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 Jumeau Bebe Doll - Bisque, Wood & Composition 12 1/2" Size 2Ltd Toy Stamp & French Sfbj 60 Paris Bisque Head Doll 12.5" Compo Body Q16Lot Of 11 Vintage Ideal Nra Composition Shirley Temple Dolls And BooksShirley Temple 22" Composition Doll 1930's Ideal With Bonus OutfitVintage Horsman Baby Dimples Composition Cloth Doll - As FoundOld Antique Folk Art Primitive Doll Wooden Limbs Composition Head Leather BodyAntique German Kestner? 8" Bisque Head Doll W/composition Legs & Arms-marked 15518" Ideal Antique Shirley Temple Doll Composition Original Tag DresAntique Simon & Halbig 31" Jutta C&o Dressel 1348 Bisque Composition Child DollLtd Toy Stamp & German Queen Louise Bisque Head Doll 25" Compo Body Q19Rose O’neill 1930's Kewpie Composition Scootles Doll 16"Antique Pandy German Doll,bisque Head /brown Eyes,composition Body Needs RepairVintage Shirley Temple 11 Inch Composition Doll ~ Handmade Reproduction DressRescued 22" Ideal Compo Shirley Temple DollVintage German Herman Kusel Blonde 9 Inch Bisque & Composition DollVintage 1939 Ideal Superman Doll Wood Jointed, Composition About 14 Inches Tall1930s Old Shirley Temple Composition 18” Doll CompoShirley Temple Composition Doll No Clothes Cracked And Missing Toes Sold As IsHazel Twigg No. 28 A Debuteen Britney Equestrian W/ Horse Vtg Composition DollVintage 20" Ideal Composition Shirley Temple Tagged Dress Not Perfect No ReserveLtd Toy Stamp & Antique 22" Wax Over Composition Shoulder Head DollAntique Two Faced Composition Soozie Smiles Doll By Ideal 192523"antique German Kestner B5 Bisque Head Doll W Original Composition Body MohairAntique Bisque Doll Be 1001 Composition Ball Jointed Body Nippon Bjd Handwerck1940's Effanbee Dewees Cochran American Children Composition Doll With Breasts1930's Ideal Composition Shirley Temple Doll To Restore Or For PartsAntique Germany Composition Head Sawdust Fill 14" Sailor Boy Doll Glass EyesAntique Doll Old Composition Big Open Tongue Mechanical Arm Moves Head RareAntique/vintage Sawdust And Composition Doll - Darling & Unique!!Ltd Toy Stamp & Antique Compo Head Doll Blue Glass Eyes 26.5" Cloth Body Q30Antique 1930's Ideal Shirley Temple Composition Doll 16" Original Outfit Nra TagVintage Buddy Lee Railroad Engineer 13 Inch Composition Doll ~ Parts Or RepairRare Vintage 1920's Effanbee Composition Grace Corry Rockwell 14" Doll Shirley Temple Doll Mohair Wig 14-16 Inch Composition Doll Never UsedVintage 1940's Effanbee Composition Anne Shirley Little Lady 20 1/2" Doll 13" 1930's Composition Shirley Temple DollVntg.composition Doll Head, Arms & Torso~straw Stuffed~needs Legs~sweet~tin EyesVintage Shirley Temple Composition Doll 26" Tall W/ Round Noise In Her Back 2x Jointed Composition Doll Body Lot 7" & 13" Jointed Knee Elbow Repair PartVintage Effanbee Patsy Ann Composition 20" Baby Doll Odd Vintage Composition Baby Doll Unmarked Large 24 Inches Tall J I Made In UsaAntique 24" C M Bergmann Bisque Doll Eleonore Composition Locket German Clothes1940's Effanbee Dewees Cochran American Children Composition DollOld Large Big Compo Composition Shirley Temple Type Character Doll Nr25" Ideal Shirley Temple *flirty-eye* Composition Doll Gorgeous 1930'sAntique Armand Marsaille #380 Germany Doll, Bisque Head, Composition Body, NiceBig 25" Composition Mama Doll Marked A.m. Co.Ltd Toy Stamp & 1930 Madame Alexander Composition Doll In Pink Tag Dress 14" E29Vintage 1940s Effanbee Anne Shirley 21" Little Lady Alice In Wonderland Bride28" Antique German Handwerck 99 S&h Bisque Head Doll Composition Body No Cracks~Cute Little 1930's 11" Effanbee Patsy Jr DollBride Doll, Margaret Composition Alexander 17" Vintage 1940s In GownDress & Hat For 25" Shirley Temple DollEih Co Inc Horseman Vintage Composition 14" Doll Baby Dimples23" Effanbee Bubbles Tlc, AsAntique & Vintage Doll Parts Lot Bisque Composition Hard Plastic ClothAntique 15" Reliable Composition Doll Made In Canada Scottish Girl Scotch VintagAntique Composition 20" Anne - Shirley Effanbee Doll!!Huge Vintage 28" Composition And Cloth Ideal Doll Good Condition No Reserve!Ltd Toy Stamp & German Our Pet 455 Painted Bisque Head Doll 14" Compo Body Q15