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 1930's All Original Ideal Shirley Temple Composition Doll 13" W Nra TagVintage 1930's Madame Alexander Scarlett O'hara 21" Composition Portrait Doll Vintage Madame Alexander 21" Composition Portrait Doll Orchid Princess Boudior1940's Effanbee Skippy Composition 14" Doll With Original OutfitAntique Beautiful Germany J.d.k. 214 15 1/2'' Bisque Composition Body 26'' Doll Handwerck Simon Halbig German Antique Doll 20" Sleep Eyes Orig Dresslovely Face!Large Antique 24" Armand Marseille Bisque Head Doll Composition Body C1900Vintage Madame Alexander 21" Composition Portrait Doll Princess Flavia BoudiorAntique Vintage German Bruno Schmidt 14" Doll Bisque Head Composition BodySpectacular Madame Alexander 17 Inch 1930 Composition Doll Scarlet ?1940's Rare Vogue Toddles 7-1/2" Composition DollLtd Toy Stamp & 1930's Ideal Doll Co. 27" Composition Shirley Temple Doll Tlc16 Inch Baby Shirley Temple Doll 1930's CompositionAntique German Antique Doll 25" Pierced Ears #109 Beauty Big Huge Eyeshuge Eyes!Vintage Antique 1930's Composition Ideal Shirley Temple Doll Dress Slip / OnesieLife Size 1930's Antique 25" Composition Child Baby Doll Dimples Chubby ChucklesAntique Simon & Halbig S & H 26" Jointed Doll Bisque Head Composition BodyHazel Twigg No. 35 Wendy The Windblown Kite-flying Vtg Composition Doll19" Composition Margaret Obrien Doll Madame Alexander S Vintage Beauty1930's 18" Ideal Composition Shirley Temple Baby Doll!! Great Condition! 36" Antique Edwardian Armand Marseille 390 Bisque & Composition German Doll YqzVintage 1920's Eih Horsman Baby Dimples 21 Inch Composition DollLtd Toy Stamp & 1930's Effanbee 22" Composition & Cloth Sugar Baby Doll1925 Antique Composition Black Scootles Doll With Original ClothingDarling Vintage Madame Alexander Doll Composition 11" Wendy AnnShirley Temple 18" Ideal Doll Composition Sad Baby Needs Love Bad Condition Shirley Temple Composition 11" Doll Cowboy Sheriff Gunslinger Outfit16" Antique Madame Alexander Margaret O'brien Original Vintage Composition DollVintage Composition Ideal Shirley Temple Doll - 17"1920's-1930's Boudoir Smoker Doll 30" W/brown Hair - Composition HeadLtd Toy Stamp & 1930's Cameo Doll Co. 15.5" Compo Scootles Doll By Rose O'neillVintage Ideal Composition Shirley Templ Doll For Repair 15''27” Antique German Bisque Doll- Handwerck Dep 79 -sleep Eyes -jointed Compo BodyAntique 18" Effanbee Bubbles, 1924, Adorable Composition And Cloth Baby Doll13" Old Vintage Composition Ideal Novelty & Toy Shirley Temple Doll 1930sVintage Effanbee Patsy-ann Composition Doll W/ Clothes & Shoes 19" TallAntique Boy Character Doll Bisque & Composition 14 Inch French German NiceVintage 7.5" Pre Ginny Vogue Toodles Strung Doll Composition Body Marked Doll CoWendy Ann Composition Madame Alexander 13" Swivel Waist Doll Factory ClothesAntique 11" Adorable Composition Head,cloth Body Old Vintage Baby Doll20" Vintage Effanbee American Children Doll Dewees Cochran, Heart Bracelet 1937Antique 28" Cm Bergmann & Simon Halbig Bisque Socket Head Child Doll Compo BodyAntique 19th Century French Boudoir Wood/composition Doll28"antique Composition & Cloth Restored Child DollMadame Alexander Composition 1930's Doll Wedding Dress Original 14 Inch Vintage Ltd Toy Stamp & 1930's Madame Alexander 19" Composition Princess Elizabeth DollVintage Antique Ideal Baby Doll - Sleepy Eyes Molded Hair - CompositionLtd Toy Stamp & 1930's-40's Arranbee 21" Composition & Cloth Dream Baby DollHuge 19" K Star R Simon Halbig#126 Flerty Eye Loveable Baby Clean Hd &body Good!Antique E. I. Horsman Doll Tin Sleep Eyes Composition Marked Teeth 17" Teeth Old21" Antique Bisque Head Composition Morimura Brothers Japan Character Baby DollVintage Composition & Cloth Horsman Dimples Doll For Repair/restoration~17"~Composition & Cloth 1930s Shirley Temple Type Doll GermanyDarling Vintage Madame Alexander Composition Baby Doll Christening Outfit 17"Adorable 1930's 19" Compo Patsy Ann Doll Sleep Eyes Effanbee Nice Condition!1930's Ideal Doll And Dream Baby Doll, Compo -tlc For Restore Or RepairsVintage Shirley Temple Composition Doll 16"Ltd Toy Stamp & 1930's Unmarked 24" Composition & Cloth Mama DollAntique Composition Kewpie Doll By Rosie O'neillVintage Large 21" Composition Eih Co. Baby Doll-w/dimples-open/close Eyes