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.

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Recent News: Dolls

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On the Stage: "The Adoration of Dora Maar"
Western Front (blog), March 2nd

A sword, a bundle of peacock feathers, a globe, an antique doll, and of course, painting and framing materials. The script, by Lojo Simon, explores the life of Dora Maar, one of Picasso's muses and lovers, from the perspective of how her individuality...Read more

Rockford native shows love for animal world in 3-D artwork
Rockford Register Star, February 26th

The Rockford native's instantly recognizable work — animal-human figures made of beads and antique doll parts — reveals much about her wide-ranging professional interests in science and education. Youngquist is largely self-taught. Her artistic ...Read more

Anzac Day: Antique doll reveals WWI tale of survival in killing fields of ...
Herald Sun, February 17th

THE tiny antique doll in the hand of Margret Kerr has a tale to tell. It is a bloody and brave tale set during The Great War in the killing fields of northern France near the Belgian border. To commemorate 100 years since the Anzac landing at Gallipoli...Read more

Carl Junction Community Center busy with exhibits this month
Joplin Globe, February 14th

CARL JUNCTION, Mo. — Continuing its tradition of serving as a small museum and art gallery in recent years, the Carl Junction Community Center has three new exhibits on display through February. Located at 303 N. Main St., it is open seven days a week...Read more

There and back: Art Center explores Africa, February 13th

Dozens of battered wooden boxes lie in neat rows on the floor in the Des Moines Art Center's main gallery, and each one contains a different curious object: a glass hand, a bundle of braided hair, a two-headed antique doll that is black on one end and...Read more

Beware of the vintage doll
Times of Malta, November 26th

Annabelle Wallis is concerned that her prized vintage doll may have become possessed in Annabelle. Annabelle (2014) Certified: 15. Duration: 99 minutes. Directed by: John R. Leonetti Starring: Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Tony Amendola, Alfre Woodard ...Read more

Antique doll haunts museum, 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

Review: ANNABELLE Is Worse Than Being Given An Antique Doll As A Gift
Twitch, September 30th

It is understandable that Warner Brothers and New Line would want to continue the success of last year's The Conjuring. The period haunted house flick proved a surprise summer smash last year, grossing over $300 million worldwide. Annabelle focuses on ...Read more