German Doll Making

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 for decades.

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

Papier-mâché used flour, paper pulp, and water. As unlikely as it may seem to modern sensibilities, reports that doll heads were eaten to prevent starvation on vessels crossing the Atlantic to the United States have been documented.