Doll News Summer 2020 - 16

The complete set of 15
postcards came in a folder
with an extra card that
depicted the entire set.
Also available were lapel
pins of each of the stamps,
first day covers of each doll
and a set of trading cards
with interesting information
on each doll on the front and
activities on the back.

On the other hand, some folk dolls can achieve a high
level of technical excellence, such as the Plains Indian.
Since she is one-of-a-kind, she is not a "Classic" by our
definition of wide availability and popular recognition;
at the same time, though, she brings much-needed
Native American agency to the American story. And she
is a fine example of a limited production doll especially
charged with the unnamed maker's unique energy
as seen in her deft leatherwork and detailed beading.
Indeed, this fascinating doll arouses in us thoughtful
reflection on American history and the colonizing of
an indigenous people. As in Edward Curtis's early 20th
century photographs of Native Americans, the doll's
image captures the clothing and hair style of what Curtis
titled in one collection The Vanishing Race. Her facial
expression, painted onto the cloth, is open to vexed
interpretation: is this the steadfast gaze of a proud
people who survived, or is it the sorrowful expression
of a lost legacy? These complexities aside, we can still
celebrate the skillful workmanship and quality materials
in the Plains Indian.
The mammy doll-and image-also has a vexed history.
Commercialized, monetized, and widely produced by
16

SUMMER 2020

professional doll makers, this Babyland Rag by the E.I
Horsman Company was one of hundreds of mammy
types. For some, her image connotes warm thoughts of
caring, loving, and nurturing; but for others the mammy
image is reminiscent of a glamorized antebellum America.
In recent years, scholars and artists have worked to
reclaim stereotyped images like mammy-and Aunt
Jemima-viewing them as representations of powerful,
dignified women who survived in an era of slavery, and,
later, of job discrimination. Such new interpretations are
quintessentially "American," and are examples of how we
can face our history and find meaning in close readings
of our material culture. In this light, the mammy doll
deserves a fresh look.
Well-known writer and collector Agnes Sura described
how the dolls were selected for the stamps in a Summer
1997 Doll News article. Although UFDC officers and
members were the driving force behind the stamps, and
presented many more dolls to be photographed, "The
postal service reserved the right to determine which
dolls would actually be used," Sura says. One wonders,
23 years later, what dolls would be chosen today. Which
dolls would you select?



Doll News Summer 2020

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