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”)

Dollreference.com

Dollreference.com

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 Jumeau Bebe Doll - Bisque, Wood & Composition 12 1/2" Size 2Ltd Toy Stamp & French Sfbj 60 Paris Bisque Head Doll 12.5" Compo Body Q1623" Old Antique Bisque Head Composition German Dep Armand Marseille 1894 Doll Lot Of 11 Vintage Ideal Nra Composition Shirley Temple Dolls And BooksShirley Temple 22" Composition Doll 1930's Ideal With Bonus OutfitAntique Lot Composition Jointed Cloth Wooden Celluloid Dolls & Bust Effanbee YqzRare Prototype Shirley Temple Ideal Doll Vintage Composition Original Excellent Antique Gebruder Heubach 7-1/4" Bisque Head & Composition Character Doll 50 DLtd Toystamp& Armand Marseille Queen Louise Bisque Head Doll Compo Body 22.5" Q2Old Antique Folk Art Primitive Doll Wooden Limbs Composition Head Leather BodyVintage Horsman Baby Dimples Composition Cloth Doll - As FoundRose O’neill 1930's Kewpie Composition Scootles Doll 16"Antique Simon & Halbig 31" Jutta C&o Dressel 1348 Bisque Composition Child DollAntique German Kestner? 8" Bisque Head Doll W/composition Legs & Arms-marked 155Ltd Toy Stamp & German Queen Louise Bisque Head Doll 25" Compo Body Q19(kestner ?) 23" Composition Doll Head Marked Germany 152 Body Marked Germany Ltd Toy Stamp &1930s Ideal 22" Composition Shirley Temple Doll Nra Tag OutfitAntique Bisque Doll Be 1001 Composition Ball Jointed Body Nippon Bjd HandwerckTwo 18" Composition Shirley Temple Dolls By Ideal To Restore One Is Rare MakeupVintage 1939 Ideal Superman Doll Wood Jointed, Composition About 14 Inches TallGenuine Antique Composition 12" Kewpie Doll With Rose O'neill Patent Label 1913Vintage Shirley Temple 11 Inch Composition Doll ~ Handmade Reproduction DressHazel Twigg No. 28 A Debuteen Britney Equestrian W/ Horse Vtg Composition DollScootles Doll,'1920's' Rosie O Neil's Design,16 In. Composition~ Adorable! Antique Composition Kewpie Doll 13" All Original & Nice!!! ~Vintage Vogue Composition Toodles/ginny Doll~7.5"~Composition Shirley Temple 22" Doll Labeled Dress1930's Ideal Composition Shirley Temple Doll To Restore Or For PartsAntique 23" Kestner Bisque Doll H 1/2 167 12 1/2 Composition Pin German ClothesAntique Doll German Bisque Halbig Open Mouth Composition Figure 19thc Home DecorRescued 22" Ideal Compo Shirley Temple Doll1940's Effanbee Dewees Cochran American Children Composition DollOutstanding Totaly Orig 1930's 22" Ideal Shirley Temple Rare Starburst Dress LrVintage German Herman Kusel Blonde 9 Inch Bisque & Composition DollVintage Composition Baby Doll 20" Tin Eyes Open Mouth W Teeth Lovley OutfitLtd Toy Stamp & Antique 22" Wax Over Composition Shoulder Head DollEih Co Inc Horseman Vintage Composition 21" Doll BabyShirley Temple Composition Doll No Clothes Cracked And Missing Toes Sold As IsVntg.composition Doll Head, Arms & Torso~straw Stuffed~needs Legs~sweet~tin EyesAntique German Bisque Doll. €Alt Beck & Gottschalk 1362 Bisque & Composition Doll For Parts - 12"13" 1930's Composition Shirley Temple DollVntg Madame Hendren Composition Doll W/phonograph-dolly Record-1922-averill-origVintage Buddy Lee Railroad Engineer 13 Inch Composition Doll ~ Parts Or Repair1940's Effanbee Dewees Cochran American Children Composition Doll With BreastsShirley Temple Doll Mohair Wig 14-16 Inch Composition Doll Never UsedAntique/vintage Sawdust And Composition Doll - Darling & Unique!!Ltd Toy Stamp & Antique Compo Head Doll Blue Glass Eyes 26.5" Cloth Body Q30Vintage 1940s Effanbee Anne Shirley 21" Little Lady Alice In Wonderland BrideAntique 1919 Ernst Heubach Doll Koppelsdorf Germany Bisque Head Composition BodyLot Of 3 Vintage Antique Black African American Composition Dolls - Ca. 1930'sBride Doll, Margaret Composition Alexander 17" Vintage 1940s In GownAntique Germany Composition Head Sawdust Fill 14" Sailor Boy Doll Glass EyesRare Vintage 1920's Effanbee Composition Grace Corry Rockwell 14" Doll Vintage Shirley Temple Composition Doll 26" Tall W/ Round Noise In Her Back Vintage Effanbee Patsy Ann Composition 20" Baby Doll Shirley Temple Doll Composition Three 1930's 2 X 16 Inch 1 13inch 1 Odd DollOld Large Big Compo Composition Shirley Temple Type Character Doll NrShirley Temple Doll Mohair Wig For 11 Inch Composition Doll Never UsedOdd Vintage Composition Baby Doll Unmarked Large 24 Inches Tall J I Made In Usa