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Discover Mid-America January 2005
Michael Canadas makes adjustments to the fashion doll exhibit
fellow dealer David Robinson sponsored at Kansas Citys Toy
and Miniature Museum
(photos by Ken Weyand)
The study of dolls is the study
of mankind, so states a phrase headlining the United Federation of Doll
Clubs (UFDC) website, www.ufdc.org. Perhaps the accuracy
of that statement helps account for doll collecting being one of the three
largest hobby groups in the world, vying with stamps and miniatures
for first place,
according to the UFDC.
The worldwide organization, now in its 55th year, has more than 15,000
members in 17 countries. In addition to its doll museum, located near
KCI Airport in Kansas City, MO, the UFDC maintains archives of historical
documents relating to dolls. It also hosts national conventions and regional
conferences, and provides a lending library for members. Its quarterly
publication, Doll News, contains information on all areas of dolls and
doll collecting. There is no doubt that dolls have universal appeal.
Historians have traced the orgins of the doll to religious rites in primitive
societies. Fashioned as stand-ins for their human counterparts in community
rituals, these early dolls were made from various materials, including
clay, wood and fur. Native American cultures, notably the Hopi Indians,
gave dolls to their children at the end of ceremonial rites.
Dolls have been found in childrens graves throughout the Roman Empire
and in ancient Greece and Egypt. Interred with valuables, they appear
to have been owned by wealthy families. Most of these dolls were made
of pottery or wood.
European dolls have been traced back to the 14th century. Archeological
digs have found multiple dolls, revealing the existence of doll manufacturing.
Town guilds in Germany encouraged and regulated doll making, and protected
guild members from outside competition.
Fashion dolls became popular throughout Europe. Dressmakers used dolls
to illustrate the latest fashions. As a result, doll-making became more
sophisticated with new materials being developed. Composition dolls, using
pulped wood, paper and other materials, became common in the early 1800s.
During the same period, wax dolls became popular, especially in Austria
and England. Manufacturers began to make dolls from porcelain, resulting
in more durable and more expensive dolls which survive today
in museums and antique stores.
Doll-making in the United States began after the Civil War, primarily
in New England. Materials included leather, rubber, papier-mâché
Celluloid, a predecessor of plastic, was used in doll-making from the
1860s to the 1950s. Inexpensive and easy to fabricate, celluloid was also
fragile and prone to
After World War II, plastics, foam rubber and vinyl were used to mass-produce
dolls. The new materials and the burgeoning marketing of baby boomers
created an explosion in the doll population, including the Barbie phenomenon,
which continues today.
A separate category of doll-collecting, the paper doll has its own history,
originating in 1810 in London with the publication of Little Fanny.
Other publishers quickly followed, offering various subjects, including
ballerinas, members of the Royal Family and stage celebrities.
In the United States, the McLoughlin Brothers, which began business in
1828, was a leading manufacturer of paper dolls. The company became a
part of Milton Bradley in 1920.
European manufacturers produced full-color paper dolls from the 1820s
to the 1890s. Magazine publishers in Europe and the U.S. produced paper
dolls in the 1900s. Fashion magazines, including the Delineator, along
with family and childrens magazines, continued to offer paper dolls.
Today, they are found primarily in doll and bear magazines for collectors.
French doll surge of the 1800s
For about three months, beginning Aug. 1, 2004, the Toy and Miniature
Museum in Kansas City hosted a special doll exhibit, La Fete de
Parisiennes, presented by Michael Canadas and David Robinson, doll
dealers from Carmel, CA. The exhibit, which mirrored the fashions and
lifestyles of Paris during the middle to late 19th century, contained
more than 90 dolls, furnishings and accessories, largely provided by Canadas
and Robinson, but also including several dolls from the museums
The dolls were acquired from many sources, according to Robinson, who
said that most of the dolls were actually played with by members of European
royal families and other aristocrats.
Surprisingly, he said, most of the children in the wealthy
families were limited to only one doll, and took really good care of it.
Robinson added that in todays consumer-oriented, throwaway society,
such dolls would probably not survive.
Canadas said that he and Robinson, who have specialized in dolls for the
past four years, contribute articles and information to the UFDCs
Doll News, and the Antique Doll Collector, published in New York. They
also participate in major doll shows on both coasts.
One of the appeals of the La Fete de Parisiennes exhibit was
the wide variety of clothing and accessories that were available to doll
fanciers: magnificent gowns, suits, coats, nightgowns, shoes and boots,
jewelry, parasols, purses and many other items. There was also an array
of doll-sized furniture, all made with the same skill and craftsmanship
as the life-sized originals.
As a recent article in the Antique Doll Collector stated, many of the
Parisienne dolls, or poupeés, were constructed, dressed and equipped
by a few major companies based in Paris. The companies figured prominently
in doll collectings surge of popularity in 19th century Europe.
Leopold Huret, a furniture manufacturer, became a maker of dolls and iron
cradles in the early 1800s. His daughter, Adelaide, had made salesmens
samples of her fathers furniture, scaled to doll size. Beginning
in 1850, she formed a partnership with her sister, Leopoldine, and began
making high quality molded dolls with articulated bodies. The sisters
artistry and attention to detail helped generate a demand for doll clothing,
and the company contracted dressmakers to supply it. Their younger brother,
Louis Emile, took over the company in 1864, which flourished until the
Madame Leontine Rohmer, a doll-maker and doll-dresser, obtained two patents
for doll bodies in 1857, and invented a pivoting head for dolls the following
year. The Rohmer dolls could be dressed either as children or adults.
Between 1866 and 1880, Maison Rohmer sold jointed kid-body poupeés,
bebes and dressed dolls.
Claude Joseph Blampoix (Senior) began making dolls in 1840, and patented
five porcelain doll heads in 1847. He built a large factory ten years
later. The company was taken over by Louis Charles Dalloz in 1868. Blampoixs
son, Claude Joseph (Junior), ran a separate doll business in Paris.
The Gaudinot and Popineau Company (known as P.4 G), began making dolls
in 1843. The company failed when Henry Mathieu Gaudinots mistress,
a doll maker, left the company with Gaudinots partner, Popineau.
Gaudinots wife bought the company years later and continued to produce
dolls until 1870.
Louis Doleac manufactured dolls in Paris from 1881 to 1908. His company
offered dressed and undressed poupeés, along with bebes,
trousseaux, layettes and a large selection of accessories.
In 1857, Francois Gaultier married into a family that owned a porcelain
factory in Charenton, outside of Paris. He took over the factory in 1860
and became the principal supplier to more than 50 French firms. The firm
continued until at least 1885 when Gaultier retired.
Eugene Barrois founded a doll company in Paris in 1842 and members of
the family continued the firm until its bankruptcy in 1890. The company
was one of the earliest Paris doll makers to use porcelain heads.
Emile and Pierre Jumeau established a company that produced a large product
line of fashion doll heads, bodies and dressed fashion dolls throughout
much of the 19th century. The firms customers were worldwide and
included a large American market.
Leverd et Cie. began producing dolls of gutta percha, a rubber-like material,
in 1852. The company continued for most of the century, won many awards
and held several patents.
Leon Casimer Bru formed a doll company in 1867. He developed a patented
nut-and-bolt system of connecting the head to the torso. The company specialized
in fashion dolls, which were made in twelve sizes.
The La Fete de Parisiennes exhibit complimented the many other
dolls on exhibit at the Toy and Miniature Museum. Mary Wheeler, the museums
collections manager, said the museum has dolls on exhibit throughout several
rooms. In addition, several of the museums collection of more than
100 antique doll houses contains miniature dolls, along with tiny furnishings
The Toy and Miniature Museum, located at 5235 Oak St. in Kansas City,
MO, contains 33 rooms of amazing antique toys, dolls and scale miniatures.
Hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday 1-4
p.m. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, and $4 for
children ages 5-12. For more information call 816-333-2055 or visit www.umkc.edu/tmm.
Dolls depict British history
An unusual doll exhibit depicting the history of Great Britain opened
last November at the Eugene Field House and St. Louis Toy Museum, located
at 634 South Broadway in St. Louis, MO. The exhibit, Liberty of
London Dolls: Great Britains History in Dolls, ran through
Although the museum is open by appointment only during January and February,
the exhibit can still be seen during those months, according to museum
director Julie Maio Kemper.
A total of 259 beautifully handcrafted cloth dolls are included in the
exhibit, along with accessories. The dolls depict the history of Great
Britain from the days of the earliest cavemen to the coronation of Queen
Elizabeth II. A variety of historical figures are represented, including
royal families, political reformers, military notables, artists and scientists.
Hand-painted and soft sculptured, the dolls are costumed in authentic
All the dolls were hand-sewn for the Liberty of London department store
by two sisters, Ada and Kathleen Peat. Working out of their home, the
sisters produced the dolls from the 1930s through the 1960s. Several one-of-a-kind
dolls in the exhibit were made especially for the original collector,
Miss Margaret Shapleigh.
The museum, a restored row house not far from the Gateway Arch, was the
boyhood home of Eugene Field, a newspaper columnist who came to be known
as the childrens poet. Like many boys of his era, Field
enjoyed toys, including dolls, which are permanently displayed at the
There are more than 3,000 toys in the permanent collection, including
many dolls, Kemper said. The dolls range from rare 1830s examples
to contemporary dolls of the late 1900s.
Dolls are an important part of the museums heritage. Several
of our volunteers are especially interested in dolls, Kemper added.
Museum hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday
noon to 4. The museum is open by appointment only during January and February.
For more information call 314-421-4689, or visit www.eugenefieldhouse.org.
Doll Museum in St. Joseph.
This unique museum is housed in a building at 12th and Penn that was originally
the Second Baptist Church built in 1871. It is located just around the
corner from the Patee House and Jesse James Home, and the Penn Street
Square Antique Mall.
The Doll Museum began in 1968 with a group of doll enthusiasts led by
Mrs. Leone Clayton. Today, doll lovers can see on display many rare and
unusual dolls, and related items.
More than 600 dolls, from simple covered wagon dolls carried by pioneer
children, to modern-day Barbies, make up the museums collection.
The museums Shirley Temple collection includes a Japanese Shirley.
Tea Party scenes include many doll-size accessories. A Spike
dog with a realistic bark was made in England in 1880. Wicker carriages
and chairs from turn-of-the century manufacturers show extraordinary detail.
Displays also include miniatures, trains, dollhouses and other accessories,
plus vintage fans and clothing.
May through August hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday,
and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. From September through November, hours are 10
a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday. For
more information call 816-233-1420 or 232-7180.
A doll entrepreneur
BGs Doll House & Hospital is located behind a turn-of-the-century
residence just west of downtown in Odessa, MO. The hospital
part still occupies the original carriage house where Barbara Fowler began
the business five years ago.
A year later, Barbara and her husband, George, completed the G&M Restoration
Seminars in Pennsylvania. The training enabled them to repair and restore
porcelain, china and bisque dolls in their tiny shop. Barbara continued
to work as a teacher at nearby Longview Community College until about
a year ago, when the business demanded her full attention. The Fowlers
expanded the business, adding an 8,000 square-foot building behind the
original carriage house.
When we built it, I couldnt see how we would fill it up,
Barbara said. Now, we use every inch of space.
Barbara also works at designing and crafting original dolls, molding heads,
bodies and limbs from clay. She also modifies dolls into new creations,
changing their styles and genders in the process. She is especially proud
of a Mary Englebreit doll that she changed to a boy doll with the addition
of a shock of red hair, freckles and other facial features, and a change
Did the original designer object to the change?
Robert Tonner, the owner of the Mary Englebreit line, is pleased
with the changes doll designers do with the dolls, Barbara said.
Tonner also bought the Effanbee company out of bankruptcy, preserving
and continuing an important part of Americas doll heritage.
Barbaras company also sells a variety of contemporary dolls, including
Ginny, Tonner, Effanbee, Clea Bella, Barbie®, gene, Dawn, Fashion
Royalty and Kaiser. The shop is open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday,
10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday 1-5 p.m., and by appointment. For more information
call 816-230-8565, toll free 1-877-656-4446, or visit www.bgsdollhouse.com.
Discover Mid-America founder and Senior Contributing Editor Ken Weyand
files regular reports on notable Midwest destinations. He can be reached
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