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    

Vintage Madame Alexander Sonja Henie Composition Doll~tagged Wedding Dress/veilAntique Vtg Effanbee 24" Composition Bubbles Baby Doll W Tagged Orig DressGerman Armand Marseille Florodora Bisque Head Composition Doll #374 A11m 25 In.Shirley Temple 22" Ideal Composition Doll - Needs A New Home1930s Ideal 17" Blonde Shirley Temple Composition Doll W Original Tagged Outfit!27" Shirley Temple Doll Nra Tagged Dress 1930's Our Little Girl1930s Ideal 17" Blonde Shirley Temple Composition Doll W Original Outfit!Antique 22" Shirley Temple Doll~composition~1930~ideal~original~needs TlcHuman Hair Antique Vintage Doll 8.5" Wig - Compo Or Bisque Character Never Used!Vintage Horsman 1940's 13" Composition Drink And Wet Baby Doll Vtg 15" Composition Signed Ideal Doll (tlc) Deanna Durbin Original Outfit21.5" Antique German Wood And Composition Body W Just Under 2" Neck Hole 27"dollHazel Twigg No. 87 Spring & Lilly Perfect Vintage Composition Doll New BeginningShirley Temple Composition Doll. 13 Inches Tall. All Original. Composition And Cloth 24" Black Girl Doll - Unmarked - Cute!14” Ideal *deanna Durbin* For Attention1930s Composition 15" Curly Hair Baby Girl Doll W White Dress & Pink TrimVintage 1940's 12" Composition Baby Doll Antique Composition Doll Body ~22 1/2Vtg. Full Body Composition Doll~ 18" Original Very Good Condition~human Hair Exquisite 30" Simon&halbig With Side Glancing EyesAntique Set Of 6 7 1/2" Madame Alexander All Original Compo Dionne Quint DollsVintage Composition 11" Doll 1950s - Madame Alexander? - Jointed - Sleep Eyes 1930s Ideal 18" Blonde Shirley Temple Composition Doll W Original Tagged Outfit!25" 1930's Composition Baby2 Vintage Compo DollsBeautiful Composition GirlVintage Madame Alexander Composition Tiny Betty Fairy Princess DollRare 21" Vintage Madame Alexander Composition Portrait Doll 1938 Tlc Vintage 1920's 27" Composition & Cloth Effanbee Mama Doll Lov'ems Lal As Is12 Inch Vintage DollVintage Effanbee Composition Doll; Kid Leather Body, Jointed Wood Arms, 22 ½”19” Horsman **nan** For Attention Vintage Girls Doll Very Old Bisque Head Hands Leather & Straw ? Body Victorian Boudoir Composition Doll Pillow Made W Antique Tambour Lace Silk Rosettes NrVintage Composition Doll Madame Alexander Tagged Outfit Mcguffey Ana 11.5"Unstrung Vintage 1930's Kewpie Cupie Composition Jointed Doll 12" Small Antique Baby Doll Antique Black Americana Folk Art African American Composition Doll 15" TallAntique French Boudoir Doll W/original "mohair" & Silk Dress Antique 10" Composition Wolf By Freundlich, Circa 19331940's Composition Doll.... Finally Got Overseas Post Charges Done.Vintage 21" Madame Alexander Composition Margaret DollVintage Composition Princess Ann Doll With Original Box Bridesmaid 3012Rare 1930s 18" Ideal Shirley Temple Composition Doll With Blue Music Dress Antique Doll Handwerck Dep 109-15 Bisque Head 32" Composition Body Sleep Eye Antique Doll 17" Jumeau Bebe Cryer - Compo And Bisque...please Read Description26" German Heinrich Handwerck Simon Halbig Antique Bisque Head Composition DollAntique 11" Popeye Composition Figure Doll: 1935Antique 30" German Bisque Doll #136/17 Composition Body Sleep Eyes Open MouthAntique Vtge Horsman Composition Mama Baby Doll 1930s Lovely Factory Original ~Antique Doll Beautiful Cm Bergman Simon & Halbig 24inches Bisque Head Compo BodyArmand Marseille 22 1/2" Doll 390n Bisque Head Composition Body GermanyGorgeous Antique Boudoir Doll In Display CaseAntique Revalo Gebruder Ohlhaver Bisque Compo 23" #3 Doll Germany Nun Outfit 1938 Vintage Shirley Temple Composition Doll 22" Ideal Diamond On Back Nds TlcOriginal 1927 19" Composition Effanbee Patsy Ann Doll & 1936 Patsy Ann BookAntique German Swain &co Character Doll Porcelain Bisque Composition Jointd BodyVintage 18" Ideal Composition Shirley Temple Doll1930s Bisque Head Composition Body 7" Auburn Hair Doll W Jointed Knees!