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    

Miniature 6" Antique Wood/composition Body Bisque Head German Doll Mark 1 133.xAntique Schoenhut Wooden & Composition Little Girl DollRare Stunning Madame Alexander Portrait Doll 1938 Composition "june Bride" Shirley Temple 18" Ideal Composition Doll Original Stowaway Smocking Dress Rare1930s Ideal Shirley Temple Composition Doll With OutfitsVintage Shirley Temple Doll Ideal Composition 17" Original Clothes!Antique Simon Halbig 1078 German Doll Bisque Head Composition Body 24"1930s Ideal Composition Doll ~ Shirley Temple ~ 25" With Flirty EyesAntique German Heubach Bisque 'prince Stuart' 17" Doll Jointed Composition BodyAntique 17" Rare "sail Boat" Original Shirley Temple Composition Doll Silk Wig25" Antique 1920s Smoking Flapper Boudoir Bed Doll Art Deco Smoker Corduroy BodyVintage 1930s 40s Pre Ginny Toddles Toodles Vogue Doll Composition Painted Eyes21"" Antique/vintage Flirty-eyed Composition/cloth Old Baby Doll1930's Overalls & Hat "the Genuine Steamer Outfit" Buddy Lee Composition DollAntique Doll 15" Dep German Bisque Wood & Composition Eyes Glass Blond 201 10/0Antique 14 1/2" German Bisque Painted Porcelain Doll W/ Jointed Composition Body11" Vintage Antique Composition Effanbee Painted Eye Patsy Jr Doll "tlc"Vintage Shirley Temple Doll Ideal Composition 13"Simon & Halbig Bisque Head Composition Body Doll # 1279 Germany 12 Inch RareVintage Dean's Rag Book Company Drb Co. All Composition Baby Doll Rare EnglishKammer & Reinhart Child Doll 27 Bisque Head Composition Body 8 Inch Germany16" Vintage All Composition Baby Doll/ - Big Smile!!Ideal Baby Beautiful Doll Miracle On 34th Street 3 Dolls Tlc Parts Composition1940's Effanbee Compo Anne Shirley Ice Skater Doll Orig. Heart Bracelet & OutfitVintage 1940's Original Composition Baby Doll 9" Effanbee Patsy BabyetteAntique 1936 Madame Alexander Baby Genius Composition 16" Doll Original Outfit23" Madame Alexander Composition Baby Doll 1936 Tagged Original Clothing 18" Antique German Composition Bjb Doll Body For Bisque Head - Tlc ProjectPair Of 1923 Averill Madame Hendren Phonograph Composition Dolls+7 Cylinders21" Ideal Deanna Durbin Composition DollAntique 8.5" French Doll Bisque Composition/paper Mache 12/0 Sfbj? Antique 20" Ideal Shirley Temple Doll Composition "blue Bird" Dress With Bird!Antique Vintage 24" Bisque Head Composition Body Glass Eyes Nippon DollAntique Composition Boy Mannequin Or Doll- Head Only- Store Display? ~large~Kley & Hahn Walkure Antique Large 25" German Bisque Head & Composition Body DollRare Stunning Madame Alexander Portrait Doll 1938 Composition "june Bride" Antique German Hug Me Kiddies Lever Googly Eye Doll 12inHazel Twigg No. 55 Brave Gracie Brown Eyes Blonde Hair Vintage Composition Doll1930's Scootles Kewpie Doll 9 1/2" - All CompositionVintage 1945 Madame Alexander Wendy Ann Pink Bridesmaid Doll 15" CompositionVintage Madame Hendren Talking Cylinder Phonograph Dolly Rekord Composition DollVintage Composition Campbell's Soup Kid/restoration/tlc~12.5"~23" Antique Flapper Bed Boudoir DollVintage1946 Madame Alexander Big 20" Margaret O'brien Composition Doll 4 RedressComposition Vogue Toddles Tyrolean Boy Doll, Pre Ginny All Original Vintage 1945 Madame Alexander Wendy Ann Yellow Bridesmaid Doll 15" Composition28" Antique French Bed Boudoir DollLovely Vintage Ideal Composition Doll With Cloth Body - Sleep Eyes Antique Talking Composition Doll, Eyes Open Close,teeth,open Mouth, Buy Me Composition15" Scootles 1930's Htf Sleep Eye31" Simon & Halbig 117 French Doll Reproduction Bisque Porcelain CompositionAntique 6" French Or German Mignonette Cabinet Doll Bisque Composition 18/0Early Horsman Composition/cloth Baby Horsman?doll~restoration~missing Hands~24"Antique Max Handwerck 283 / 28.5 German Bisque Head Composition Body 22" Doll Antique Madame Alexander 10" Composition Baby DollVintage 1930's Effanbee Composition Doll Heart Bracelet Original Patsy Shirley Vintage Shirley Temple Composition Doll Approx. 12 1/2" Sleep Eyes & Open MouthAntique Wax Composition Doll Head Blue Glass Eyes Excelsior Body Leather TlcVtg 30s Ideal Doll Deanna Durbin Compo Original Clothes Pin Universal Movie Star2 Antique Ideal Composition Dolls Flirty Eyes Non Work Criers Repairs Creepy Tlc