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Doll Collecting

Updated on January 10, 2014
BlossomSB profile image

Bronwen and her family have enjoyed collecting many things, including fans, clocks, books and shells.

History of Dolls

Dolls are one of the first toys that were made, way back in antiquity. They have even been found in Egyptian tombs from over 4,000 years ago. As well as being toys for children, dolls have been used in magic rites in many parts of the world.

Materials that dolls have been made of vary greatly, ranging from basic shapes made from rags, wood or clay, to very sophisticated models of teenagers and adults with movable limbs and beautiful clothes, or to baby dolls that blink, cry, talk, drink and wet their nappies.

At first, simple dolls were made individually, but as time went on they began to be mass-produced, usually using fabric, porcelain or plastic, or a combination of materials. Dolls that are now collected and most highly prized are usually ones that were made in Germany, where doll manufacturing began in the 1400s.

Daisy-Daisy, Home-made Wooden Doll
Daisy-Daisy, Home-made Wooden Doll | Source

My Collection: Daisy-Daisy

I did not intentionally set out to collect dolls, and I still don't. My collection just happened over the years and they became part of the family. Some survived, some I gave away, and some were discarded as I grew.

Although I had a teddy bear and a rabbit, the only remaining doll from my early years is Daisy-Daisy, named after a popular song at the time. During the Great Depression, my Grandfather, who began his working life as a carpenter and later became an architect, made me a wooden doll to teethe on. She looks a little scary, but I loved her, she was easy to grip and to chew on - and also made a good weapon at times for hitting relatives who tried to smother me with sloppy kisses and pinched my cheeks - quite painfully at times. Good old Gramps!

Little Black Princess
Little Black Princess | Source

The Little Black Princess

As I grew older, there was a range of rag dolls that both my Mother and her Mother made for me. They were usually bought ready printed onto calico, then cut out, sewn up and stuffed, usually with worn-out knitted woollen garments that had been cut into very small pieces. This meant that they would dry easily when washed. I remember that my sister had Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy, two popular story-book characters that were made this way.

Tarlton Rayment, the very talented writer and traveller lived not far from us, and Mother was keen for us to learn about the original inhabitants of our land, so I was given his book, ' Prince of the Totem,' one year, and another year, 'The Little Black Princess.' At the same time I received a new doll that I named after the book. She still wears the dress Mother knitted for her, although it's a little moth-eaten now, and she's actually made of wood and moves at the shoulders and hips, so can sit.

An Older Version of the Ever Popular Baby Doll
An Older Version of the Ever Popular Baby Doll | Source

Baby Dolls

Over the years, my sister and I both received life-sized baby dolls that had eyes that opened and shut. They were mostly made of fabric and stuffed, but from the neck, elbows and knees were made of a composition that was solid and washable. Dad made me a cot for her and Grandma made a velvet pillow and bedding. We spent hours playing with our dolls and sewing and knitting new clothes for them. Mine went to my daughter when she had her first child.

Some of our friends had 'Wettums' dolls. They had tiny bottles that they fed to the dolls and the fluid came out the other end, so nappies needed changing.

Above is a baby doll that somehow did not get given away. She came in at time when dolls were being made with 'natural' expressions on their faces.


Tiny Welsh Souvenir
Tiny Welsh Souvenir | Source

Dolls as Souvenirs

When we lived overseas with our children, dolls in the national costume of the different countries made lovely souvenirs and were great for discussing the various places we visited together. I once had a whole cabinet of them, but most have been given away, although I still have the tiny Welsh doll (above) from our years living in the United Kingdom.

Some elegant dancers (below) are a memento of a holiday in Thailand and they remain, too.

Thai Souvenirs
Thai Souvenirs | Source

Taiwanese Funeral Dolls

During our years of living and working in Taiwan, we saw many funerals. They were quite grand occasions and could last for days. Tents were even set up across lesser streets where the mourners could gather, so we often needed to find a different route. At these funerals, a variety of gift were brought for the use of the deceased person in the after-life, including paper money, cardboard copies of TVs and cars, and even attractive dolls to amuse them.

Taiwanese Funeral Dolls
Taiwanese Funeral Dolls | Source

Knitted Dolls

Once, in an English magazine, I found knitting patterns for dolls and thought it would be fun to make one for each of us. The children were given theirs long ago, but I still have the ones I made of my husband and myself. I saw myself as a lady with grey hair and a bun, and knitting. However, I was hopeful with the grey hair - years later it's short and remains at the pepper-and-salt stage!

Well, I still knit - a 26 year-old granddaughter came visiting the other day; she crotchets beautifully, but wanted me to teach her to knit, so we had a lovely afternoon together.


Knitted Dolls
Knitted Dolls | Source

German Dolls

The German dolls are definitely the upper class of my collection.

Firstly, there is Matilda. I don't know what her original name was, as Dad brought her home when he was clearing out his old home after his parents had died.

She's lovely now, but was a bit sorry for herself when she arrived and had no clothes and no hair. During a visit to a Doll's Hospital, she was repaired and given a wig of real hair. Then I set to work making her clothes. She even has a corset with bone set into it and pants edged with lace that goes down to her knees. Her dress is made from a piece of my very first ball-gown and the lace was in my Grandmother's collection and may have been made by her on her lace pillow.

Matilda - From the late 1800s
Matilda - From the late 1800s | Source

Letitia Jane

Letitia Jane was my Grandmother's name and when I was given her doll I named her for Grandma. She, too, comes from the 1800s and was made in Germany.

I don't know exactly when my Grandma was given her, but Grandma was born in 1862 and married in 1889, so probably in the 1870s. Letitia has her original clothes, including her knee-length panties that tie at the waist (as my Grandmother's did, too, as elastic had not been invented then), her shoes and laces, the summer dress she is wearing, her maroon velvet bonnet and a matching draw-string bag, and some other clothes as well. However, she only has one petticoat, and my Grandma wore four in the winter; the bottom one was grey flannel.

So, you see, my collection is not very large when compared with some I have seen, but it is much loved. The only problem now is who to give them to as most of my thirteen grandchildren are girls!

Letita - from the Late 1800s; Original Summer Dress and Bonnet
Letita - from the Late 1800s; Original Summer Dress and Bonnet | Source

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    • BlossomSB profile image
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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 13 months ago from Victoria, Australia

      norlawrence: Thank you, so do I. How lovely that you still have your collection. Sometimes it's quite easy to replace the rubber bands using a crotchet hook, at other times it just won't work, but it might be worth a try, then they could be out on display where you can still enjoy them.

    • norlawrence profile image

      Norma Lawrence 13 months ago from California

      Your article was great. I like dolls. I had a large collection of dolls that my mother crocheted their clothes. They were dressed in native dress of many different countries. They are in a box now in pieces. The dolls arms and legs were connected with rubber bands so over the years they have fallen apart.

    • BlossomSB profile image
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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      sky2day: Bless you and thank you for your interesting story about your dolls. I, too, am glad that I still have my dolls. Years ago I actually took Letitia to an auction house as I was short of money, too, but she didn't reach my minimum, so got her back, and I'm so pleased I've kept her now, although with three daughters and eleven granddaughters, who gets her could be a problem!

    • skye2day profile image

      skye2day 3 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      I really enjoyed the stories behind your dolls. They fascinated me. I have a only a couple of dolls left. I wonder what the dolls I gave away would be worth in this day that belonged to my girls. Probably not to much only what one is willing to pay, bottom line. ( Cabbage patch kids) I kept the rare barbies in boxes and my daughters do not want them any longer so out they go one by one to little girls that need a doll. To know a little girl is blessed is worth more than gold to us.

      I have a doll very similar to your Letitia. She was a gift to me. I named her Susie. I went and had her restrung and dry cleaned her original clothes. I did have her appraised several years ago. I was told $500. At the time I so needed the money but I am so grateful I kept her. The sentimental value is far more than the money. I was hoping to hear something like $2 thousand. Five hundred did not make a dent in what I needed. Funny thing everything worked out and I still have Susie. God has a way to work things for His kids. I found the money was only wishful thinking. $ worth is what is one willing to pay? Anyway Susie is staying . Maybe one of my daughters will have a daughter for Grandma?

      Thank you for sharing your dollls with us. Loved the journey. Hugs Galore dear sister. Love, Skye

      shared and voted precious blossom

    • BlossomSB profile image
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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      aviannovice: Thank you. I loved them when I was small and still do!

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Your dolls are very beautiful and it is obvious that many were done by great craftspersons.

    • BlossomSB profile image
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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Eiddwen: So glad that you enjoyed it. Space is one of the reasons that my collection has diminished. It's great to share with my lovely HubPages friends. Thank you, I hope you have a great weekend, too.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      This is a wonderful read Blossom and so well presented.

      I have a soft spot for dolls but don't have enough room to build up a collection. Maybe just as well ha ha!!

      Thanks for sharing and enjoy your weekend.

      Eddy.

    • BlossomSB profile image
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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      CrisSp: Thank you. Sorry I've taken so long to reply, I've been away - enjoying our summer weather, although it's been a bit too hot! I loved those dolls from other nations, too, their costumes were fascinating and so pretty. That's sad that you weren't able to keep some, I know how you must feel about that.

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 3 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Interesting! My grandmother fondly collected dolls of all nations in their beautiful native costumes and some walking dolls. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to play with them not even touch them. Sadly, after she died, my dad sold them all and since I was away then, I didn't get the chance to save any. I could have saved some lovely treasures!

      Wonderful story plus bonus knowledge on the history of dolls. I enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing.

    • BlossomSB profile image
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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Sheri Faye: We may pretend that we outgrow them, but in our hearts we are still children and delight in simple things. Thank you for enjoying my collection.

      ignugent17: I love to share, it's half the pleasure.

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      ignugent17 3 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your collections. :-)

    • Sheri Faye profile image

      Sheri Dusseault 3 years ago from Chemainus. BC, Canada

      You mean you don't have to outgrow dolls? Cool. You have some lovely dolls.

    • BlossomSB profile image
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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Crystal Tatum: That is so true, playing with dolls really encourages creativity and they did become our friends when we were children. Thank you for your vote and comments.

      Genna East: Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Yes, we can learn quite a bit about history and culture from dolls. I do hope that your aunt enjoys the article, too.

      Dim Flaxenwick: I'm not sure I ever outgrew dolls, either. They can be so interesting. Daisy does look a bit scary, but she wasn't to me as my Grandpa made her. I really had fun making all those knitted dolls of each member of the family - wish I'd taken a photo of them all before I gave them away.

      Anna Haven: I do hope that my granddaughters enjoy them, but also care for them and pass them on to the next generation. Daisy Daisy was probably my first introduction to wood, but my Grandpa later taught me about the different feels, smells and grains of wood and I've always loved that, too.

      pegCole17: Thank you for your lovely comments, the stories are part of the dolls, aren't they?

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      This is such a lovely collection and the stories you've told to go with the dolls are so precious.

    • Anna Haven profile image

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      You have a great collection for your grandaughters and the diversity of your dolls is really wide.

      I liked your Daisy Daisy doll and her story the best, for her to be carved for you from wood is really special.

    • Dim Flaxenwick profile image

      Dim Flaxenwick 3 years ago from Great Britain

      This is a fabulous hub. I don't think l ever grew out of dolls. I have some lovely ones similar to Matilda, and l used to knit dolls too.

      Daisy is a bit scary but you loved her anyway. l really loved reading this . There's plenty here l didn't know about the history of dolls.

      Thank you for this great hub.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      What a beautiful collection, Blossom. My aunt shares the same interest, and I plan to share this charming article with her. It is interesting to note how dolls can reflect the societal influences of the day, as well as history. Voted up and sharing. :-)

    • Crystal Tatum profile image

      Crystal Tatum 3 years ago from Georgia

      I thoroughly enjoyed looking at the photos of the dolls in your collection. I too had a doll collection as a child and they became my friends and sparked a lot of creativity within me. Lovely hub. Voted up and sharing.

    • BlossomSB profile image
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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      phdast7: Thank you. I guess that carved wooden doll idea is something quite old, but I haven't heard of it either. How lovely to hear that you had Raggedy Ann and Andy. Blessings to you, too.

      LadyFiddler: So glad you're all right. I guess it's usually hot where you are, but we get snow on the hills in the winter. It's been 41, 42 and today is forecast to be 44 deg. C. and there are several bushfires burning out of control in my State, Victoria. Even the dog is stretched out so her tummy is on the coolest spot she can find. There's supposed to be a change overnight, probably bringing winds to whip up the fires, meanwhile there is dry lightning starting new fires. I usually prefer rural areas, but just now I'm glad I'm in the city.

    • LadyFiddler profile image

      Joanna Chandler 3 years ago from On planet Earth

      I am alright thank U. Hmm heat wave well i am in Trinidad and the sun is scorching also with some showers in between. I do not know if your heat wave is hotter than our usual burning sun in the Caribbean.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Blossom - What a lovely essay and trip down memory Lane. All your dolls are interesting and beautiful. I had never heard of a carved wooden doll for teething. That is just fascinating. I wasn't much for dolls (not sure why -- I remember quite a few stuffed animals which I adored), but my younger sister and I did each get Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls one Christmas. Loved this Hub. :) Blessings. Theresa

    • BlossomSB profile image
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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      teaches12345: I don't know how I missed replying before. Perhaps your comment came in while I was writing to others. Snowmen. That's an interesting thing to collect. Have fun with them.

      Nellieanna: How lovely! That must have been a great thing to do and I'm sure they must have looked delightful in their matching outfits.

      MsDora: It's interesting how they are interesting to people of every age. It seems to appeal to a basic instinct somehow, doesn't it?

      LadyFiddler: Matilda - and Letitia Jane - are lovely, but the others, while some are a little weird, are still part of happy memories. Thank you, I'm fine, but not enjoying this heatwave we're experiencing. It was three o'clock in the morning when I gave up trying to sleep and decided to catch up on my computer friends instead. Hope you are OK, too.

    • LadyFiddler profile image

      Joanna Chandler 3 years ago from On planet Earth

      Matilda seems to be the cutest of them all, then the knitted old couple, otherwise the rest scared the hell out of me LOL.

      How have you been?

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Beautiful collection. You just reminded me that I have one too, locked away in a pretty box somewhere. Dolls are attractive to people of every age. Thank you for sharing your dolls and their stories.

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 3 years ago from TEXAS

      Ah, yes. I loved making clothes for my daughter and her dolls and even had the fun of making dresses for my two first granddaughters with dresses for their dolls to match. Those were such lovely memories.

    • BlossomSB profile image
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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      always exploring: I love my collection, too, but yours sounds so interesting. Angels! What a lovely idea, I'd love to see them. It's great to be able to share like this, isn't it?

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 3 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Oh Blossom, i love your doll collection!. I have dolls too, not as great as yours. The wooden doll is a rare beauty. I collect angels. I can't pass one up in the store, but i'm running out of space. Thank you for sharing your dolls and their stories...

    • BlossomSB profile image
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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Frank Atanacio: Yes, the knitted dolls were fun - I've even seen a knitted Nativity scene, but it looks like a lot of work.

      Phyllis Doyle: Those ones that you make sound delightful. The four Little Women sisters would be interesting to make, too. I know what you mean about making the clothes for baby dolls, it's quite engrossing. You've reminded me that once I made an Armish couple from a kit for one of my grandchildren.

      tobusiness: Thank you for your lovely comments. I enjoyed writing it.

      rebeccamealey: There's something about them, isn't there? Perhaps they bring out our maternal or paternal sides - and, O joy! they don't need half the attention the real ones demand.

      Jackie Lynnley: Thank you. It's fun to share. I may leave the choice of who gets what to the next generation - it sounds too difficult as I love them all.

      jo miller: I'm glad you liked it. It is lovely to share the enjoyment with grandchildren - I'm waiting for the next generation, great-grandchildren, to appear, but that seems to be taking a while.

      FlourishAnyway: I am fortunate. I think we all seem to remain children at heart, especially when there are dolls around.

      kidscrafts: They are like souvenirs, and great reminders of happy times past. That was nice, that your father brought some home for you - I'm sure you looked forward to those times. Do you miss your collection now? Hope you are enjoying your weekend, too.

      Nellieanna: Thank you. That was sad that you lost yours in a house fire. I lost some of mine in a bush fire, but I'm sure I have quite enough still anyway. Your collection sounds lovely. With your sewing you reminded me of all the times I stayed up very late making dolls' clothes as a surprise for a special occasion for my three daughters. Thank you so much for your votes.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      You have such an interesting collection of dolls. Daisy is very quaint and I can see why you have it still today. I collect snowmen and can relate to the fun of collecting a themed series.

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 3 years ago from TEXAS

      I love your hub! I've always loved dolls, though my own perished in a house fire when I was 13, I had a variety of kinds, which included a couple of antique china dolls (one I do still have), aShirley Temple, a Sonya Henie (with ice skates), many baby dolls of various materials and talents, a reversible cloth black-face and white-face one whose skirt hid the 'other face' when it was not in view, - and my most treasured ones, the Sally Ann 'Storybook Dolls'. Of course, my neice had her Madame Alexander dolls, and my daughter had her Barbie dolls. I loved sewing for my own and my daughter's dolls.

      You've brought some lovely dolls to the attention of readers here and I, for one, am so glad I stopped in! I'm definitely leaving my votes!

    • BlossomSB profile image
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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Faith Reaper: Your Scarlett O'Hara doll sounds lovely. It's sad when old childhood dolls and toys disappear, but they remain long in our memories.

      Jodah: Wow! Wherever does she keep them all? But how lovely! Teddies have long been a childhood friend of both boys and girls.

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 3 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      What a beautiful hub, Blossom! Your dolls are like a trunk of souvenirs of different times and places. I found your knitted dolls adorable :-)

      When I was adolescent, I received a few dolls of different places, not because I travelled but because my father was a pilot and sometimes he brought a doll from one country or another. When I got married, I gave them to the granddaughter of the lady who did my wedding dress.

      Thank you for sharing your beautiful souvenirs!

      Enjoy your weekend!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Beautiful! You're so fortunate to have some of these passed down to you in your family, especially from so far back.

    • jo miller profile image

      Jo Miller 3 years ago from Tennessee

      Interesting article. I'm rediscovering dolls with four granddaughters.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      These are beautiful and I am sure you will see the love in one of those granddaughters eyes to know who is the one to care for them after you. I couldn't help but think of Laura Ingall's doll made of corncob with a scarf around her head (or maybe it was whole body) and button eyes, guess it doesn't take a beautiful doll to put love in a little girls heart.

      Thanks for sharing your treasures!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      What a nice Hub on dolls! I am sure there is some deep psychological reason why people have attached themselves to dolls since early times, What, I don't know, but I know most kids, even my son had a baby doll he loved. Thanks!

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      The dolls are adorable, the stories and history behind them gives us a little more insight into you and your lovely family. Interesting, a pleasure to read.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 3 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Blossom, this hub is so interesting. I adore dolls and make cloth dolls with Native American style dresses. I bead the clothing and moccasins with tiny seed beads. I also have a large collection of dolls that just somehow found their way into my home. I have the four Little Women sisters that are waiting for me to make them complete outfits of their era. I crocheted one outfit for a baby doll and it turned out so cute. So, you know why I enjoyed your hub and the beautiful dolls you have. Thanks for sharing the history and pictures of your dolls. This is a lovely hub and very well done.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

      what a very entertaining and educational little piece here.. the knitted dolls yeah I remember those ..LOL great share

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Very interesting hub Blossom. I'm not into dolls but I love to learn about the history of toys and appreciate collections. My own wife collects teddy bears and must have around 100. Well done.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Oh, how fascinating that they were the first toys ever! You have a beautiful collection. I wish I still had my favorite doll from childhood and that was a Scarlett O'Hara doll with that beautiful cream colored dress with green on it from that scene she wore in the movie. My dad also brought back two beautiful dolls for me when he was overseas. Sadly, I do not know what happened to them. Up and more and sharing. Blessings, Faith Reaper