Doll News Summer 2020 - 15

World's Fair in Chicago, then went on a world-wide tour on behalf
of children's charities. Martha Chase expanded her home-grown
doll business from playthings into the area of public health, with
her smaller and life-size adult dolls and mannequins used in
teaching. For her Alabama babies, Ella Smith took out at least four
patents in the U.S. and Germany. Izannah Walker's first patent was
1873, and now, almost 150 years later, her dolls have become wildly
high-priced and much coveted at auction. We could speculate
about how these gifted women would have endeavored in 2020;
perhaps they would ascend to become CEOs of huge corporations
and would not have focused all that talent and energy into making
dolls! It's our good fortune, though, that they did.
But what makes a doll "classic"? Usually this designation
assumes that the doll, or the image it represents, harkens back to
an earlier time. Over the years it's been widely distributed and
has achieved some level of popular recognition. When mommy
and daddy went into any toy store and asked for Raggedy Ann,
for instance, everyone would know exactly what they meant.
Even today, an auction site like eBay might need to dedicate a
large category for Raggedy Ann and Andy, and a Google search
produces dozens of Raggedy images. Some cloth dolls may have
had humble beginnings, but they achieved an iconic success in
American children's material culture and became classics.
Raggedy Ann is one of the best examples of a popular cloth
doll from her commercial manufacture in 1915 and further boosted
in the storybooks by Johnny Gruelle a few years later. But other
cloth dolls had more humble beginnings. For instance, cloth "folk
dolls" are pretty much what their name implies, items made from
materials on hand by untrained crafts men and women. Since
antiquity, one-of-a-kind "rag dolls" were made out of household
scraps and rags, and sewn and stuffed at home. Nevertheless,
it's their very lack of sophistication, and their poignant faces and
bodies, that gives them a powerful tug on our feelings.
Contemporary collectors are delighted to find handmade black
cloth dolls. A recorded narrative from a child of former slaves
describes in dialect her playing with their slaveholder's daughter,
"Miss Lee have a china doll with a wreath of roses around it head.
We take turns playin' with it. I had a rag doll, and it jes' a bundle
of rags with strings tied round to give it shape." By her description
of the friable materials, this doll probably only made it to the 21st
Century in the owner's recorded memory. But many black folk
dolls were sturdily made and are highly collectible. A charming
black girl doll in a plain gingham dress, for instance, with her eyes,
nose, and lips carefully embroidered, conjures up thoughts of the
devoted hand that made her, and the happy child who now had
a companion. Thousands of these homemade dolls must have
been worn out in play and were eventually discarded down the
generations, but those remaining have become valued prizes for
astute collectors who appreciate the presence of history in such a
much-loved doll.

Also included in the set is the "Plains Indian."
She is described as: The beadwork and
traditional tanned leather clothing of this cloth
doll indicates that it was made in the 1920s by
Native Americans of the Great Plains region.

The "Babyland Rag" postcard defines the
doll as: Babyland Rag is an all-cloth doll
produced by the E. I. Horsman Company.
This doll had painted features until 1907,
when printed faces were introduced.
DOLL NEWS * UFDC.ORG

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Doll News Summer 2020

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