Posted in Dolls

by Ruby Lane

In doll collecting “mask-face” is a term used to denote a doll whose face is made separately which is then affixed to the doll’s head, which is most often of fabric. Most often these mask faces are made by pressing fabric or paper into a mold (later dolls with mask faces of porcelain, plastic and vinyl were also made). These fabric or paper faces are usually stiffened with sizing or glue and may be layered with multiple pieces of fabric, buckram or paper. The use of a mask face enabled manufacturers to create nicely detailed dolls in a cost-effective manner.

Albert Bruckner patented such a process in the USA in 1901. Although lithographed cloth faces had been in use for dolls for some years, Bruckner’s process gave dimension to what were previously flat faces. A British patent for a molded faced cloth doll was granted to Dean’s Rag Book Company in 1913 for their Tru-to-Life dolls.

Bruckner’s 1901 patent offered a means to make dimensionally faced rag dolls at a lower cost than the previously hand painted flat-faced dolls and provided a uniformity of finished product.

Soon there were a number of American doll making companies who offered a wide variety of styles and characters with mask-faces. Mollye Goldman’s International Doll Co. produced a series of mask-faced dolls wearing costumes of the world beginning in the 1920s. Goldman’s mask-faces were reported as coming from England and the features were hand painted in oils. Mollye’s dolls had rosebud shaped mouths and wispy type painted eyelashes. The hair on these dolls was of yarn or mohair. The seams on the back of the doll’s cloth body are machine stitched. They were available in sizes of 13.5, 15, 24, and 27 inches. The line would prove to be very popular and was made from the 20s right through the 1950s.

Mollye Goldman’s International Doll Company used a variety of hang tags on their cloth mask-faced dolls as seen here. The 13.5″dolls shown here represent the costumes of France, Sweden Spain.
While the earlier Mollye’s dolls had child-like bodies, the later 12″ series were given adult figures. The doll shown here is Sheila of Ireland. The 1947 Palythings advertisement shown here illustrates some of the range of costumes for these dolls.

Also, in the late 1920s, Richard Krueger of NYC began offering cloth mask-faced dolls. They offered a line of dolls based on nursery rhymes and other characters. On December 23, 1930 Krueger was awarded a patent for making cloth Kewpie dolls with mask-faces. These were made under a licensing agreement with the Kewpies’ originator Rose O’Neill.

Richard Krueger’s company had great success with a mask-faced version of Rose O’Neill’s Kewpies. These all cloth dolls were called Kuddle Kewpies. This company also made other mask-faced doll such as the 20″ girl with her dog seen here.

In the 1930s the majority of dolls made by Georgene Novelties were cloth with pressed mask-faces. These dolls were 12 to 26 inches in height and had painted features with painted or real eyelashes and yarn hair. Many of these were also costumed to represent world dress. The seams on the back of the doll’s torso overcast stitched by hand. This characteristic is a good clue when determining the maker of unmarked examples of Georgene or Molly’es dolls.

Georgene Averill created dolls under the names Georgene Novelties, Madame Hendron and the Averill Manufacturing Co. Although perhaps better known for her Mama dolls and her version of Raggedy Ann, Georgene also made cloth mask-faced dolls. Seen here are an assortment of her 13″ dolls in world costumes.
The hang tags used by Georgene Averill on her cloth dolls are shown here.

The first dolls offered by Madame Alexander in the 1920s were cloth dolls with hand painted, flat faces. By 1933 Madame was offering dolls with cloth mask-faces. Many of these were based on literary characters from Dickens, Lewis Carrol’s Alice In Wonderland, and Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. The features were hand painted in oils. The simple bodies were made of pink cotton and were jointed with stitching at the shoulders and hips. Alexander would keep cloth mask-faced dolls in their line into the 1940s.

A 1934 ad from Plathyings shows a variety of doll made by Madame Alexander. On the right is Susie Q in a 15″ size, which was available from 1940 through 1942. Photo courtesy of Morphy Auctions.

Another company producing this style of doll was The Blossom Doll Co. of NY. They employed the use of mask-faces on boudoir dolls. These dolls were made in a variety of models depicting women, wedding party members, and male and female Harlequins. Blossom dolls faces have a silky finish to the fabric and had inset real hair lashes. In addition to their bed dolls, Blossom also made cloth, mask-faced children. These dolls measured approximately 11 inches in height. They have been found wearing historic type costumes such as Pilgrims and fanciful fruit costumes such as oranges and pumpkins.

The Blossom Doll Company’s pilgrims, John & Priscilla, have a silky finish to the fabric of their mask-faces. The “Orange Girl” is one of their more whimsical designs, a store tag indicates it was sold in Florida as a souvenir item.

Mary Waterman Phillips of Atlanta, Georgia was the creative force behind the dolls marketed under the name Mawaphil (for the first letters of her names). She began in the early 20s making stockinette crib dolls but by the early1930s was also offering mask-faced dolls with a distinctive look. After her marriage to William Wight Rushton the company name became The Rushton Co. The company continued to offer a range of products until its closure in approximately 1984.

Mawaphil mask-faced dolls were made with high quality materials and are rich in detail. The colorful hang tags used by this company are shown.
A March 1941 advertisement for Mawaphil dolls made by the Rushton Company appeared in Playthings magazine. Note the image of Mother Goose in the ad which was also used on the hang tag shown in the previous illustration.

The cloth mask-face did a lot to enable the fledgling American doll companies of the early twentieth century and were the basis of many attractive, yet inexpensive dolls available through the depression and war years in America.

Author – Linda Edward

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