Antique and Vintage Composition Dolls

Prior to the use of composition as a doll-making material, most dolls had heads made out of porcelain or bisque and limbs made of stuffed cloth. The result was a doll with realistic facial features but unconvincing hands and feet.

Composition changed all that. In the 1850s, German doll makers in the town of Sonneberg mixed glue and sawdust to make a viscous composition, which could be molded and then painted once dry—Stephan Schilling was one famous Sonneberg company. In the 1870s, a New Yorker named Lazarus Reichmann perfected the composition recipe.

Early composition doll torsos and upper limbs were often made of stuffed cloth, with the composition reserved for the doll’s arms and legs. Eventually, though, entire dolls were made from composition, giving the doll a more credible appearance.

There were several reasons why the doll industry embraced composition, particularly in the early part of the 20th century. First and foremost, the material was inexpensive to make and easy to work with. Second, it was more durable than bisque, which cracked easily. Companies that made composition dolls included Madame Alexander and Ideal, whose Shirley Temple dolls were a huge hit in the 1930s.

By the 1940s, composition was giving way to molded plastic, which soon left the primitive material in the dust. Composition was not as soft as the new plastics that were coming to market, and never would be. Worse, it was prone to crazing, which gave the dolls a worn-out appearance even when they had not been subjected to hard use.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

This densely packed index of antique and vintage dolls claims to offer over 10,000 images of dolls from the 1800s … [read review or visit site]

Vintage Dolls of the 50s

Vintage Dolls of the 50s

Rhonda Wilson's collection of 1950s dolls, organized by name (Ginny and friends, Littlest Angel and friends, etc.) … [read review or visit site]

Kaylees Korner of Collectible Dolls

Kaylees Korner of Collectible Dolls

Kaylee's extensive collection of vintage dolls from the 1930s to 90s. Click the balloons to browse. Though Kaylee s… [read review or visit site]

Museum of Childhood

Museum of Childhood

Embrace your inner child on this website from the Victoria and Albert Museum, filled with high-quality images and i… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Charming Lot Of 5 American Composition 1930s Dolls!!Antique 27" Queen Louise Bisque Head Composition Doll #305 10 GermanAdorable Old Antique German Bisque Head Character Kestner Baby Doll W Compo BodyAntique Simon & Halbig Bisque Head Composition Body Doll 1159 Marked S&h 3 1/2Antique Armand Marseille 390 18 Inch Bisque Head Doll Compo Body Germany13" Shirley Temple 1930's Composition Doll/box All OriginalVintage Ideal 21" Shirley Temple Composition Doll W Original ClothesOld Beautiful Antique Handwerck German Bisque Head Doll W/ Compo Body Orig DressEffanbee 19" "patsy Ann" Doll #1283558 Composition/sleep Eyes Antique 1930s Effanbee Sugar Baby Composition Doll 20" F&b CryerEarly Antique Composition Boy Doll Straw Body 20" Tall Hand Made Clothes 1920s1930s Ideal Shirley Temple Doll Curly Top Big 24" Composition Beauty!22" Old Antique Composition Cloth Ei Horsman Character Baby Dimples Toddler DollLot 3 Antique (pre-1930's Presumed) Dolls Natural Patina Lace Porcelain LeatherAll Original 1930s Vintage Shirley Temple Composition Doll Ideal 18" Darling PinVintage Madame Alexander Composition Dionne Quintuplets Toddler Dolls 1911 Antique Composition & Cloth 14" 1911 Horsman Cotton Joe Character Doll Antique Original 20" Ideal Shirley Temple Doll Composition Button Vintage DressDoll Lot Of Three Composition DollsVintage Lg Lot Of Doll Parts Fulper 2b Head Bisque ~ Composition ~ Hard PlasticAntique Madame Alexander Sonja Henie Skater Composition Doll, 15 InchesVintage Effenbee 27" "little Lady" Composition Jointed Doll Sleepy Eyes Rose O'neill Kewpie Scootles DollVintage Ideal Composition Miracle On 34th St Natalie Wood Doll Original ClothingAdorable Antique Composition/cloth Ideal 16" Shirley Temple Baby DollVintage Madame Alexander Margaret Obrien Composition Her Doll 18" Original Antique 16" German Bisque Socket Head Doll With Jointed Composition BodyLovely Antique Sfbj French Walker Or Swivel Head Composition And Wood Doll 22"Antique Doll Jdk Kestner Old German 20" With Bisque Head Composition Body EstateOld Antique Victorian Composition Head Straw Body Baby Doll Tlc25" Vintage Armand Marseille German Doll Bisque Head Wood Ball Joint CompositionVintage Madame Alexander Composition Doll Wendy Bride 16" & BoxOld Vintage Antique Composition Compo Cloth Unknown Baby Doll 8.75" Antique?? Slant Hip German Toddler Composition BodyRare Antique Composition Zaiden Colonial Doll & Toy Co 15" Character Boy 22" Antique 1930s Ideal Shirley Temple Composition Doll W/ Orig Dress Ideal ToyDarling Little 13" All Composition Girl Ideal? Not Perfect But Soo Sweet! Nr!8 Antique Vintage Doll Dolls Head Heads Elektra Hendren Tin Eyes Composition +Two Really Sweet Vintage Antique Composition Baby Dolls 1945 16" Composition Simplicity Fashiondol Mannequin Doll OibOld Antique Marked Ideal Composition Compo Mama Type Doll W/ Cloth Body Nr25" Old Vintage Antique Composition Cloth Hug Me Kiddie Pal Baby Doll 1930s TlcOld Vintage Compo Composition Effanbee Suzanne Girl Fashion Character Doll OrigAntique German Or French Composition Ball Jointed Doll Body 12" Parts RepairAntique Doll Sfbj France Paris Orig Bisque Head Composition Body 8" #30118" Ideal Shirley Temple Doll Restored20" Old Vintage Antique Composition Wood "unknown" French Style Walking DollVintage Composition Shirley Temple Doll 18 InchesAntique German Or French Ball Jointed Composition Doll Body 17" Parts RepairPretty 20 Inch Madame Alexander Composition Bride DollAntique German Bisque Doll 25" Kammer & Reinhardt #66 Composition Body PartsAntique 22"schoenau & Hoffmeister Doll Bisque Head & Jointed Wood & Compo Body!Antique Composition Kewpie Style Doll Baby, UnmarkedAntique Composition Bisque Head Doll - Tlc Needed By Morimura Bros. JapanAntique Composition Doll Snow White Type Z Mark 1920s Original OutfitOld Vintage Antique Papier Mache Compo Cloth Doll 7 Antique Vintage Composition Cloth Doll Dolls Lot Century Horsman Am. CharacterAntique 13'' Shirley Temple Composition Doll Super Cond.Large Chubby Antique Composition Cloth Horsman Gold Medal Baby Doll ClothingSkater Piper, A 14" Vintage Composition Doll & No. 19 In The Hazel Twigg Series