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Doll FAQs
Frequently (and not so frequently ) Asked Questions
 relating to dolls and doll making.

Girl with her doll

 

 

 

 

 

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What is a Doll?

How long have we had this
love affair with Dolls?

Pearls of Wisdom:

Porcelain Doll Painting tips by Jean Nordquist

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What is a Doll?

Webster's New World Dictionarydescribes a doll as - "a child's toy, puppet, marionette, etc. made to resemble a human being."

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How long have we had this love affair with Dolls?

A History of Dolls

Dolls have been a part of humankind since prehistoric times. Used to depict religious figures or used as playthings, early dolls were probably made from primitive materials such as clay, fur, or wood. No dolls have survived from prehistoric times, although a fragment of an alabaster doll with movable arms from the Babylonian period was recovered.
 
Dolls constructed of flat pieces of wood, painted with various designs and with "hair" made of strings of clay or wooden beads, have often been found in Egyptian graves dating back to 2000 BC. Egyptian tombs of wealthy families have included pottery dolls. Dolls placed in these graves leads some to believe that they were cherished possessions.
 
Dolls were also buried in Greek and Roman children's graves. Girls from Greece and Rome dedicated their wooden dolls to goddesses after they were too "grown-up" to play with dolls.
 
Most ancient dolls that were found in children's tombs were very simple creations, often made from such materials as clay, rags, wood, or bone. Some of the more unique dolls were made with ivory or wax. The main goal was to make the doll as "lifelike" as possible. That ideal lead to the creation of dolls with movable limbs and removable garments, dating back to 600 B.C.
 
Following the era of the ancient dolls, Europe became a major hub for doll production. These dolls were primarily made of wood. Primitive wooden stump dolls from 16th and 17th century England number less than 30 today. The Grodnertal area of Germany produced many peg wooden dolls, a type of doll that has very simple peg joints and resembles a clothespin.
 
An alternative to wood was developed in the 1800s. Composition is a collective term for mixtures of pulped wood or paper that were used to make doll heads and bodies. These mixtures were molded under pressure, creating a durable doll that could be mass produced. Manufacturers closely guarded the recipes for their mixtures, sometimes using strange ingredients like ash or eggshells. Papier-mache, a type of composition, was one of the most popular mixtures.
 
In addition to wooden dolls, wax dolls were popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. Munich was a major manufacturing center for wax dolls, but some of the most distinctive wax dolls were created in England between 1850 and 1930. Wax modelers would model a doll head in wax or clay, and then use plaster to create a mold from the head. Then they would pour melted wax into the cast. The wax for the head would be very thin, no more than 3 mm. One of the first dolls that portrayed a baby was made in England from wax at the beginning of the 19th century.
 
Porcelain became popular at the beginning of the 19th century. Porcelain is made by firing special clays in a kiln at more than 2372 degrees Fahrenheit. Only a few clays can withstand firing at such high temperatures. Porcelain is used generically to refer to both china and bisque dolls. China is glazed, whereas bisque is unglazed. Germany, France, and Denmark started creating china heads for dolls in the 1840s. China heads were replaced by heads made of bisque in the 1860s. Bisque, which is fired twice with color added to it after the first firing, looked more like skin than china did.
 
The French "bebe" was popular in the 1880s, and it has become a highly sought after doll today. The bebe, first made in the 1850s, was unique from its predecessors because it depicted a younger girl. Until then, most dolls were representations of adults. Although the French dolls were unrivaled in their artistry, German bisque dolls became quite popular because they were not as expensive. Kammer & Reinhardt introduced a bisque character doll in the 1900s, starting a trend of creating realistic dolls.
 
For centuries, rag dolls were made by mothers for their children. Rag dolls refer generically to dolls made of any fabric. Cloth dolls refer to a subset of rag dolls made of linen or cotton. Commercially produced rag dolls were first introduced in the 1850s by English and American manufacturers. Although not as sophisticated as dolls made from other materials, rag dolls were well-loved, often as a child's first toy.
Dollmaking did not become an industry in the United States until after the Civil War in the 1860s. Doll production was concentrated in New England, with dolls made from a variety of materials such as leather, rubber, papier-mache, and cloth. Celluloid was developed in New Jersey in the late 1860s and was used to manufacture dolls until the mid-1950s. German, French, American, and Japanese factories churned out cheaply produced celluloid dolls in mass quantities. However, celluloid fell out of favor because of its extreme flammability and propensity to fade in bright light.
 
After World War II, doll makers experimented with plastics. Hard plastic dolls were manufactured in the 1940s. They resembled composition dolls, but they were much more durable. Other materials used in doll manufacturing included rubber, foam rubber, and vinyl in the 1950s and 1960s. Vinyl changed doll making, allowing doll makers to root hair into the head, rather than using wigs or painting the hair. Although most dolls are now mass-manufactured using these modern materials, many modern doll makers are using the traditional materials of the past to make collectible dolls.
 
This summary was created by using information from the following sources: Britannica Online; "Doll," Microsoft(R) Encarta(R) 96 Encyclopedia. (c) 1993-1995 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. (c) Funk & Wagnalls Corporation, The Ultimate Doll Book by Caroline Goodfellow; and Dolls: A Collector's Guide by Olivia Bristol.  All rights reserved, 

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