only volunteer on the weekends.)
We’ll start with the big doll on the chair.
His(?) name is Scootles, and he was created by Rosie O’Neill in 1925, with production running for ten years. (Well, the date range on the file said 1925-1935, anyway.) Made of composition, with glass eyes, he shows some of the usual aging damage: cracking surface on the composition, and cracking eyes…though strangely only one of the eyes is cracked. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that before. The others at the museum found him creepy, but I have a reason to find him endearing. Specifically, I’ve seen the alternative. A while back, there was a donation to the museum of “collector’s” dolls from the 1990s. Not collector Barbies, or Madame Alexanders, or Genes, or whatnot. More along the Franklin Mint type of thing. (I think some of them may actually have been Franklin Mint, in fact.) One of them was a set of reproductions of dolls that had been featured on a line of postage stamps. One of those stamps had shown a Scootles, so there was a reproduction Scootles. It was about half this size, maybe a little less, and had none of the charm of the original. When I was checking to see if anyone had listed it in the computer yet, I discovered we had one of the originals, and went to see how the two compared. I was blown away by how much better the original was. So, long story short, I like this doll because the reproduction was so awful.
These are Liddle Kiddles, made by Mattel in the mid to late 1960s. I love these little things! Some of them were already on display on the third floor, but a number of them were still in the basement, so I put out all but one of my favorites of the ones remaining. The one I didn’t put out was the walking Liddle Kiddle, because I couldn’t get her walking attachment to stay on. Also her dress kept riding up (like on the large one in the locket) and exposing her little plastic body, which irked me, but I couldn’t get it to behave.
Yes, this guy is seriously called Peter Paniddle. And that’s his shadow. Technically, I’m not positive that the little fairy is his Tinkerbell, but…yeah, I’m pretty sure. Especially since that shape is exactly like the miniature #1 ponytail Barbies they made as pins for one of Barbie’s anniversaries. (I think that was the 35th?)
This is, bar none, my favorite Liddle Kiddle. That little case is both a pin and a pendant, so girls could wear their doll. (This has been tried since, of course, but I’ve yet to see another that works this well.) Best of all, I not too long ago found one similar to this in an antique mall near my house!
This one I like the concept better than this particular example. I’m sure I’d like the others in this sub-series better than this particular one. I just wanted to post this picture because you can’t see the perfume bottle gimmick in the group shot.
It’s a pity this is the only Gene doll kept at the museum: there are a number of others in the outside storage unit, including the super-wonderful “Daughter of the Nile.” But I had to put her on display for a number of reasons, including this.
For the label on this doll, I called her Elizabethan Lady, and focused on Queen Elizabeth I’s support of the arts and such. Given the doll of (the then-future) Elizabeth II, that makes sense. However, I think this doll is supposed to be more specific than merely “an Elizabethan lady.” The Crucifix at her waist marks her out as a (gasp!) Papist, meaning that she is far from being a fashionable lady of Elizabeth I’s time! Therefore, it seems to me she’s either from the reign of Mary I (a.k.a. Bloody Mary) or–more likely–she’s actually supposed to represent Mary, Queen of Scots. I didn’t want to say so at the time and complicate things, though, so I just went along with the “Elizabethan lady” thing. It’s not like it’s wrong to say that her costume dates to that general period, after all. I’ll probably update her file in the computer to indicate her Catholic nature, though. So that future exhibits of her will reflect her a little more accurately.
As to the rest of the dolls on the desk, they fall into the “souvenir” category I mentioned before, many of which–possibly as many as half–are from the collections of two particular women, who apparently traveled the world (not together, mind you) and bought “dolls” as souvenirs everywhere they went. These “dolls” were never intended to be played with, and most of them have no moving parts. As such, I tried not to put too many out, but there were some on the pianos as well. However, these “souvenir dolls” are the primary source of diversity in the doll collection, so I felt like I really needed to include them for that reason. I only took close-up shots of two of them, though.
I included this one to show that dolls don’t have to be young; they can be old, too. (Though Grandpa Sunshine and the Aborigine also make that point.)
I included this one because she’s amazing. What other reason could I need?
Finally, let’s look at the one doll I added to the sofa in the gentlemen’s parlor.
A German shoulder-head doll from the 1850s-1860s, in amazingly good condition, apart from some fading on her dress. She must have been hugely expensive at the time, because she’s amazingly detailed!
The boots are wonderful, aren’t they? And even her bloomers are decorated. This doll was clearly very expensively and carefully made. And given the condition she’s in, she was obviously cherished by whoever owned her!
Okay, I’m sure I’ve left out a lot of stuff, but this post is already quite long, so I’m going to leave it here for now. Let me know if there’s anything you want to know more about!
Oops! Forgot to leave a link to the rest of the pictures!