What is a Doll?

How long have we had this love affair with Dolls?

Pearls of Wisdom:

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

Friday, November 11, 2011

"Its A Wonderful Life"

I am very excited to announce that I have been selected to be part of the cast of “It’s a Wonderful Life”. This has been a favorite movie of mine and I am sure for many of you as well… The play is full of wonderful Christmas music and a lovely story.
My role is that of Mrs. Thompson, a town folk and a caroler, who was also a victim of terrible Mr. Potter (bank owner) and crook. But as we all know; The story ends happily ever after for everyone in Bedford Falls.

It's a Wonderful Life is a 1946 American Christmas drama film... This was director Frank Capra's classic bittersweet comedy/drama about George Bailey, the eternally-in-debt guiding force of a bank in the typical American small town of Bedford Falls. A man whose imminent suicide on Christmas Eve brings about the intervention of his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody (Clarence shows George all the lives he has touched and the contributions he has made to his community.

George declares that he wishes that he had never been born, and Clarence, hoping to teach George a lesson, shows him how different life would have been had he in fact never been born. After a nightmarish odyssey through a George Bailey-less Bedford Falls (now a glorified slum called Potterville), wherein none of his friends or family recognize him, George is made to realize how many lives he has touched, and helped, through his existence; and, just as Clarence had planned, George awakens to the fact that, despite all its deprivations, he has truly had a wonderful life.

As a result of my new adventure, I won’t be able to post for awhile, as I will be busy with rehearsals. Thank you so much for following and I wish you all a Happy Holiday Season!…and remember “Every time you hear a bell ring, it means an angel got his wings….”

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Santa Claus of Kensington

Schnickle-Fritz and Harlequin Clown from Diane Dustir collection

Albert Schoenhut, was the creator of marvelous toy pianos, intricate circus figures and lifelike dolls who were said to be modeled on his grandchildren’s likeness. Born in Germany to a family with a legacy of doll making since the 1700s, and who at seventeen, was one of the many German-born immigrants who settled in Philadelphia during the second half of the 19th century. This was a time of an ever growing and thriving German community that helped each other, and celebrated their heritage. Albert was employed at the Wanamaker's department store, repairing the broken glass sounding pieces in German toy pianos (also known as the kinderklavier (child's keyboard) that were damaged during shipping. Around this time he met and married Philadelphia born Emilie Langbien. A year late, their first of nine children, Albert Frederick was born.

From my own collection; Schoenhut Piano and at the keyboard...my 29" Karl Hartman girl.

While working at Wanamaker’s he conceived the idea of the toy piano as we know it today. He replaced traditional fragile glass bars, with durable steel plates that were strucked by hammers, and added spacers to hold the bars in place, this made the keys very difficult to dislodge during play. Finally in 1872 Schoenhut began producing his own toy pianos.

Stick Horse... Diane Dustir collection

Circus with animals and figures courtesy of Jim Sneed

At this time the young family moved to a one room flat in the Kensington section of Philadelphia where he was assisted in his work by his wife. It was here we glimpse the extent of his creative genius. For years, they handcrafted only wooden musical toys, carts and animals. In 1902 Schoenhut was approached by inventor Fritz Meinecke, who had mastered a way of holding the animal’s different parts with elastic, thus giving the toy movement and endless hours of play by the different poses it could achieve. Schoenhut bought the patent for the animal design and it became the basis of “The Humpty Dumpty Circus” which became a favorite of the company until its end in 1935.

Roly Clown... Jim Sneed collection

One of the first doll- like figures, “The Rolly Dolly” first appeared on 1908. They were manufactured from a composition material with weights imbedded in their bottoms so they would right themselves in a rolling motion when tipped over. They were a success story proving to be a sturdier version of a particularly old toy.

Graziano designed dolls

In 1911, he opened his doll manufacturing business, using mostly basswood for their bodies. After the dolls were carved, they were placed into molds that were fitted with pressure and high heat creating a smooth texture, and eliminating rough edges. This process resulted in an almost bisque look on his dolls. He still used the traditional jointed arms and legs, but he did not use rubber cord to hold it together; Instead, he patented his invention of steel spring hinge tension to hold up the dolls' joints. This method gave the flexibility and durability needed for the dolls to be posed in numerous ways, providing many hours of creative play for children. Finally the whole doll was given several coats of oil paint, which did not come off when washed by a small owner. The first few dolls that were manufactured measured 16 inches tall and the head was designed by an Italian sculptor and artist named Graziano,: These were four girls and four boys with carved hair, eight girls,and four boys with wigs and two infants. These dolls appeared to have very thin paint and no gesso underneath thus the paint wore off easily with repeated washings.

Then in 1912 Albert’s brother, Harry Schoenhut, was hired as the lead artist who designed the new series of dolls using better paints that would withstand both play and cleaning. The most dramatic change, however, was that the new dolls appeared to have much younger faces, while the Graziano dolls represented children from eight to twelve years of age.

16/102 Original handmade clothing, factory leather shoes

The late Albert Schoenhut, founder of The A. Schoenhut Co., established 1872, incorporated 1897

The classic period of Schoenhut dolls began in 1912, sadly the same year Albert Schoenhut died in his sleep leaving his son Albert Frederick in charge during the most glorious years of the company when the dolls faces were at their most prolific and the greatest variety.

From my collection a 19/308 as it came to me originally.

Doll 19/308 (on the right) after I had her hair redone, and re-dressed from a Schoenhut pattern

16/300 original homemade nurse’s uniform

16/106 Bonnet Head

14/102 girl & 14/207 boy, girl’s dress copy of Schoenhut style, boy’s suit original handmade

Schoenhut dolls are easily identified by size number (first), series or face number next. This method of recognizing started with the Graziano period. For example: doll # 19/105, is a 19” carved hair doll.
The 100 series consists of the carved hair girls; the 200 series were carved hair boys; the 300 series were wigged girls (with some of the most beautiful character faces); and the 400 series were wigged boys:

The # 316…Also known as “Miss Dolly”... Who Can Do Almost Anything But Talk... Finally!

A sweet dolly, for little girls to dress in ruffles and lace. Not unlike those other German bisque dolls with the short upturned nose, and the open-mouthed look. She has smooth eyes painted blue or brown and varnished to give her the glass eye look of German dolls. Later this was replaced by decal eyes, giving it a more realistic look. Miss Dolly is the most recognizable of the Schoenhut dolls and the original was produced until 1924.


In 1911, the company expanded and came up with an infant doll series with curved wooden arms and either mohair or molded hair. These were distributed all over United States and in catalogs. The famous two 15-inch infant dolls with molded hairstyle were named Tootsie Wootsie, an infant with fat cheeks and wide opened eyes; and the other was Schnickel-Fritz, an older child with a mischievous grin. Although the company called them infants, these two were not really infants, they were designed more like toddlers, and were fully jointed.

From my collection "Nature Baby"

From Don Barnes collection: Nature Baby and Miss Dolly

The Baby dolls, and Nature Babies series, were #107 through #110. Some with painted hair, others were wigged. These appeared to be designed by Albert’s son Harry Schoenhut. Doll number 107 was also designed on a bent limb body described in catalogues as having “Nature’s Arms and Leg” Doll # 108 was also designed in both jointed and Nature Limb bodies, but in a much larger doll.

The company also created mannequins for garment merchandising, and for clothing studios, it came in the 19” size only, and was manufactured from 1914 to 1918. Originally presented as A Manikin for Students Of Fine Art, or Dressed Figures for Window Display, and it was given the number/series 19/175.

This doll was designed to look as a young man and it included three sports figures: a Basket Ball player, a Foot Ball player, and Base Ball player. The “Manikin” has a very interesting face, and it’s indeed a treat to find one.

Hundreds of toys, doll houses and dolls followed: Mama dolls with stuffed bodies and a voice box, infants with movable eyes, even a Schoenhut version of Gracie Putnam’s Bye-Lo Baby. Yet around the time of the Great Depression, the company's sales began to dwindle; partly due the popularity of electric action toys, and power trains. Dolls were imported by the droves from Germany, where labor was cheap, so they were being sold at half the cost of an American manufactured doll. At the same time newer dolls came in with lighter and better materials, children seemed to like these cuddlier dolls better than the heavier wooden ones. However in the late 1924, the company produced a kind of stuffed dolls that were made with a hollow wooden head but it was of an inferior kind and costumers did not take to them. The dolls did not sell, and all but gather dust in the shelves. By the year 1935, the company was then liquidated since they were not able to keep up with competitors who were mostly into bisque and vinyl doll-making.

From my collection

I am the proud owner of a handful of Schoenhuts. They all have bruises, dings; a chip here or there. Lucky for me they survived the “rough” love of those children from yesterday. But there is something in those faces so realistic; like they want to speak and tell me stories. I love these dolls with their bruises and pensive faces...

…if only.


My deepest thanks to Jim Sneed from "All About Old Toys" for allowing me to use the amazing photographs from his collection, and the collection of Diane Dustir. All the doll photos unless otherwise noted are from the collection of Diane Dustir.

Also thanks to my friend Don Barnes for his pictures of Miss Dolly and Nature Baby.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Looking for Information on these dolls...

As a special favor to ask of my followers, especially those that are miniature collectors. I recently purchased these teeny 1 1/2" dolls they are all bisque, fully jointed and they are all dressed in crocheted wedding costumes. If anybody can give me some background on them . I would really appreciate it!



Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Florodora Girls: Pretty maidens all in a row.

What is a Florodora...?

“Florodora, a small island in the Philippines). Here is manufactured the popular fragrance "Florodora," made from the essence of the Florodora flower. (Florodora first act opening lines.)
In the history of American Musical Theater, the show Florodora was an important link in establishing Broadway's Great White Way at the turn of this century. It originally opened in London in 1899 and moved to New York in 1900 and ran 552 performances.

Florodora sextet 1900's New York production

A good part of the success of the musical was attributed to its lovely sextet of chorines called "the English Girls", but soon popularly dubbed the "Florodora Girls". Young male admirers would showered them with gifts, hoping to persuade many to leave the show to marry them. They were the predecessors of the Zigfield Follies who followed in their heels and also became the objects of popular adoration.

The Girl on the Red Velvet Swing

One Florodora dancer, a mere girl of sixteen, attracted the attentions of the famous architect Stanford White. “ In his towering Madison Square Garden flat, he would place young Evelyn Nesbit on a red velvet swing and watch her glide through the air.

Evelyn Nesbit : The Original Gibson Girl" sketched by Charles Dana Gibson "The Eternal Question"

As Nesbit later described the room, the most eye-catching feature was "a gorgeous swing with red velvet ropes, set high in the ceiling at one end of the studio." Evelyn would ride the swing many times…

Evelyn Nesbit ca. 1900

John Barrymore

Her involvement with White continued, but also during this period, Evelyn was courted by a young struggling actor named John Barrymore after her affair to White ended.
Eventually tiring out of Barrymore, Evelyn accepted a marriage proposal from the son of a railroad baron, Harry Kendall Thaw, who became increasingly jealous of Nesbit past flings, and was especially sensitive about her relationship with White.

On June 25 1906, as fate would have it, Harry spotted in the audience at Madison Square Gardens. During the performance Thaw fired three shots at close range into White's face, killing him. Thaw was found innocent by pleading insanity, and Evelyn testified on his defense hoping she would be compensated with a divorce and one million dollars. The divorced was granted, but no money!

Evelyn Nesbit ca. 1902 National Museum of American History, Rudolph Eickenmeyer Jr.

After the trial, Evelyn Nesbit Thaw's career took a slow decline, largely due to suicide attempts, alcoholism, and an addiction to morphine.
She eventually died in a nursing home in Santa Monica, California, at age 82. In her later years, she served as a technical consultant to a 1955 movie about the White shooting, "The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing,"

Many future stars started out chorus girls, Just to name a few: Norma Shearer (in 1919), Joan Crawford (in 1924), Gypsy Rose Lee (in 1927), and Lucille Ball (in 1931),
The survivors of the Chorus lines of the last century are The Rockettes of Radio City Music Hall..


The Dolls of Armand Marseille; One of the largest and most prolific German doll manufacturer. On the following two images, is a small sample of his creations. However on this post, we will only reference the Florodora Dolls to keep with our story, as it is believed they were named for the famous choristas of the times.

A.M. Googlies displayed with antique farm animals. Courtesy of Nancy Maiarana NFADC

Armand Marseille established his porcelain factory in 1855 in Thuringia , Germany. In spite of his French name he was one of the most prolific German bisque doll manufacturers. His dolls were displayed at the St. Louis Exposition where he was awarded a Grand Prize. Although he is known for some fine, baby dolls like “My Dream Baby”, the impish “Just Me” and exquisite and the rare character children one usually associates, with Kammer & Reinhardt; his call to fame with the great majority were the child dolls, like Queen Louise, and the beautiful dolly face Florodoras. Dolls: courtesy of Joan Ratzel NFADC.

From the collection of Joanie Harter: The image of a lovely and serene looking girl.

A very sweet #370 dressed as a peddler. Courtesy of Gloria Kimmell .

When Armand Marseille died of heart failure in 1920, he left the run of the company to his son, but although production finally stopped by the end of 1928, his dolls were still sold by the warehouses for many years after.

What is a Florodora Doll...

This beautiful Florodora with fur eyebrows is from the collection of Carol Hellewell...

Florodoras came in different shapes and sizes ranging from 10” to 42” tall. Earlier ones dating to early 20th century + had kid or cloth body, bisque shoulder head, wore wigs, had glass eyes and a slightly smiling mouth. Some even had fur eyebrows.

From my collection #370 shoulderhead on a kid body.

Dolls courtesy of Joanie Harter: Beautiful blonde Florodora, with gorgeous brown glass eyes, wearing a sweet lawn dress with ribbon insets. Her friend, an unmarked charming doll possibly made for the French market.

The #370 and #390 are the more popular mold numbers on these dolls: The #370 for shoulder heads on a kid body and #390 for socket heads, on a composition body. Although you can find Florodoras with many different numbers but the molds are very similar.

The trademarks for the dolls were registerd by Borgfedlt in Germany. They are usually marked in back of the head with “Made in Germany Florodora A 2M”; “Florodora A.M. 5 1/2 DRP made in Germany”; etc. In 1903 the trademark was changed with a daisy in the center.

The beautiful petite 12", #390 Florodora on these three images is from Don Barnes collection. She is all original on a rare, nine part compo body original shoes and dress.

Notice the rare nine part compo body.

Later Florodoras, possibly after 1909, were bisque with a socket head; wood or composition jointed body and some models had “Stick legs”. Note that many of the dolls are marked with

A M instead of Armand Marseille.

From my collection; two # 370 Florodoras..shoulder heads on kid body. Dolls dresses were lovingly made by Nancy Maiarana with antique cloth materials and designed according to the style of period.

Like most German made dolls, Florodoras were often not as elegant as their French counterparts, but most importantly, they were affordable. Most middle class families, were able to procure them for their little girls to play, love and cherish, not just to admire from a distance… and they were well made and beautiful.

Courtesy of Doris Irene Jackson. Gorgeous brown eyes, apple cheeks, exquisite china painting, a perfect example of a beautiful Armand Marseille doll. Doll is wearing a beautiful dress of green silk and antique lace, with two buttons resembling gold an green marbles adorning the lace collar.

Final thoughts....

Armand Marseille made the Florodora doll heads from 1901 through to the early 1920s .

The musical "Florodora" opened on Broadway in November 1900 after having run for more than 400 performances in London.

The Armand Marseille 390 doll is sometimes called the “Florodora,” probably after the name of that famous chorus line from the turn-of-the-20th-century. “The Florodora Girls”

My deepest thanks to my good friends from “The Antique Doll Collector’s Club” from FB, that so graciously allowed me to use photos of their beautiful Florodora dolls.

Also my fellow members at Niagara Frontier Antique Doll Club, for letting me photograph their wonderful dolls.