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First, it is important to realize that the German factories that originally made the glazed porcelain, or “china” dolls that we so admire as antiques now, did not name the dolls that they made.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.