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    

#1208, Large Composition Ideal Baby Doll 1930's - 1940's24" Old Vintage Antique Bisque Head Composition German Heubach Dolly Face Doll23" Old Vintage Antique Bisque Head Composition German C.m. Bergmann Child Doll18" Jdk Kestner German Composition Bisque Jointed Vintage Baby Doll18" Antique German Kestner Doll #164 Original Marked Kestner Composition Body! Antique Shirley Temple Composition Doll 13" Music Note Dress Blue All OriginalAntique Madame Hendren 15" Composition Shoulderhead/arms Black Doll~painted FaceVintage 1920s Antique German Bisque Doll Composition Jointed Body & Clothing 21" Antique Composition/cloth Adorable Old Baby Doll - Flirty Eyes!!1940s? Composition Vintage Shirley Temple 18" DollVintage Early Vogue Toddles / Toodles Composition Doll - 8"Phillips Buddy Lee Doll Composition Figure 12 1/2' Tall Near Mint No ReserveRare Knickerbocker Composition 1930s Mickey Mouse Antique Doll Old EarlyVintage Vogue Toddles Ginny 7 1/2" Composition Doll All Original Tagged Dress1920s Composition Doll E.i.h. Co, Inc. No ReserveLarge 23" Baby Beautiful Composition Doll By Ideal - Circa 1940Nr Vintage 1930s Effanbee 9" Patsyette All Original Dress Patsy Doll CompositionVintage Effanbee Patsyette 9" Composition Doll With Clothes No Reserve1940's Composition Vogue Doll, Strung Arms, Legs, Head.Rare & Unusual 1930's Japanese All Composition Shirley Temple 7.5" Doll~mint~see18" Old Vintage 1938 Composition Cloth Flirty Eye Character Baby Doll TlcVintage 1930s Ideal 18" Shirley Temple Composition DollVintage 8" Composition & Bisque Unmarked Little Girl Doll Vintage Composition 13" Vogue Doll All Original W/tagged DressVintage Antique Bisque Composition 19 Inches Doll W/ Watch~tlcAntique 18" Composition Head/hands Boy Doll~painted Face~stuffed Cloth Body/legs15" Old Vintage Antique Bisque Composition German Marseille Dolly Face Doll TlcAntique Vintage Composition Baby Doll W/ Flirty Sleep Eyes - Pink Chiffon OutfitRare Antique Composition Replica Famlee Doll Set 5 Interchangeable Heads ClothesEffanbe Circa 1935 8" Composition "dionne" Quintuplet Dolls Antique Mechanical Wind Up Doll Crawls Crawling Key Composition Look!Unmarked All Compo Doll 13"Gabby 1939 Ideal Novelty Wood Composition Toy DollVintage Shirley Temple Ideal Composition Doll 20" TlcAntique Early Effanbee Anne Shirley Composition Doll 21" Tall Vintage Babydoll 18" Vtg Composition Bright Star Doll Horsman C1940 - Original Clothes And Box!Composition 6 Inch "dionne Quintuplets Look" Dolls Strung With Painted Features1930s Ideal 13" Composition Shirley Temple Doll W Original Wig & Vintage OutfitA "perfect" Autumn Vintage 21" Composition Doll Awaits! Hazel Twigg O.l.d. No. 8Vintage 21" Composition Baby Doll By Horseman 1930s19" Averill 1920's Peaches Doll Composition And Cloth Patsy Cousin Rare Vintage Big 26" Composition Doll Cloth Body Unknown Maker Unmarked As FoundVintage Nancy Ann Storybook Composition Doll ~ Baby ~Shirley Temple Composition Doll Resoration Parts Clothes Patterns Shoes VintageAntique Boudoir Doll 26" Composition Head/cloth Body Pink Silk Hair-as IsVintage Madame Alexander Composition Dolls TlcOld Vintage 24" Composition Or Hp & Rubber Mama Baby Doll W/ Teeth No Arms Tlc 1917-1923 Effanbee "mary Jane" All Composition 20" Doll~rare~braid Wig~bru Shoes1940's 14 Inch Ideal Sonja Henie Composition Doll1930's Or 40's Composition Doll, Sleepy Eyes, Teeth Intact, Shirley Temple2 Sweet Bent Limb Composition Boy Girl Baby Doll Dark Skin Black Americana 10"1930's 1940's Effanbee Patsy Babyette 9" Composition Baby Doll~open/close EyesVintage 1935 Alexander 20" Composition Original Dionne Quint Cecile Toddler Doll20" Antique Composition/cloth Adorable Doll - Fully DressedMohair Doll Wig French, German Bebe Or Compo Doll Size 11-12Antique Composition Doll - 18" Looks Like Shirley TempleAntique Composition Little 7 1/2" Effanbee Patsy Baby Tinyette Doll~vintage Antique Bisque Composition Wood Doll Needs Tlc Very Old Early 1900's ~Vintage Shirley Temple Ideal Composition Blonde Doll 18" TlcAntique Asian Chinese For Composition Doll Embroidered Silk Kimono Clothes Lot