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 31" Handwerck Simon Halbig Bisque Doll Composition Heinrich Body Tlc Antique17" Handwerck 109-7 German Bisque Composition Gorgeous DollAntique German 24" Kestner Doll 164 14 Bisque & Compo Sleep Eyes Ball JointVintage 1930's Genuine Shirley Temple Composition Doll 18" TallAntique Shirley Temple 16" Doll Composition Original Dress Sock Wig + OutfitsVintage Madame Alexander Alice In Wonderland Old 1940's Composition 17" Doll Beautiful Vintage Madame Alexander Composition Doll Dressed.Antique Kestner #157 Bisque/composition, Brown Eyed Doll-23"-partially Restored22" Old Vintage Antique Composition Cloth Character Baby Mama Doll TlcAntique 1920's Composition & Cloth Original Clothes Vintage Bed Boudoir Doll21" Old Vintage Antique Composition Cloth Baby Mama Doll 1930s For Tlc & RepairVintage 1930's Ideal Original Dress Shirley Temple Jointed Composition 16" Doll Antique German Doll Bisque Head Composition Body 24 Inch Marked Germany 6Ltd Doll Stamp & 1930's Unmarked 23" Composition & Cloth Flirty Eye Mama DollAntique 16" Effanbee Sweetie Pie Or Candy Kid Composition Doll 1930's All OrigAntique Bisque Head Composition Body Doll 14" Numbered 1940's Antique Ideal Composition Baby Doll W/crier And Sleeping Eyes, 20-inchesBig Vintage Composition Cloth Little Miss Charming 1930s Child Doll Tlc & RepairAntique Bisque Head Doll 13/0? Composition Body Fixed Eyes About 11" LongDress & Hat For-19" Patsy Ann And 18" Shirley Temple Doll, NewVintage C. 1938 Ideal Fannie Brice Baby Snooks Old Composition Wood Flexy DollVintage 18" Ideal Shirley Temple Composition Doll 30" Composition Doll Cloth Body Eyes Close Wig -shirley Temple Tlc RestorationFelix The Cat 1st Tv Broadcast Image Composition Doll 1922-24 Original Vg =l@@@kAntique Au Louvre Paris French Chalk Half Doll For Lamp Lady Nice Hair Boudoir Ltd Doll Stamp & 1930's-40's All Composition 13" Kewpie Type DollLot Of Vintage Composition Dolls For Parts Or Restoration16" Old Vintage Composition Madame Alexander Princess Elizabeth Child Doll TlcAntique Simon Halbig #66 German Bisque Composition 26" Doll W'pierced EarsVintage Vogue Ginny Doll Composition 1950'sLovely Composition Doll, Swivel Waist, Jntd Chest, Original Wig~ma Wendy Ann??Vintage Madame Alexander Brown Eyes & Hair 1930's 1940's Composition 17" Doll Famlee Doll Set Doll 7 Heads 7 Outfits 6 Cards 20's NrSweet Vintage Composition & Cloth Doll~flrity Eyes~19"~tlc~mohair Wig~Antique 16" Schoenhut Doll Body With German Bisque HeadVintage 1920's Averill Madame Hendren 24" Georgene Baby Composition Doll VgcAntique Cameo Composition & Wood Joy Vintage Baby Doll RestrungPretty 20" Unmarked Compo & Cloth Doll Shirley TypeAntique Ventriloquist Dummy Dan Composition Needs Tlc Works!Large Vintage 14.5" Composition Character Doll W Sleepy Eyes & Red Mohair WigLtd Toy Stamp & Vintage 40's Vogue Composition 8" DollHuge Fabulous 29 In. Effanbee Lovums Composition Doll Perfection!!!Antique Composition 13" Scootles Character Doll Rose Oneill Cameo Sweet!Rare 13 1/2" Charlie Chaplin Doll Straw Stuffed W Compo Head Louis Amberg 191521" Germany Kestner Bisque Head Doll 171 E 1 /2 9 1/2 & Orig Composition Body 18" Never Used Seeley Composition Jointed Fashion Doll Body Antique White Doll Dress For Compo, Leather, Or Plastic Vintage Composition Doll Body 13"Vintage Arranbee R & B Composition Doll Blonde Braids Blue Eyes Red Lips 15"Lot Composition Doll 19" W/ Teeth And 2 Porcelain Dolls 16" & 19" Leather Body 12" Old Vintage Composition Effanbee Patsy Type Character Child Toddler Doll TlcVintage Composition & Cloth Mama Doll For Repair/restoration~26"~tin Eyes~Adorable 18" Antique Composition Head And Cloth Body Doll. Display Or RestoreAntique Campbell Kid As Is With Vintage Pot HolderEffanbee Lovums 28 In Composition Doll 1920s W Metal Phonograph BoxAntique Doll Composition Head, Arms & Legs, Cloth Body, Cries. Shirley Temple?Vintage Composition Doll For Repair/restoration~12"~tlc~15 1/2" 1907 Jumeau French Bisque Head Doll Compo Jtd Body Glass Sleep EyesExtremely Rare! 32" 1939 Composition Disney Pinocchio Doll-figure-store Display Vtg 8" 5 Pc Composition Doll 11/0 A M 390 Cream Color Flannel Hooded Snow Suit