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 16" German Bisque Doll Composition Body1930's Ideal 18" Shirley Temple Composition Doll - All Original W/ Box & TagsHuge Antique Composition & Wood Doll Body, 28 In Long, Antique Doll BodyAntique K Star R 191 German Bisque Head Doll 19" Tall Composition Body28 Pc Lot-trunk Full Of Clothes 4 American Composition Dolls + Patsy Type Wow~25" Big Old Vintage Composition Cloth Character Baby Mama Doll 1940s Big Old Vintage Antique Composition Cloth Character Happy Baby Doll 1930s TlcAntique German Bisque Doll K Star R Simon Halbig Composition Body Wig Clothes 26" Big Old Vintage Antique Composition Cloth Character Happy Baby Doll 1930sShirley Temple 13" Composition Doll In Trunk W/ Tagged ClothesVintage Madame Alexander Doll Composition Wendy Bride 14" 1935-41 BeautifulShirley Temple 13" Composition Doll In Trunk W/ Multiple Tagged Outfits 1930'sOld Vintage Pretty Antique Flirty Eye Marked Ideal Composition Cloth Doll NrVintage Composition Buddy Lee Overalls Straw Hat Advertising Doll 1920'sVintage Effanbee Candy Kid Twin 11" Composition Dolls Rare Estate Find 1940'sShirley Temple 1930s 18 Inch Composition DollSweet Vintage Composition & Cloth Dream Baby Doll~happy Baby~tin Eyes~23"~All Original 1930's Ideal 16" Shirley Temple Composition Doll Nra TagSet Of 1930's Dionne Quintuplet Composition Dolls/madame Alexander 7.5"tallShirley Temple 13" Composition Doll In Trunk W/ Tagged DressSimon & Halbig #1259 Santa Antique Doll Wood / Composition Jointed & Bisque HeadVintage 23" Effanbee Bubbles Composition & Cloth Doll With Sleepy Eyes23" Old Vintage Antique 1920s Composition Unknown Mama Baby Girl Doll Marked "f"Marama The Hurricane Movie Doll Hawaiian 13" Composition Shirley Temple? Nds TlcOld Vintage Doll Shoes 88 X 38 Mm Black Leather For Antique Bisque Or Compo ?Vintage Madame Alexander Margaret O'brien Character Composition Doll Tagged 21"Antique Composition & Wood Doll Body, 22 In Long, Antique Doll BodyVintage Ideal Shirley Temple Composition Sleepy Eye Teeth Character Doll 13"Huge!! Gorgeous Antique French Bebe Jumeau Doll BodyVtg 18" All Composition Doll Body Unmarked Sleepy Eyes Very NiceAntique 19" Original C1890 Fully Jointed Compo Body For German Bisque Doll NrNancy 20+" Composition Arranbee Doll Marked Nancy Old Vintage Antique Rosemary Effanbee Composition Cloth Baby Doll W/ Human HairAntique French/german Fashion Doll? Wax, Composition, Straw Filled (glass Eyes)Simon & Halbig K & R Doll German Bisque Composition Body 24" DressedAntique German Composition & Wood Jointed Doll Body For 20-21" Doll !!21" Old Antique Composition American Character Petite Sally Doll W Tag'd DressAntique German Composition & Wood Doll Body, 21 In Long, Antique Doll BodyOld Vintage Antique Madame Hendren Character Child Body Twists Composition DollScarce Vintage Composition Jerry Mahoney Ventriloquist Doll In Great Condition! 1930s Old Vintage Antique Composition Patsy Shirley Temple Type Doll W Dimples1930s Ideal Shirley Temple 20" Composition Doll ~ Needs Tlc Cute MessScarce Vintage Composition Dummy Dan Ventriloquist Dolls - Two In One Auction!Old Vintage Doll Composition Head & Limbs Soft Cloth Body Must See! No Reserve!Old Vintage Antique Black Composition Unmarked Shirley Temple Patsy Type Doll NrDolly Peaches 20" Madame Hendren Tagged Compo Doll All Original In Box Averill Antique Bisque And Composition Infant Doll !Ca.1940's Effanbee Suzanne Composition Doll W/ Original Outfit, Shoes & Hang TagNeat Antique Cloth & Composition Boudoir Bed Doll 14"Antique Furga Italy Painted Composition Vinyl Excelsior Fashion Doll Vtg 18"1930's 40's Effanbee Composition Doll Sweetie Pie Tousle Tot Nice ConditionFactory Original Dress & Bonnet For Toddler Doll; Bonus Antique Baby Bonnet13" 1924 Averill Grace G Drayton Chocolate Drop Black Americana Composition Doll18" Shirley Temple Composition Doll 1934 Original Clothes Sleep Eyes N520 Qb1940s Simplicity Vintage Sewing Mannequin Composition Latexture Doll W Box2 Headless Bodies 1 Painted Doll From 30'sRare 1926 Averill Madame Hendren 13" Whistling Rufus Black Boy DollOld Vintage Unknown Beautiful Composition Character Girl Doll W/ Human Hair WigVintage Madame Alexander Sonja Henie Composition Ice Skater Doll Dress Skis PoleHtf Composition 1946 Effanbee Montgomery Ward Candy Kid 13" Doll Some Tlc