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 Simon & Halbig Dep 1079 Sz 1 10" Bisque Head Doll Articulated Compo BodyAntique Shirley Temple Doll-ideal-20 In-composite-orig Clothing-moving Eyes-nr!Antique 9 1/2" Bisque Head Baby Doll Kestner Jdk Compo Marked Germany Body1930's Ideal Doll 17" Composition Shirley Temple Doll In Tagged Dance Dress Mb7Antique Simon & Halbig Dep 1269 Sz 2 11" Bisque Head Germany Doll Compo Body1937 Ideal Shirley Temple 22" Doll In Our Little Girl Blue Plaid Dress PinIdeal 27" Composition Shirley Temple Doll - Tagged DressRare Composition Vintage 1920's Rose Oneil Kewpie Type Scootles Doll Vintage Lot 2 Composition Doll Madame Alexander Sonja Henie 15in + Girl Tlc LqqkSmall Antique Composition Body For French/german Bisque Doll, Worn But UsefulAntique Doll-effanbee Doll-composition-rosemary-walk,talk,sleep-18 Inch-cloth BdAntique Composition Doll 15" Tall Naughty Shifty Eye Kewpie Vintage Old RetroAntique Kestner B5 Germany 24" Bisque Jointed Composition Rare Doll Wow1930's American Character 19" Composition & Cloth Patsy Type Sally Doll M9Antique Composition Doll 24" Tall Cloth Body Talking Squeaker Vintage 1920s OldOriginal Early 1900's "n.l." National League Baseball Composition Stuffed DollVintage Composition Doll Arranbee Doll Trunk Clothes Roller Skates 12.5" Tall~vintage~1945~simplicity Composition Mannequin Sewing Doll~patterns&accessories~Antique Composition Doll 13" Tall Shirley Temple Original Clothes Retro Old VtgComposition Ideal Judy Garland Doll 18 InchesLarge 25" Composition Cloth Chunky Baby In Original Clothes Open Mouth, UnmarkedAntique Huge 24" German Bisque Doll Fully Jtd Compo Body, Makes 30"Antique 17" Bisque Doll, Open & Close Glass Eyes, Composition Multi-jointed Body Vintage Composition Doll Madame Alexander Baby Genius, Princess Alexandria MamaVintage R & B 19" Nancy Doll Composition Arranbee 1930's Darling!!Madame Alexander 15" Compo Jane Withers Doll - Tagged Dress And PinLarge Lot Big Composition Mama Baby Doll Vintage Lovums Size Tlc Cloth! 1930s Ideal Composition Shirley Temple Doll 13 Inches TallAntique Composition Doll 9" Tall Mcguffey Ana Madame Alexander Original VintageExcellent Composition Doll Baby High Color Vintage Dress & Bunting Near MintComposition Baby Toddler Doll, 22 " American Character Mama DollAntique Composition Boudoir Bed Lady German Bisque Doll DressAntique Composition Doll 12" Tall Effanbee Durable Dolls Suzette Vintage Retro1917 Kewpie Talcum Powder Shaker, Rose O'neill & "la Compagnie Vendome" Orig BoxLarge Lot Antique Composition Doll Vintage TlcSchoenhut Type Doll For Parts Or RestorationVintage Composition Miniature Doll Toy Effanbee Wee-patsy 6" Tall Old AntiqueVintage Effanbee Composition & Cloth Tommy Tucker Or Mickey Or Bright Eyes?Vintage Boudoir Bed Doll Composition Face Cloth Body Tlc Lot Of 6 &head 22-24"Lot Of Antique German Composition Doll Body Parts For Bisque Socket Head ! Vintage 1930s Composition Buddy Lee Doll 13 Inches Tall With Rare OutfitVintage Frank Popper Composition Doll 25 Inches Fp 22 /23 ... For RestorationAntique Baby Doll Vintage Australian Peerless Composition Baby Doll C1930s 16 InchBeautiful Antique German Doll - Great Details - Unusual Body CompositionAntique Georgene Averill 10" Bisque Baby Doll 1003/3632 Germany Na67Vintage Arranbee R&b 18” Composition Walker DollAntique French Lady Boudoir Bed Doll C.1920's Silk FashionVintage S. Temple Era/type Composition & Cloth Doll For Repair/restoration~22"~Estate Sale Find! Early 1900's Composition Boy Baby Doll 14"Antique Vtg Male Boudoir Doll Head Composition For RestorationAntique Madame Alexander Princess Elizabeth Composition Doll 19 Inches TlcMargit Nilsen 28" Tall Countertop Composition Vintage Mannequin Advertising DollAntique German Doll Body, Nice Clothes Composition-signed 18" Vintage Composition & Cloth Horsman Doll/repair/restoration~22"Vintage 22" Mama Composition Doll Cloth Body Marked "f" Tin Eyes Armand Marseille Dream Baby Bisque Head Character Doll Composition Body Tlc 8"Vintage 30's Composition Baby Doll And OutfitVtg Composition Doll Arranbee R&b 23" Clothing Mouth Teeth Shoulder Head Home IsAntique 27 Inch Composition Character Faced Fiberoid Doll