German Dolls Come to America

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Early German Dolls

Did you know that the majority of 19th century dolls were made in Germany? I didn’t. But there’s a good reason they were so follow along and I’ll explain why.

The prolific German doll making industry began more than 400 years ago. Early dolls were made of wood, taking advantage of the country’s dense forests. The German population’s well-known work ethic made the industry productive and successful.

Dolls with papier-mâché heads were introduced in 1805. Instead of the time-consuming task of carving individual heads, molds could be made to produce numerous identical heads, revolutionizing the doll-making industry. Painted facial features included eyebrows, dark pupil-less eyes, heart-shaped red mouth, and rosy cheeks. Hair on early dolls was molded of papier-mâché and painted, but later human hair or mohair was used to make the dolls more lifelike. Cloth bodies with leather arms or hands enabled children to position the dolls as they desired.

Papier-mâché used flour, paper pulp, and water. This was incredibly fortunate for people on vessels  crossing the ocean in the 19th century because reports have surfaced that doll heads were eaten to prevent starvation. Thank goodness our ancestors made it. We might owe our very existence to these German dolls (or, their heads, at least!)

2 Comments

  1. Cheryl Thomas says:

    Wow! I did not know that. Maybe we better start a new hobby making paper mache projects to decorate our homes just in case! I know, I know, we store canned goods just in case, but what if we can’t find our can openers? Seriously, do you know the year this pictured doll was made? I’ve never seen one like it. Early or late 19th century? Now you will have me doing doll research. Thank you so much for this post and your others of course. I love the historical education in bits and pieces.

  2. Eleanor says:

    You are my best fan! Thanks for all your comments. I appreciate them.
    No, I don’t know this doll’s “birthdate” but certainly 19th century.
    In the meantime, save up flour for your papier mache!

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