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    

Antique German Simon & Halbig Wimpern Bisque Pierced Ear Composition Lady DollSweet Vintage Composition Doll13" Wendy Ann By Madame Alexander, Composition Doll Circa 1940Vintage 1940s Madame Alexander Doll, Composition BodyOriginal Madame Alexander Margaret O'brien 21" Composition Doll Obrien 1946-4711" Wendy Ann By Madame Alexander Composition Doll Circa 19401930's 11" Composition Madame Alexander Scarlett O'hara Wendy Ann Doll Original1930s 20" Composition Shirley Temple Doll With Lots Of Clothes1930's Ideal Doll Co. 25" Composition Deanna Durbin Doll Needs Tlc Mh44Lot Of 2 Halbig S&h #530 German Composition Dolls Heinrich Handwerk 2 1/4 BisqueAntique Effanbee Early Marilee Open Mouth Sleepy Eye Crier Composition DollAntique "kestner" -german 3- Jointed Girl Doll 22" W/sleepy Eyes+fur EyebrowsC.1925 All Original 16” Rose O’neill “scootles” Composition Doll W/sleep Eyes NrAntique Effanbee Early Patsy Ann Open Mouth Sleepy Eye Crier Composition DollMadame Alexander Doll Jeannie Walker Composition Pat. No.2171281 Org. ClothesVintage Curly Hair Lenci ? Girl Doll 20 Inches Needs 1900s-60s Antique Madame Alexander Ideal Horseman Bisque Composition Doll LotShirley Temple Ideal Composition 25" Flirty Eye Doll - Needs A Loving Home1930's Madame Alexander 13" Composition Betty Face Marcella Doll *rare* Mj20Htf 1930-40 Effanbee Composition Howdy Doody Doll W Original ClothingAntique K * R Simon Halbig Bisque Head #126 Doll 11" - Multi Jointed CompositionAdorable Antique Doll Shirley Temple Type CompositionAntique Doll Composition Head Cloth Body Sleep Eyes Wig 26 1/2"Antique Composition Doll 1920's Ideal Ginger ! 1940s Composition Unmarked Doll Madame Alexander Style Lot 9Antique Composition Doll Louis Amberg Twist Waist Tiny TotAlt Beck & Gottschalk Abg 1362 Sweet Nell Bisque Head Composition Body 24" DollVintage Doll As Is With Various Clothes And Outfits Vintage AntiqueAntique Heinrich Handwerck Halbig German Bisque Doll Signed Compo Body 18" Ideal 16 Inch Miracle On 34th Street Composition Doll Original ClothesVintage Madame Alexander Composition Princess Elizabeth Doll~tlc~nice Outfit~Shirley Temple Composition Doll Dress Tagged Nra Fits 13" Compo Doll Dress OnlyAntique Composition Effanbee Baby Doll With Cloth Body~antique Madame Alexander Princess Elizabeth 19" Composition Doll~ 1930's 1940'sVintage Composition Baby Doll Soft Body In Antique Child's Christening Dress OldAntique "my 60/5" German 18" Baby Doll W/sleepy Eyes & 2 TeethVintage Paris Co Composition Crier Peggy Walker Doll 28" Blonde PolandVintage/antique 17" Doll Composition No Marking TlcAntique Horsman Bright Star Composition Mohair Braids 15" Skater Doll25" Shirley Temple Look Alike Compo & Cloth Doll 1930s Orig Blonde Mohair WigAntique Armand Marseille Germany 390 A7m Composition 21" Doll Needs Tlc~vintage Antique Composition Doll Stuffed Body Sleepy Green Eyes~teeth~23"~Vtg 1930 C Reborn Baby Newborn Composition Doll Acme Tynie Nursery Toy Home OldVintage Composition Baby Doll's 1930'sAdorable Horsman Baby DollAntique Vtg Large 19.5" Skookum Doll Native American Indian Rare Forward Eyes20.5" Antique German Composition And Wood Body Original Finish Restrung~26" Doll18 In Shirley Temple Doll - CompositionVintage 1934 20" Composition Ideal Shirley Temple Doll New Danbury Mint Dress Antique German Bisque Cabinet Doll 6 1/2" Tall, Composition Body, Red Mohair WigVintage 1920s Wax On Composition Half Doll Wig Bisque Arms Restore Or PartsVintage Old Composition Madame Alexander Character Baby Doll 16"Harriet Flanders 1937 Composition Doll Needs RestorationEarly 27" Doll Composition Mohair Cloth Straw Body Moveable Arms Legs Head Acme 1930s Composition Shirley Temple Doll Approx. 15"Vintage Effanbee Composition 16" Patsy Doll With The Effanbee Heart BraceletAntique Germany 18/0 Bisque Head Composition Doll For RestotationVintage 1930's Mannequin Composition Store Display Crawling Baby Doll Org WigVintage Madame Alexander 17" Composition & Cloth Dionne Quint Doll Needs TlcAttributed To Carl Horn This 1 1/2''