A friend found this wooden box of doll house furniture and dolls in her family’s stuff and gave it to me. I don’t know where they came from or how old they are, but I’m guessing they are northern European, possibly German, from about 100 years ago. It looks like a coffin inside, with padded satin cushioning the furniture and doll bodies. The dolls are about 3 1/2 inches tall.
The woman’s hour-glass figure makes me think these were made in the age of corsets.
I like the man’s baggy pantaloons and formal shirt and jacket.
There are 3 little carved cats.
The dolls’ eyes seem too cutesy compared to everything else in the box. Maybe they are Betty Boop’s grandparents!
The miniature basket and woven chair seats are perfectly made.
Among the treasures my mother left me are some well-worn porcelain “flapper dolls”. She was born in 1925, so she must have played with them in the late 1920’s.
my mother, Mary Hartwell (Mavor), age 4
I can imagine my mother’s little girl hands grasping this doll, moving its arms up and down, and dressing and redressing its solid body until the paint wore off.
1920's flapper doll, 3" tall
Even these broken doll parts were saved for me to find 75 years after their useful toy life was over. They are in reserve, ready to contribute to some future piece of art. I cannot tell when or if a leg or arm section will ever be the “right” object to add and have to be careful not to let sentimentality guide my decisions.
porcelain doll parts
For now, it’s enough to have and enjoy my mother’s childhood treasures.
This set of standing wooden folk dolls are a mystery to me. I found them in a box of other miscellaneous stuff, while cleaning out my parents’ house. They are small, about 2″ tall and would make fun cake decorations. Helen, a fellow blogger (here) who knows a lot about souvenir dolls, thinks they may be Hungarian or Polish because of the red boots and dark hair.
Since Helen pointed out the red boots, I’ve been flooded with memories of seeing Hungarian dance performances as a child. Besides wearing eye-catching red boots, the dancers’ costumes had full puffy petticoats under their skirts. I also remember seeing the women’s long braids flying out as they twirled. My parents were avid international folk dancers and would bring us to watch and participate in folk dance events. I don’t remember seeing these dolls as a child, but their red boots triggered a memory.
I’d like to share these Scandinavian dolls from my family’s collection. They were either bought by my parents or grandparents in Europe. I have clear memories of playing with this pair of 5″ tall dolls. They are sturdy, with wire bodies and limbs, so they could actually do things, unlike Barbie dolls.
My blogging friend and official doll consultant, Helen from Dollzandthings says, “They look earlier than 50’s to me–maybe 40’s or even late 30’s. It is very hard to identify some of these costume/souvenir dolls because there were so many talented people making dolls–including souvenir dolls and cottage industries. Your dolls seem to have the cutest traits of all the doll makers combined: great facial expression & painting and great costuming.”
Thank you, Helen for your help. I’ll be seeking your expertise with other dolls from the collection in the future.
Their heads and bodies are covered with stockinette. The clothing is either thin wool felt or cotton. The faces are delicately painted, with some needle sculpting around the mouth and eyes. I love their wispy hair.
This boy and girl pair is from my family’s doll collection. From the look of their outfits, they may be from Russia or the Baltic countries of Lithuania, Latvia or Estonia.
They’re doll house size, about 4″ tall and have cloth wrapped wire limbs. The heads are painted plaster and the girl has a braided white blond wig. I remember playing with them as a child and always loved their yellow crocheted booties. The clothing is crudely made, but the their delicate features, well made heads, wigs and shoes are examples of fine craftsmanship.
Among my family treasures is a doll collection that came from my grandmother, Louise Salley Hartwell. My first name comes from my grandmother’s maiden name. As children, we weren’t allowed to touch most of the dolls, but just gaze at them high up in shelves. She found many of the dolls in her travels and collected them throughout her long life of almost 100 years. Here is a photograph of my grandmother on her Gramma Lou’s lap, with one of her sisters. Gramma Lou lived with the Salley family in Orangeburg, SC and taught all 5 daughters how to sew.
my grandmother, Louise Salley Hartwell, on lap (1892)
Here’s a group shot of some of the dolls from the collection.
from my grandmother's doll collection
This wooden doll is about 10″ tall and most likely has been in the family its whole life. I have no information about her, but she looks very old.
Her face is painted simply, but with an intense expression and it looks like moths have eaten her wool felt hat.
Inside the silk dress hem is a cloth tag that has this written: 35-25:100-M in red ink. Her legs and arms are simple wooden pegs.
She has such a delicate little sliver of a nose attached to the wooden head.
These doll house miniatures belonged to my mother, who was born in 1925 in Providence, RI. In the photograph, she looks like the classic little girl from her era. My sister, brother and I played with the toys, too. The porcelain dolls have been well-loved and are showing wear, but the metal toys held up much better. The mail box is also a bank. I just noticed that the mower (or carpet sweeper?) is named SallyAnn, names my mother would give to my sister and me, only spelled with e’s.
my mother, Mary Hartwell (Mavor) 1928