Apologies to my faithful followers for being so long without posting. My current more-than-full-time job, along with caring for my elderly mother, leaves little time and energy for sewing and writing. I have had a post in the works now for many months on the topic of hand-sewing for dolls. It is on hold until I get my hand-sewing project finished.
In the meantime, I would like to show you Hazel Katkin’s amazing journey to Nebraska, and her unexpected visit with Miss Mie, one of the fabulous Japanese Ambassador dolls who came to America in 1927, and who now lives at Morrill Hall in Lincoln, Nebraska. Hazel is a 12 inch BJD made by Connie Lowe. She accompanied me on my trip to take my mom to visit her sisters. Hazel had bundles of fun, but the highlight (aside from getting the four sisters together after 15 years!) was getting to spend time with Miss Mie, who was, unexpected to us, on display!
The story of the Japanese Friendship or Ambassador Dolls is amazing. The many photos that I took of this exhibit will go a long way for showing the story.
Hazel Katerina had an amazing summer holiday traveling to Nebraska. She was so pleased to visit with Miss Mie, and is happy to share this visit with you. May your summer hold happy surprises.
Summer had been a fun time for Stella Julianna. Even though she didn’t get to fly on a plane like Miss Ruby did a few years ago, she did get to go on some car trips with Mamma Jennie.
After the summer, things became quiet at home. Stella Julianna liked reading, but sometimes she got lonely in the doll’s room in her home with Mamma. All of the antique dolls that lived there too were nice and friendly, but they just weren’t as young and vigorous as she was. Miss Ruby liked to play with Little Davie on their chair, or to stitch her sampler. It was especially lonely now that there were no more summer trips in the car, and Mamma Jennie was away at her new job all day with the hazelnuts. Stella Julianna pretended that she had a friend to run and play with like Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny, or like Raggedy Ann and Andy. Her imaginary friend was smaller than her, and she had red pigtails and freckles. Sometimes she got such a determined look on her face that dimples appeared in her cheeks.
One day, a mysterious box arrived on the doorstep. Mamma Jennie brought it in and set it on the bed. Stella Julianna was curious and excited. There seemed to be a magical tingling about the box.
The box was opened and sparkles seemed to drift upward into the air . . .
And just look who emerged from her long travel slumber in the bedroll–
Little Hazel woke up and climbed out of her travel berth. She said, “Hello. I’m Hazel Katerina, and I’ve come from our creator mother in the Carolinas to live with you and keep you company.
In fact, the very next day, when Mamma Jennie brought in the plants for the cold winter months ahead, Stella Julianna and Hazel Katkin went tree climbing on the dragon tree.
Serendipity was in the air along with the magical sparkles. Hazel was named by her creator mother, Connie Lowe. Just before she came to live with Mamma Jennie, Jennie started a new job which is focused on Oregon hazelnuts!
With this kind of magic and serendipity in the Autumn air, who knows what might happen by Yule time!
A most endearing type of antique china doll are those known as Frozen Charlottes or Frozen Charlies. These dolls, which are all stationary or “frozen,” range in size from less than an inch to 16 inches or more. Some dealers will list a doll with moveable arms, usually wired, as a frozen; however, this type is not truly a frozen doll, but an all-bisque (as they tend to be bisque, and not china) if they have moveable wired-on arms. Another variable is the country of origin for these dolls. The older antiques were made in Germany, and there are vintage frozen dolls that were made in Japan. The dolls from the respective countries of origin have their own distinctive “look.”
German bathing children were made from circa 1850 to circa 1920, and were quite popular during the Victorian era. Most of the German factories that made china doll parts, including A. W. Fr Kister, Kestner, Conta & Boehme, Alt Beck & Gottschalk, Hertwig, and possibly Kloster Veilsdorf, also made the frozen dolls, which they termed “baderkinder,” or bathing children. Some of the dolls are quite recognizable for their factory of origin by their face painting, and some, especially those made later, are poorly painted and cannot be identified. It is possible that Simon & Halbig, more noted for bisque dolls, also made small frozen dolls. The frozen dolls can have bare feet or molded shoes and painted garters, arms raised or to the sides, and they sometimes have an aperture in their head to hold perfume, or a slit to be a coin bank. Some have molded features in their hair such as a colored band or ribbon, or a bonnet. Most are nude, and there are some rare ones with molded gowns, or molded swim trunks for Charlies.
One factory well known for making beautiful china bathing dolls is not among our factories listed for making china doll parts. Goebel made some bisque dolls, and they are known for their large boy bathing dolls with irises painted with spokes around the pupil. These dolls can be all white, white body with flesh tinted head, or all flesh tinted.
The name “Frozen Charlotte” has a rather macabre origin. This name for these dolls originates from American folklore of the early 1840’s with a legend entitled “Fair Charlotte,” and the Poem by Seba Smith, “A Corpse Going to a Ball.” These tell of a young lady called Charlotte who refused to wrap up warmly to go on a sleigh ride in January to a ball because she did not want to cover up her pretty dress. When she arrived at the ball with her fiance, he found her frozen to death. This story was meant to be a cautionary tale against vanity, and it is unclear whether it is based on a true event.
Many of the bathing dolls are glazed on their front sides and have an unglazed backside or derriere with a small hole. This allows them to float front side up and to drain water after the bath. Of coarse these small-to-tiny dolls are fun to dress, too. It is more rare to find these dolls in attractive clothing of the 19th century. Usually they are found nude, in naive child made attire of the early 20th century, and often with broken limbs. Intact dolls with good face painting and original clothing are truly a delight!
I first fell in love with Frozen Charlotte dolls after seeing Penny Hadfield’s article in Antique Doll Collector magazine, September 2015. This was the first time that I had seen the little frozen dolls in such fine quality and unusual variations. I loved the little vignettes she set up with mini tubs and wash basins.
Though she has some Frozen Charlottes in antique clothing as well, it wasn’t until seeing photos of Joy’s dressed frozen dolls that I decided to try dressing some of my Charlottes and Charlies. Many had been in a little bathtub for a long time, yet they had not wrinkled!
A few of my Frozen Charlottes came in antique clothing, and a few were in rather naive child-made clothing.
The little ichimatsu doll pictured above has a place in this post for two reasons: First, he is a 19th century doll that was made for the Japanese market, as opposed to the many Japanese bisque dolls that were made for export, as was the all-bisque doll pictured above. Second, I purchased him with no clothing, so I needed to make him a wee kimono. This project of making tiny doll clothing was the perfect time to clothe him.
And here are my Frozen Dolls after their bath with new clothing made from antique fabric. Beyond the yukata above, I made four dress variations, and the trousers and shirt. Everything is sewn by hand in this tiny size. While the clothing is fairly simple, the tricky part is fitting around limbs that are partly adhered to the body, and fitting for size in this tiny scale. What a creative challenge for those 19th century girls learning to sew for their dolls!
Dressing these little dolls was such a fun project for me because I was able to create with, and display on my dolls, some little bits of mostly reclaimed quilt scrap antique 19th century cotton fabrics that had been not very visible in a box.
Bathing dolls, or Frozen Charlottes, are such a fun variation of china dolls to collect, display, and play with. When they are not dressed in antique fabric, or handled only by the china, they are sturdy to handle and move around. Their small size allows for collecting many that take up a small amount of space. With patience and the willingness to pay more for them, some beautiful old and well painted examples can occasionally be found on the market.
Wishing you joy and delight in your dolls.
Thanks to Joy Harrington for posting photos on FB of her antique dressed frozen dolls so that I could admire them, and study and copy the little fashions.
Recently on this blog, I explored the realm of Covered Wagon china dolls and their similar predecessors. Lydia, one of the very earliest china doll hairstyles, predates the Covered Wagon style by five to ten years.
First, it is important to realize that the German factories that originally made the glazed porcelain, or “china” dolls that we so admire as antiques now, did not name the dolls that they made. It was the early collectors of these dolls, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, who gave names to the doll hairstyles as a way of having a vocabulary with which to speak about the dolls with other collectors.
As we saw in my page, “History of China Dolls,” these dolls first began to be mass produced in relatively small numbers in the 1840’s. Another hairstyle that was common during this very early era of china dolls was the bun hairstyle in several variations by the different manufacturers. One china hairstyle that is so rare that I have only seen a photo of it twice is the spaniel ears style. This style combines a cluster of long curls around the face and a bun in back. Spaniel ears was more common on the so-called milliner’s model papier mache dolls that pre-dated the chinas.
The Lydia hairstyle indicates long sausage curls all around the head and reaching the shoulders This hairstyle was popular for older girls and young ladies during the mid-1800’s. The dolls with this hairstyle were being produced from about 1845. They were definitely produced by A. W. Fr. Kister, and probably by Kestner & Co. and by Conta & Boehme as well.
The Lydia china dolls are some of the most rare, being some of the earliest chinas when production was still low compared to that after the 1860’s. By the early 1850’s, the Sophia Smith style was being produced. This style was similar to Lydia, but with shorter ringlets that ended in a ledge above the shoulder. By the mid-1850’s, the covered wagon hairstyle, which had plain ringlets curving into the shape of the head, came into production and were more plentiful than the earlier styles. Finally, by the 1860’s, another hairstyle (not to be confused with the covered wagon), the flat top became the “plain and plentiful” china doll hairstyle.
Given that the antique Lydia dolls are so rare to find, and VERY expensive when one does run across them, the reproductions that are somewhat more readily on the market can be rather attractive. I have two reproduction Lydias in my collection now that I am rather happy with.
Lydia hairstyle china dolls are some of the oldest, most beautiful, most sought after, and most expensive of all antique china dolls. They are in the price range of thousands of US dollars. Luckily, there are some nicely made and painted professionally made reproduction Lydia dolls available. When found, they can be purchased for a fraction of the cost of an antique Lydia. When well made and nicely dressed, they blend right in with an antique collection.
Miss Jennie had been using essential oils and natural products for oh, so many years. And when she started working at a natural product farm with a gazillion different essential oils, she brought some home and made interesting and wonderful items. Of course Stella Julianna wanted to make something too!
“What does apoth-the-cary mean?,” she asked Miss Jennie. She learned that a modern apothecary is a supply of essential oils, herbs, waxes, butters, and other natural ingredients, and their organization and storage place. She thought that the colored glass jars, bottles, and crockery were very pretty.
Stella Julianna thought of all the wonderful things she could make with healing and sweet scented essential oils. She could make bath salts with herbs, shower melts, lip and cheek stain, lotion, hand and lip balm, whipped body butter, soap . . . She decided to make hand and lip balm with shea butter.
She needed to gently melt the ingredients to blend the butters and wax. Water in the pot under a glass cup holding the ingredients simmered gently to slowly melt them. Don’t forget to check the water level so it doesn’t simmer dry!
Now to choose the scent for the balm. Stella Julianna liked so many of the fragrances. She could use lavender and rosemary, or peppermint, or lemon, or frankincense and sandalwood, or . . . In the end, she chose cinnamon orange, and added a few drops of each to the melted wax. Now to work quickly and carefully, and get the balm into the mold before it firms up.
Stella Julianna was so proud of what she had made. The seashell balms were pretty, useful, healing, and smelled soooo good! She imagined what it would be like to be a green witch and live in a cottage by the edge of the woods. Of course, her cottage with the herbal apothecary in it would have a view of a mountain and lavender fields. Then she could wear a pointed hat like her best friend, Hazel. The kitchen clean-up was so quick that she barely had time to think about the next recipe to make.
When I buy a doll, it usually entails a project, whether or not I intended to take on more. This is because I am inclined to go for the much played-with and loved dolls, and the inexpensive variety, rather than the more expensive and elusive all-original and never-played-with genre. Such was the case with Indigo, who was a bit of an inadvertent purchase and turned out all for the good.
Alt, Beck, and Gottschalk (ABG) made two types of teen or young lady dolls with fancy curl hairstyles in the 1870’s and 1880’s. The names that collectors have attributed to these hairstyles are Curly Top and Spill Curl. They were both available in Cafe au Lait or Black color. (Cafe au Lait is a darker blonde than is usually found on antique china dolls, so it is a desirable variation.) I already had Willow Rhaine in Cafe au Lait Curly Top, and Alicia Amber in Cafe au Lait Spill Curl hairstyles.
The reason that I bid on this black hair Spill Curl doll is that she was priced low because of her broken and repaired shoulder-plate, and because I didn’t have a black haired variation. Honestly, I didn’t expect to win this auction, and I promptly forgot about my eBay bid, as I found some exciting offerings to consider on Ruby Lane. Therefore, I was surprised when the “You Won This Auction” email showed up in my box. And home she came, faded dress and all.
Indigo’s two piece dress is actually quite lovely with a fitted bodice, cuffs on the sleeves, cream lace, jeweled buttons, and hand cross-stitched medallions around the hem of the skirt. I wanted to preserve this dress that was obviously well-made for this doll. I first tried turning the skirt back-to-front, which helped some, since the back was not faded as much, but it didn’t help enough. I talked with a fellow doll collector and seamstress friend about my dilemma, and I asked her opinion about attempting to dye the costume. She recommended using a sponge to dab dye onto the dry dress to avoid the dye bleeding onto the embroidered medallions and lace.
It took awhile to get this project started since I could not find blue dye in any stores in my area in the Fall or early Winter of 2020. I finally found a dye with the color name of “denim.” I estimate that the project would have taken about a week to complete, allowing time for the fabric to dry as I worked around the skirt and sleeves. However, having started a new job, I only worked on it on weekends, and so it took a month to complete.
When I was satisfied with the color all around, I let the garment dry completely. The fabric was stiff in places from the wetting. I used a small fabric brush on the skirt and bodice, which took away any crustiness, softened the velvet, and raised the pile.
Although the color is not an exact match, this lovely and unusual china doll now has her tailor-made indigo dress restored to elegance, deserving of her name and prominently setting off the beauty of her unusual hairstyle. I did not over-dye the areas of fabric that retained the cornflower blue color, so the coloring is a bit “patchy,” almost like blue-on-blue tie dye. The presentation of the doll is now admirable.
If you watch or read Jane Austen novels, then you know that when a guest enters a home for a “call,” the hostess politely requests, “Do sit down.” If you are calling upon a well-to-do family, you may be shown into a parlour or drawing room with stylish furnishings. Perhaps the room will have a neoclassical sofa in the Sheraton style.
Thomas Sheraton lived in England through his lifetime from 1751 to 1806. He designed furniture in the neoclassical style, which was based on the revival of Greek and Roman Aesthetics, and relied on mathematical harmony and unadorned geometry. Sheraton’s furniture was a refreshing change from the ornate and elaborate styles that were popular before. His style was lighter and more elegant even than other neoclassical styles such as Hepplewhite and Chippendale. Sheraton furniture is known for its rectilinear form, exposed wooden framework, and thin legs, giving the piece a visually lighter feel. His furniture may have had a French influence.
Although Sheraton never became wealthy from his innovative furniture design, it is today considered to be a great achievement for England’s golden age of furniture. In 1791, he began publication of a four volume set of books entitled The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer’s Drawing-Book. These books were well received and expanded the designs he presented across England, and then to the United States, where they were adopted by furniture makers Duncan Phyfe, Samuel McIntire, and John and Thomas Seymour as part of the American Federal style.
While my antique china dolls enjoy their doll’s house rooms which are furnished with some graceful and practical doll sized furniture and accessories (and some improvisations), there are some definite lacks in their furnishings. They have been shopping for a number of years for a corner cabinet, a desk with bookshelves, and a sofa. This year, lo and behold, they found the perfect sofa!
This sofa is a vintage replica of the elegant Sheraton style neoclassical sofa that was widely popular in England from 1790 to 1820. What a fortunate find! It fits perfectly in size and antique styling for the doll’s house, and being of such elegant style, it brings a bit of sophistication to the otherwise provincial charm of their abode.
Several years ago, the dolls came into possession of a nice tall “townhouse” for their home, moving on from their previous tabletop dwelling. Their bed is just too wide to fit, so their bedroom is in a different “wing.” I am quite fond of the kitchen, which graduated from being a keeping room with the addition of the Marklin cooking stove a few years ago. The ladies are delighted with their collections of antique Staffordshire doll size dishes.
The first stage of redecorating the parlour was to empty it of all of its furnishings, then to add the new carpet that coordinates with the Sheraton sofa. In this case, the carpet is a piece of emerald green cotton velvet upholstery fabric that I had on hand (originally destined for Renn fair costuming).
The parlour redecorating is complete! Karen stands behind the Schoenhut piano to welcome guests with, “Do sit down.” Willow Rhaine is already seated, browsing the gem size photo album, while little Lizzy reaches over the sofa for her tiny frozen Charlotte Lydia doll. The emerald carpet is in place with a lamp mat rug before the sofa, and a window has been added to the west wall. The bookcase near the window is a WWII wooden ammo box with wooden push-pins and heavy cardboard added for shelves. The little books and the 1810 Staffordshire teapot fit nicely, while more Staffordshire is displayed on top.
Best of all, the portraits of the three boys have finally made it up on the back wall! I didn’t want to put pin holes in the wall, and I was able to hang the portraits on silk ribbons which fasten with pins in the crease where the shelf joins. The oldest boy, Jonathan, is a midshipman in the Royal Navy. His mother is so grateful that he came through the Trafalgar action unscathed. The two younger boys, Alexander and Jeremiah, are still in curls with ruffles on their collars, and are too young to go for sailors.
All is cozy in the doll’s house with the new parlour. Would you like to leave your calling card? (No mask is required in this home, as it is pre-pandemic until 1918.) Do sit down.
Most of the first settlers who came to the west coast of America arrived in covered wagons, beginning in the 1840’s. By 1871, railroads were open to California and Oregon, and migrants could travel more easily by rail than by wagon. The wagons left indelible marks in our imaginations, on the landscape, on the endurance and stamina of the migrants, and as a legacy. Part of that legacy was widespread negative repercussions for our country’s indigenous populations. One legacy that poignantly remains in a more positive light is the china doll with the hairstyle referred to as Covered Wagon.
The German factories that made the china dolls with molded hair, that we collectors adore as antiques today, did not give the dolls or their hairstyles names. Rather, it was the early collectors, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, who attached descriptive names to the different styles of dolls in order to have a working vocabulary when referring to them with other collectors or historians. The Covered Wagon doll was so named because the simple hairstyle of the doll was one that became popular in the 1850’s as one easy to maintain while travelling by wagon.
The advent of china doll shoulder heads for the open market was the mid 1840’s. The earliest china dolls had bun hairstyles modeled after current fashions including hair looped around the ears such as Queen Victoria’s wedding style, and spaniel ears which featured sausage curls over the ears and a bun in back. Starting about 1845, the “Lydia” hairstyle with center parted smooth hair on top and long sausage curl ringlets all around and dropping in length over the shoulders, was common for china dolls. Another similar style of about the same time is known as “Sophia Smith.” This style is like “Lydia,” except the ringlet curls are shorter at neck level, and end in an undercut ledge. The Lydia and Sophia Smith styles, as some of the oldest and rare china dolls, are scarce, expensive, and sought after by serious collectors.
The first of the “plain and plentiful” china dolls was the Covered Wagon hairstyle that made its appearance in the early 1850’s. (The other styles referred to as “plain and plentiful” are the “flat top” and the “low brow” which come along later in the 19th century.) The Covered Wagon style is similar to Sophia Smith with center parted smooth hair on top and short curls around the head. The main difference is that the covered wagon curls conform to the shape of the head, tapering at the bottom, rather than having a distinct ledge as for the Sophia Smith. It appears that most of the Covered Wagon china dolls were made by Kestner & Co. and A.W.Fr Kister, while Kloster Veilsdorf made their unique variation with exposed ears known as “Greiner type.”
Covered wagon china dolls are some of the oldest antique dolls that are still readily available to collectors, often at a reasonable price. A fair number of them can be found with the rarer brown eyes. They carry that quintessential primitive charm, evoking the stamina, endurance, and spirit of those American pioneer women who braved the adventure of crossing this wide continent to its westernmost regions to forge a new home.
(All dolls shown are from the author’s collection unless otherwise noted.)
Promised long ago, here, finally, is a brief description of the seven prominent German porcelain factories that produced china doll shoulder-heads, china doll parts, and the Frozen Charlottes or full body porcelain bathing dolls.
To view this new page, just click on the link in the column on the Left.
Coming up next will be an exciting post on covered wagon china dolls. See you soon with this story!
Cloth dolls have long been known to be the perennial favorites of children through the centuries. Never deeming to boast the beauty and artistry of early manufactured dolls made of wood, papier mache, china, wax, or bisque, they are nevertheless soft, comforting, and companionable to the young child. Eliza Leslie in American Girl’s Book 1831 says, “Linen dolls, when large and properly made, generally afford more pleasure to little children than those of wax, wood or composition [meaning papier mache], as they can be handled and played with freely.”
Even more prosaic are Lina Beard and Adelia Belle Beard in The Original Girl’s Handy Book, first published in 1887:
No such beautiful dolls as delight the hearts of the children of to-day ever peeped forth from the Christmas-stockings of our grandmothers or great-grandmothers when they were little girls. In those times there were not, as there are now, thousands of people doing nothing but making toys for entertainment and pleasure of the little ones, and the motherly little hearts were fain to content themselves with lavishing unlimited affection and care upon a rag, wooden, or corn-husk baby, made and dressed at home. Since then almost every child tired of, and surfeited with handsome and expensive toys, has been glad at times to get grandma to make for her a real old-fashioned dollie which might be hugged in rapturous moments of affection without fear of dislocating some of its numerous joints, or putting out of order its speaking or crying apparatus; and might in times of forgetfulness be dropped on the floor and suffer no injury thereby.
Perhaps you have a child or grandchild who would benefit from a soft doll of huggable proportions. Or perhaps you would like to add a bit of Early American whimsy to your doll collection or home.
Here are my steps for making these dolls:
I hope that you will be brave and ambitious enough to make a rolled cloth doll or two of your own from the minimal instructions listed here and in The American Girl’s Book 1831. Or perhaps you can find a copy of Early American Life containing Paula Walton’s more detailed instructions. This simple doll of rustic charm is well worth the effort!