People have made dolls for thousands of years for use as religious objects, toys, and holiday displays. Many traditional dolls, like the Japanese Kokeshi, are still highly desirable today. Many early American dolls were made of rags, or cloth, and are a reminder of the simple life in the 18th and 19th centuries.

In the 19th century, French and German dolls were the most popular and innovative dolls in the western world. In the early 1850s, the Bebe doll appeared in France, starting the custom of making dolls in the form of infants and young children (as opposed to adults). The Germans caught on, and soon both countries were producing porcelain-headed dolls.

Late in the 1800s, the French started making dolls with unglazed heads, and the unglazed colored clay more accurately represented a human skin tone. These dolls became known as bisque dolls, and they remain a staple of doll-making.

Shortly thereafter, German doll makers started experimenting with celluloid, a lighter-weight and less breakable material. Celluloid dolls were popular for a number of years, despite the fact that the material was flammable. Dolls in Europe, Japan, and America made of celluloid, such as the famous Kewpie doll, were eventually replaced by dolls made of plastic, or composition dolls, made of a mix of materials including glue and sawdust.

The early 20th century saw the launch of a number of famous doll-making companies, such as Ideal, which became known among other things for its best-selling Shirley Temple dolls. Another was Vogue, which produced the Ginny doll, and of course Mattel, which launched its blockbuster Barbie line in the late 1950s.

Though most antique dolls started out as toys, some dolls have been sought by collectors from the beginning. A good example is the Simpich Doll Company, which produced small numbers of limited edition Christmas and Americana-themed dolls for over 50 years.


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]



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Recent News: Dolls

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LIBRARY MATTERS: 85 years of Nancy Drew
The Daily Progress, May 21st

edited by Francis Nevins and Martin Harry Greenberg — Four decades of stories from the mystery masters. Stories deal with a dead man's coded message, a surprise party, a poisoning, a murdered boxer, the death of an alumni, the theft of an antique...Read more

Memorial Day Weekend Event In Hubbard
Hillsboro Reporter, May 21st

Historic Hubbard High School will be open Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., giving visitors an opportunity to tour its museums, library and Gremillion Genealogy Center and view the Berta Leon Hackney antique doll exhibit. Admission is free. Saturday...Read more

Rutherford Multicultural Festival celebrates unity, diversity, tradition
NorthJersey.com, May 20th

Rutherford resident Lee Kuenzle provided her antique doll collection, with a portion of sales to benefit the Rutherford Community Chest. The dolls represented Ukraine, Greece, Japan, the Philippines, and others. Before the day ended, the Community...Read more

Vintage doll collection has grown into museum of sorts
Montreal Gazette, May 19th

The Hudson resident says her collection ranges from 1750 to 1910, so there are no plastic Barbie or Skipper dolls here. Léger has been buying dolls from other collectors and estate sales ever since she was given a classic vintage doll by her mother. It...Read more

Wright laid to rest, is remembered fondly
Fort Worth Star Telegram, May 13th

“Ma Wright had an antique doll collection in a front bedroom and it was full of glass cases with beautiful dolls, most clothed in Ma's authentic lavish velvets and satins that she made by hand. “I remember the house would sometimes fill to the brim...Read more

Shirley Temple collection comes to Wenham Museum
Wicked Local Hamilton, May 3rd

“Among other reasons, Wenham Museum was selected as the region's exclusive host for 'Love, Shirley Temple' because of our passion for protecting, preserving and interpreting the artifacts of childhood -- including our own world-renowned antique doll ...Read more

RIVERSIDE: Vintage doll, toy and bear sale set
Press-Enterprise, April 7th

The Inland Empire Doll Club has set its12th annual Vintage Doll, Toy and Bear Sale for Saturday, April 11 at the Janet Goeske Senior Center, 5257 Sierra St. in Riverside. The show runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.. Admission is $4. The nonprofit club is a...Read more

Antique doll haunts museum
KING5.com, October 31st

QUESNEL, British Columbia - Curator Ruth Stubbs will never forget how Mandy, the antique doll, arrived at the Quesnel museum in 1991. Mandy's once-pretty porcelain face was cracked, her stuffed body ripped and her clothes dirty. Stubbs said, "Out of...Read more