Bye-Lo Baby and a Family Story

The most special doll in my antique collection, from a sentimental point of view, is Lucile, my Bye-Lo baby. She was given to me by her original owner, my mother-in-law, Lucile.

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The artist for Bye-Lo Babies was Grace Storey Putnam, an American woman, who wanted to make a doll that could be cuddled. She modeled the doll’s head after a three day old baby who she saw at a California Salvation Army hospital nursery. The beautiful baby girl was not swaddled, and her legs were spread froggy style. Ms. Putnam probably sketched the baby, and then made a wax model which she patented. She presented her design to George S. Borgfeldt in 1922, and the doll was manufactured by several German companies, including Alt Beck & Gottschalck and Kestner. The Bye-Lo baby did so well on the market that it became known as the million dollar baby. Check out this Bye-Lo Baby eBay informational link for more details.

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My son, Jeremiah, at three days old with froggy leg pose. 1992

As you can see in the photos, my doll has lovely toned unglazed bisque for her head with molded light brown hair. It is a socket head which fits into a hole in the body and can turn. She has sleep eyes which are brown with painted lashes. Her cloth body is stamped in red with the Bye-Lo Baby logo, Patent, and Ms. Putnam’s name. The cloth legs are froggy bent, and her celluloid hands are still in perfect condition. Her voice box no longer works. She is a 12” doll.

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Lucile’s diaper, socks, and batiste gown are original to her. The long coat is an antique that is a recent addition. The 1930’s and 40’s fabric nine-patch doll quilt that Lucile rests on is a family original, probably made by Grandmother Hazel, who was a quilter, for her two granddaughters in the 1950’s or 60’s. Perhaps Vicki will comment and set me straight on its origins. *Update–I saw Vicki in September, and she told me that this little quilt is from a collection that was owned by her father, John’s family. Apparently the women in this family were quilters, too.

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My mother-in-law, Lucile, was born in Idaho in 1917. She had two brothers and a younger sister, Helen. Lucile and Helen, being young middle class girls in the 1920’s, when the Bye-Lo Babies made their début with such success, each received one. One day, while playing with their dolls on the porch, Lucile’s doll tumbled down the steps and broke. Mother Hazel, being of kind heart, bought her a new one.

In 1993, Lucile, knowing my love of dolls, and my disappointment at not receiving my grandmother’s china doll, brought her childhood doll out of the spare bedroom closet in her Nebraska Craftsman style home, and gave her to me. She came to me in a light blue shoe box, wrapped in her cream colored bunting.

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When Helen found out that Lucile gave me this doll, she was mad.  She believed it was her doll, and she wanted it.  Some time later, Lucile called me and told me that Helen still wanted the doll back.  I told Lucile how much it meant to me for her to give me this doll.  I told her that I would like to keep this doll, but I would give it back if she really wanted me to.  I know she didn’t like to ask, but did so because Helen had pressured her so.  She didn’t ask again.  My sister-in-law, Vicki, said that Aunt Helen had a whole room where they put valuable things that just sat buried there. She said if Helen had the doll, it would just end up in that room.  So, this Bye-Lo Baby lives in my room now, and I remember Lucile and her kindness whenever I look at her and hold her.

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(Lucile, with husband John, in 1993 for their 50th wedding anniversary.)

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