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."

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Dolley Payne Madison "The Belle of Washington"

Dolley was born May 20, 1768 in Greensboro (at that time the Quaker community of New Garden), North Carolina. Widowed early, she eventually found herself living in Philadelphia and it was there that wealthy Virginia planter and statesman James Madison sought her out, and after four months, wed her. In her eight years in Washington, D.C. (1809-1817), she made the White House a most delightful place to visit. Beautiful gregarious, buoyant, and cheerful, the regular social gatherings she hosted were lively events at which anyone would feel welcome.

Alt, Beck and Gottschalk "Dolley Madison" from the Borger Collection

Serving as Washington, D. C., hostess for President Thomas Jefferson at the turn of the 19th century, and then as mistress of the White House when James Madison was president, Dolley added fun and sparkle to the social scene in the young republic.

Unmarked. This Alt, Beck & Gottschalk doll has painted features including black curly hair with molded ribbon, partially exposed ears and blue eyes. Old cloth and leather body has a narrow waist and is sturdy. Nicely dressed in antique ecru wool bodice and skirt with lace trim. No damage. Circa 1870s - 1880s. A lovely example of this china head doll.

Once she became first lady in 1809, her status as the central figure of Washington society was confirmed. Her vivacious nature attracted many guests to the White House and she had the ability to make everyone feel at home. Her lavish dinner parties were noted for the surprise delicacies served. 

A regal five feet six inches tall, with her satin turbans decorated with bird of paradise feathers, the buxom lady towered over her diminutive 100-pound, five-foot-four-inch husband. Together, though, the couple made a superb team, Dolley's effervescent charm and vitality balancing “Jemmy's” quiet wisdom.

From my collection... On the upper left hand corner "Dolley Madison" china shoulder head doll by Alt Beck and Gottschalk ca. 1870. All original clothes. In the foreground, Greiner Papier Mache doll ca. 1850.

Dolley and her niece Anna Payne ca. 1836


Although Dolley was unable to personally carry the Washington portrait with her during her flight from the White House, she delayed her departure until the last possible moment to arrange for its safekeeping.

According to historian Beth Taylor, Dolley's primary concern was that "this iconic image not be defiled."

During the War of 1812, Dolley's role as first lady was tested when British troops invaded Washington in August 1814. Courageously, she stayed behind until vital state documents and, most notably, the famous portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart were removed to safety before the White House was burned down by the troops..

With the conclusion of his second term, James and Dolley retired to Montpelier. On June 28, 1836, James Madison died at the age of 85. Their 42-year marriage had been a remarkably blissful and happy one. In 1837, Dolley returned to Washington and resumed her former status in the social life there. On July 12, 1849, Dolley Madison died in Washington at age 81. She was buried in the Congressional Cemetery. Later her remains were moved to Montpelier next to her husband's

Dolley (age 80 in 1848) was revered for saving the fledgling republic's treasures. Of her hurried departure from the White House, she would later recall: "I lived a lifetime in those last moments."

" Dolley" by William Elwell

Referring to Dolley's entertainments, Washington Irving reported a room “crowded with interesting men and fine women.” Henry Clay exclaimed in Dolley's presence, “Everybody loves Mrs. Madison!” Dolley responded, “That's because Mrs. Madison loves everybody!”


  1. Had no idea of any of this - wonderful read and good to see some of your own collection.

  2. Thank you Hermes...A very colorful lady for sure, and very well loved. She brought her southern charm to the White House and won everybody's heart. It's very touching that given the difference in their ages, they were very much in love.

  3. Спасибо за интересную информацию! А куклы - это что-то нереальное!

  4. Большое спасибо вам за ваш комментарий.


  5. She indeed was a very colourful lady in her time and amazing story....I learn something new here on your Blog all the time. Thanks you for sharing these wonderful informative posts and photo's. Love your whole collection. Do you have a store in Amherst? where you display your dolls.
    I didn't know you knew Russian, I can read it b/c of my Ukrainian granparents background and they taught me to read it.
    Have a great day!

  6. Thank you Erica...No I don't have a store, but I am running out of room ( my husband can attest to that). I am just an avid collector and love the history behind them.