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    

1920s German 23" Bisque Head Doll W Jointed Composition BodyRare Composition Doll Mouth Moves Bellows Glass EyesAntique French ? Fashion ? Bisque Head Doll With Curvy Composition Body1930s Alexander 22" Sonja Henie Composition Doll W Jointed Composition BodyAdorable Vintage Boudoir Curly Hair Large Lenci Doll 36 Inches Tagged Shirley Temple Dress For 25” Ideal Composition Shirley Temple DollAntique 26" Composition & Cloth Happy Chubby Baby Boy Ideal Cuddles Doll Vintage "merrily Yours" Loop Dress For A 19 In. Composition Shirley Temple Doll Vintage Shirley Temple Composition Doll 1930s 16 Inch Rare Hairstyle Dress PinAntique Wax Over Composition Doll Antique Clothes~*~estate Find~*~ Vintage Composition Jointed Baby Doll1930's Composition 18" Shirley Temple Doll Tagged Dress StarburstHazel Twigg No. 85 Marie Antoinette Antique German Doll 20"Vintage Composition Bent Leg Happy Baby Doll Original Clothing 25"21.5 " Nancy Lee Arranbee Compo Doll N Original Box! High Color Brunette #4115Large Composition And Cloth Doll Open Mouth Teeth Eyes Open Close "m"Adorable Vintage Curly Hair Lenci Doll 21 Inches Needs Tlc Original Jacket German Simon & Halbig/heinrich Handwerch~bisque & Composition 22" Antique DollTiny 7" Antique S&c Bisque Head Jointed Composition Body DollAntique Composition Doll Stuffed Body Glass Eyes Germany Wild Boots & SocksEffanbee Composition DollBeautiful Antique Doll With Composition Head And Arms And Cloth Body Composition Doll 1930 Figure 16" Patsy Type Dollmaker Collectible Restore Craft1930's Composition Shirley Temple Doll Dress Captain JanuaryAntique 17" Composition Wood Jointed Doll Body Only Shoes Estate Find As FoundShirley Temple Pin And Composition Or Bisque Shirley Temple Lookalike Doll~ Nice!! Composition All Original Buddy Lee Doll ~Antique 12" Jdk Kestner 211 Porcelain Composition Body Fur Wig Character DollAntique Composition And Cloth Doll Open Mouth Head Arms Legs Move Needs RepairAntique Japanese Gofun Composition 18" Boy And Girl Dolls Extra Large - 2 DollsVintage 1930's Composition Doll Chubby With Teeth Lifesize 24" Brocante ChippyVintage Eegee Composition Doll, Patsy Lal, 21" - No ReserveAmerican Artist Darlene Lane 10'' Porcelain / Composition Baby Doll. (lk)Antique French Composition/cloth Boudoir Bed Doll 29"Vintage Ideal Composition Flirty Eye Doll Original ClothingAntique Doll Armand Marseille Bisque Head Composition Body 22inch.Vintage Vogue Ginny-1940s Toddles -composition-8"-doll Pink Dress-hat-tag1930's Big Composition Life Size 24in. Happy Bubbles Lovums Type Doll Some Tlc.1930s Vintage 12" Composition Kewpie Doll W Jointed Body & Knit OutfitAmerican Character "petite Sally" 14" Composition Doll - Cute!!Antique Doll Armand Marseille 985 Germany 8 Bisque Head Composition Body "196 1/4" Kestner ? German Belton Closed Mouth Bisque Doll Composition TinytreasureVintage 1930's Horsman Bright Star Composition Doll 20" Beautiful Original BoxComposition Shirley Temple 27" DollAntique Composition And Cloth Doll Open Mouth Teeth Hand Painted HeadRare 14" Madame Alexander Wendy Ann Circa 1942 Composition Doll Sleep Eyes N/r!18.5"antique German Flapper Jointed Wood And Composition Body For 24" Doll 1.75"Composition Doll Vtg Toddler Kid Madame Alexander W Clothing 19" Modern Home Old6 Antique Vintage Composition Cloth Jointed Dolls Doll Lot Molded Hair Eih + Tlc~*~estate Find~*~ Vintage Composition / Papier Mache DollEarly Sweet Sue 1917 Doll Composition American Character Girl Dollmaker RestoreVintage 1930's Ideal Original Mohair 18" Shirley Temple Composition Doll Wig Nr!Vintage Composition Doll Head Working Blue Eyes Century Doll Co. Parts / Repair!Antique Composition Wood Ball Jointed Doll Body For Bisque Socket Head German ?Composition Shirley Temple 20" DollVintage 1930s Composition + Cloth Doll Sleep Eyes Open Mouth Teeth 24"Old American Character 20" Composition & Cloth Happy Tot Chubby Baby Doll Antique A Horsman Baby Doll Composition Baby Dolls - Sleepy Eyes - Cloth Body Vintage Princess Elizabeth Snow White Madame Alexander Composition Doll 16" TlcRare Antique Vintage Fiberoid Doll 24" Fiberoid, Blue Eyes, Lashes L@@k No Res!