Dolls are perfect décor accessories for any and every holiday. July 4th and other patriotic holidays are no exception. Actually, many other countries have adopted red, white, and blue for their patriotic colors. The British, Australian, French, Dutch, and Liberian flags all incorporate these colors. Collecting dolls wearing red white and blue, and related historical, iconic, and military dolls could form an entire doll museum in themselves. Here are some ideas to inspire you.
1. Bicentennial Dolls: In 1976, the population of the USA was over 200 million, and most of these folks were made for the Bicentennial Celebration. There were all kinds of dolls and collectibles available, including Hollie Hobbie collectibles of all kinds, a vinyl, bell-shaped little girl in a tricorn hat called Liberty Belle, Two Vinyl Campbell Kids in colonial outfits, reproduction dolls in patriotic outfits offered by The Standard Doll Co. and more. Barbie had her own Bicentennial Colonial-style dress and Bicentennial jacket. Mattel put out Star Spangled Dolls made from Sunshine Family molds.
2. Barbie for President: She appeared as a Toys R Us special in 1991, but appeared in similar editions even during 2000. She wore a patriotic theme evening gown, including a blue, silver-star spangled skirt. She came in white and African American versions. Barbie also came as a Colonial soldier in a pink uniform done for F.A.O. Schwarz, and a pilgrim, pioneer girl, and other historical figures throughout the 90s. There is also a series of military Barbies.
3. Betsy Ross: Hallmark included her in their line of Old Historicals, made during the 70s and inspired by the Bicentennial. Madame Alexander made a darling version, and Carlson Dolls and Avon had their own vision of Betsy Ross as doll or figurine. Betsy also appears in sets of paper dolls. Annalee dolls create a felt mouse Colonial couple holding flags, including a girl mouse that looked like Betsy.
4. Uncle Sam: Uncle Sam was made by Dressel, c. 1895. This German Figure is the spitting image of Uncle Sam himself. Other German bisque dolly-faced dolls, including one by Armand Marseille, also wear similar patriotic Uncle Sam Outfits. Uncle Sam appears as a celluloid doll, and in one case, is carved out of soap. There 70s/80s examples made of cloth with beanbag bodies, and many figurines. A famous mechanical bank was reproduced in cast iron and plastic during the 70s with a figural Uncle Sam.
5. George and Martha Washington: Emma Clear immortalized the original first couple, but dozens of other companies have created them as dolls including Effanbee, Nisbet, Carlson Dolls, Martha Chase, and Madame Alexander. There are interesting surviving documents showing Washington bought toys for his step-children, too.
6. Toy Soldiers: Millions of children throughout the centuries have enjoyed fighting mock battles with toy soldiers. Little boys and girls have long saved their pennies and pocket money to buy small figures of lead and tin with which to people their dreams of heroism and glory. In fact, the Brontë children’s earliest literary endeavors were stories that they wrote about a set of toy soldiers that belonged to Branwell Brontë. Much has been written about the dangers of war toys, including soldiers. All the criticism does not seem to quell interest in them.
7. Madame Alexander: Madame’s contributions to dolls in red, white, and blue / patriotic dolls include Uncle Sam, Betsy Ross, Native American Dolls, and American Flag Wendy. Other 8 inch dolls from other companies like Ginny, Muffie, and Pam have also debuted wearing regional American outfits or patriotic clothing.
8. McKinley soap baby and other presidential families: The 6-7 inch soap baby was a Frozen Charlotte type doll produced in 1896 for the McKinley campaign It came in a box that read “My Papa will vote for McKinley.” A small tag tied to the doll read the same. There are many dolls of presidents and presidential candidates including those made of Lincoln, The Obamas, The Clintons, Mitt Romney, John McCain, LBJ, and Jimmy Carter.
9. President Kennedy and his family: There were interesting portrait dolls done of the Kennedy family when the President was still alive. Several examples portray him sitting in one of his famous rocking chairs. Madame Alexander produced Jackie and Caroline. There is a large, nearly 3-foot paper doll of Jackie contemporary with her time as First Lady. After the President was killed, there was a touching figure of John John saluting, as the real John Jr. did as his father’s coffin passed him. There is also a lady head vase of Jackie in mourning. Several dolls of Jackie as a bride were produced in the early 90s as collectibles for adults. KaySam made a vinyl doll, about 27 inches, that resembled The First Lady during the early 60s. In an interesting bit of trivia, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis did the voice for a commercial showing a beautiful French doll falling and breaking. The commercial was a public service announcement on preserving history.
10. Paper dolls: Those who collect paper dolls can choose from rare antique examples, World War I and II soldiers, and vintage sets by Tom Tierney and other artists. Tiny celluloid and hard plastic Irwin babies are often dressed in patriotic outfits made from crepe paper. Related antiques include embossed Christmas ornaments of patriotic figures done as Dresden examples, paper dolls of Queen Isabella and other royal personages produced for the Columbian Exhibition of 1892, First Ladies paper dolls and others. Cardboard figures from “Smoking Sam” fireworks are also popular with paper doll collectors.
The 4th of July has had a long tradition of celebrating, and we’re doing some of the same. Dolls and toys help reflect our world, they give us a chance to share our memories and family events. Their magic may be the ability of dolls to bring people together and make new connections. It can be a rough an tumble world with a confusing message. I think many appreciate an online site, hobby or event that they can relax, unwind and smile from the inside or outside – and love life again. Onward and forward!
About the Guest Blog Author: Ellen Tsagaris has collected dolls since she was three years old. She has made dolls, priced dolls, repaired, dressed, and studied dolls. Besides dolls, she has studied other antiques and collectibles at museums, antiques shows, auctions, and flea markets since she was in grade school. She has set up at craft shows and presented papers on dolls and their history at the Midwest Modern Language Association. She is the author of several articles on dolls that have appeared in Doll Reader, National Doll World, Doll Designs, International Doll World, Hope and Glory, Doll News, Adventures, and The Western Doll Collector. She is the author of two books about dolls, Bibliography of Doll and Toy Sources and With Love from Tin Lizzie; A History of Metal Heads, Metal Dolls, Mechanical Dolls, and Automatons. An active blogger, she features two blogs about dolls, Dr. E’s Doll Museum, and Doll Museum. She lectures on dolls for various organizations and has displayed part of her collection in museums. Ellen is also the creator of the popular Facebook page, Doll Universe.
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