Anne Rice Quote: “When you loved dolls and studied them, you started to love all kinds of people, too, because you saw the virtue in their expressions, how carefully they had been sculpted, the parts contrived to create the triumph of this or that remarkable face.” The quote says it all. World Doll Day on June 11th, 2016, celebrates our love for dolls and doll collecting, but it also celebrates a day when through their dolls, miniature portraits of themselves, the people of the world come together.
It is no accident that, at least when I was small, The United Nations Gift Shop sold dolls. It is also no accident that the international symbol for women is based on an Ashanti doll from Ghana, or that Picasso was inspired to paint The Demoiselles of Avignon after seeing a collection of folk dolls in a museum.
Dolls are the original goodwill ambassadors, and they are often sent and kept as tokens of good will. Shirley Temple’s legendary doll collection, auctioned by Theriault’s last year, is a testament to the good will and peace dolls represent. Many of Temple’s dolls were sent to her by fans all over the world. There is a doll at The Eisenhower Library, a gift to the President from the people of Brittany, I believe. There are other dolls in The Hoover Presidential Library Westbranch, Iowa. A recent exhibit there featured the international doll collection of Caroline Kennedy.
Many Museum collections include ethnic dolls, folk dolls, international costume dolls, Native American dolls, African dolls, and other regional costume dolls because often these dolls are all that is left of the cultures they represent. You have only to read books by Laura Starr (”The Doll Book,” 1908), and Max Von Boehn, (“Dolls and Puppets”, 1927). The former online museums and web pages, J.A.D.E., for Japanese American Doll Enthusiasts, A Page for Japanese Dolls, and Michael Cosgrove’s International Doll Museum were wonderful examples of sources for international dolls. Noted doll authors and photographers, Barbara and Lloyd Pickering collected and photographed costume and folk dolls from all over the world for a museum they put together. “Doll Castle News” and “Antique Doll Collector Magazine” often feature articles on Native American Dolls, composition dolls wearing ethnic costumes, and dolls from Brittany and Germany.
Other wonderful books featuring dolls of the world are: Pam and Polly Judd’s books, Janet Pagter Johl’s books, Loretta Holz’s “The How-To Book of International Dolls,” Gwen White’s books, Leslie Gordon’s books, Mary Hillier’s “Dolls and Doll Makers,” Manfred Bachmann’s “Dolls the Wide World Over”, and John Noble’s books. If you get a hold of volume D of the 1950s “World Book Encyclopedia”, look up the article on “Dolls.” World Book had great information on dolls of the world.
Sam Pryor, former vice president of Pan Am, had his collection written up in “National Geographic Magazine,” Dec. 1959. He founded his own museum, the International Doll Library Collection. His friend, the great aviator, Charles Lindbergh, collected automatons.
When I was 10, the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago had an international doll collection. The Indianapolis Children’s Museum had one when I visited in 1994, as did The Museum of the Americas in Spain, with my visit taking place in 1981. The Milwaukee Public Museum has a wonderful collection, including a Japanese friendship doll. Shankar’s International Doll Museum, The Yokohama Doll Museum, The Strong National Museum of Play, The Unique Doll Museum, and many others all over the world feature national and international costume dolls, and dolls we call “tourist” or “souvenir dolls.” I’ve been to public places and restaurants all over the world that decorate with souvenir dolls, and they are often the spoils of a once in a lifetime trip.
My family has traveled or lived on every continent, except Antarctica. A close family friend went there, so we’re covered! They brought dolls; many of them still reside at my Grandparents’ home, and several came home with me and began my own collection when I was 3.
Many collectors overlook souvenir dolls, but I think they should take a second glance. Lenci made many souvenir dolls, so did Petit Colin. SFBJ produced dolls in French regional costumes, some with labels that read Eden or Jumeau. In 1969, I brought a cancan girl back from Orly Airport, Paris. The walls of the gift shops there were lined with gorgeous celluloid dolls in French costume. Since that trip when I was very, very little, I confess that I have a weakness for all French dolls! Marin of Spain, 1928, has long been admired for their beautiful dolls in Spanish costume and historical dress. Steiff has made dolls and bears in costume for at least a century, and Furga and other Italian doll companies create beautiful examples.
They tell a story, one of national pride. Greek dolls have been celebrated in my own humble publications, and in the works of Maria Argyriades of the Benaki Museum.
In fact, dolls by Lenci and Steiff have influenced the amazing creations of R. John Wright. If some would say it takes a village to raise a child, then I would say it takes an international doll house to make a great collection.
This World Doll day, my tiny doll hats are off to the doll hospitals still operating around the world, to the international doll factories and artists still working out there, to the unsung folk heroes of doll creation who continue to make these small works of art, made in our own image.
Ellen Tsagaris has collected dolls since she was three years old. She has made dolls, priced dolls, repaired, dressed, and studied dolls. 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.
“Dolls are among the oldest cultural artifacts, and perhaps are the oldest toys. My passion for dolls began when I was a toddler, and it has never stopped. Explore the wonderful world of all things ‘doll’ with me.”
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