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    

Charming Lot Of 5 American Composition 1930s Dolls!!32" Kammer & Reinhardt/simon & Halbig Antique Doll - So Pretty In PinkAntique Doll Jdk Kestner Old German 20" With Bisque Head Composition Body Estate13" Shirley Temple 1930's Composition Doll/box All OriginalAntique 14" Am 390 Bisque Head Composition Body Sailor Doll C1910Vintage Madame Alexander Composition Dionne Quintuplets Toddler Dolls 1930s Ideal Shirley Temple Doll Curly Top Big 24" Composition Beauty!Early Antique Composition Boy Doll Straw Body 20" Tall Hand Made Clothes 1920sOld 16-1/2" French Composition Doll BodyVintage Composition Madame Alexander Doll 1940'sAdorable Antique Composition/cloth Ideal 16" Shirley Temple Baby DollOld Vintage Antique Composition Compo Cloth Unknown Baby Doll Ltd Doll Stamp & 1940's All Composition 14" Mary Hoyer DollAntique Very Old, Composition Baby Doll, 14 In Porcelain Head W Lg Lot Clothes1900s Jdk Kestner H.12 #129 Excelsior Bisque Head Composition Body 20” DollLot Of 4 Vintage Tlc Compoisition Hard Plastic Dolls W/ 2 Madame AlexanderLtd Toy Stamp & 1950's Horsman 20 Inch Composition Doll In Great ConditionLtd Doll Stamp & 1930's Cameo Doll Co. 13" Compo Scootles Doll By Rose O'neillVintage All Original Ideal Shirley Temple Composition Doll 22 W Nra Tagged DressLtd Doll Stamp & 1930's Effanbee 11.5" Composition Patsy Jr. Doll22" Composition Doll From The 1930's/ Tlc Baby Needs Love :)Antique German Or French Composition Ball Jointed Doll Body 12" Parts RepairAntique German Or French Ball Jointed Composition Doll Body 17" Parts Repair16" Composition Shirley Temple Doll All Original With Rare Dress & Clear EyesAntique Doll Needs Repair Fixed Eyes Marked Composition Body Porcelain Head Ltd Toy Stamp & 1920s Nippon Japan 13" Bisque Head Doll W Composition BodyVintage American Composition Effanbee Skippy Baby Doll22" Antique 1930s Ideal Shirley Temple Composition Doll W/ Orig Dress Ideal ToyVintage Madame Alexander Composition Dionne Quintuplet DollsAntique German Bisque Doll 25" Kammer & Reinhardt #66 Composition Body PartsOld Antique Victorian Composition Head Straw Body Baby Doll Tlc~large Vintage Composition & Cloth 26" Baby Doll~adorableHtf Sybil Jackson 1930s Composition 14" Character Child Actress Doll W ShirleyVintage Estate Composition Shirley Temple Doll 1938 Antique Ideal 20" Shoes Effanbee Composition Mary Lee DollOld Antique Marked Ideal Composition Compo Mama Type Doll W/ Cloth Body NrVintage 1940's R&b Arranbee Composition Nannette Skater Doll All Original OutfitAntique German Or French Composition Ball Jointed Doll Body Parts Repair 18"Ltd Doll Stamp & 1930's Unmarked 14" Composition Walt Disney's Snow White DollMohair Vintage Doll Wig Lot 6 Pcs! Parts, Repair & Restore Compo & Hard PlasticsCuno & Otto Dressel Germany 19” Flirty Eye Bisque Head Composition Body Doll2 Old 15" Composition Shirley Temple Dolls For Repair Or Parts-damagedMadame Alexander 1930's Composition Doll "marie" 17"2 Vtg 40s Buddy Lee Composition Dolls 12 ½” Okay Fixers Or DisplayLot Of 3 Antique 19th Century Rare Early Americana Hand Made Wooden DollsSkater Piper, A 14" Vintage Composition Doll & No. 19 In The Hazel Twigg SeriesVintage 24" Effanbee Mama Happy Baby Lovums Doll 1928 Composition W/ Cloth Body10 Antique Composition & Hard Plastic Doll Heads - Doll HospitalGorgeous Scarlett O'hara Madame Alexander 18" Composition Doll 1937Ltd Toy Stamp & 1920s Madame Hendren 13" Black Composition Doll W Cloth BodyEarly Effanbee Composition Doll Shoes Leather Booties Vgc 4 Big Compo Mama Doll1930s All Original Ideal Shirley Temple Composition Doll 20 W Nra Tagged Dress~vintage Articulating Composition 14" Doll Body~needs Re-strung~Vintage Big Old Baby Doll With Sleepy Eyes Composition/cloth Circa 1930sVintage Composition Mary Hoyer Doll Red Hair, Beautiful Doll & Clothes 14" TallVintage Composition Dolls With Travel Box And Cloths For Repair PartsAntique German Bisque Or Vintage Composition Doll Shoes 17 Pairs Oil ClothAntique Heinrich Handwerck 28" Doll Germany Bisque Head Composition Body JointedBig 21" Vintage Effanbee Composition Girl Doll Sweetie Pie-ex! Nr!1945 20" Effanbee Baby Sweetie Pie Composition Doll