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."

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.


  1. I loved looking at all of these beautiful dolls. Thank you for sharing them.

  2. Absolutely fascinating but a rather sad story. She was beautiful though.

  3. As always, you tell such a wonderful tale. Thank you for sharing this fascinating bit of history! (I love your posts...I always, always learn something!)

  4. Thank you all! It was my pleasure doing this story. There much more to tell about Evelyn Nesbit, but it would take several posts..lol! A good movie musical with her story as a subplot is "Ragtime" I recommend it. Also Florodora dolls are so beautiful and actually very affordable. Marseille is an underated doll manufacturers by collectors. His dolls are as not pricey as other German and French names, but he produced the most fabulous doll heads, and curiously enough, often made them for other more expensive firms, that only supplied the body. Thanks again for your comments. Bisous!

  5. I am back again looking at your amazing blog and I know that I commented in our doll group but wanted to say again how much I enjoyed all the history and all the dolls. You make it all so compelling to want to see and learn. Thank you so much for all the work that goes into sharing your love of dolls with others. Big hugs, Kimmee

  6. Thank you Kimmee...for commenting twice (FB. It makes me very happy that you find my humble blog so interesting, Thanks again for been so supportive.
    Love Ya!

  7. ¡Fantásticas! gracias por mostrar este maravilloso reportaje.

  8. Muchas gracias Rosa,
    Me alegra mucho te haya gustado. agradezco much tu comentario!

  9. Hola....=) tengo una muñeca rayito de sol que es de mi mamá de cuando era chica, hoy mi mamá tiene 62 años y todavia la tiene guardada en su caja original, yo calculo que será de los años 50 tiene un vestidito azul, flequillo y acuna a un bebé en brazos, y bueno =) investigando la muñeca terminé conociendo su página y me gustó mucho =).
    Queria dejarle el comentario, gracias