Three Pretty Maids Part III: Gretchen


Gretchen is a small fancy hair china doll with two braids in a V on her forehead.

Although the very early china dolls of the 1840’s from the high quality KPM Meissen and KPM Berlin factories were always marked, the early dolls from the Thuringian porcelain factories were not marked. In most cases, the factory origins of these dolls remained a mystery to collectors of antique china dolls until the 1990’s when Mary Krombholz began making her yearly trips to Germany to tour the vacant factory buildings (most of which are now torn down) and German doll museums. She collected doll shards from the factory grounds and compared them with dolls from known factories in German museum collections. Thanks to Mary Krombholz and her study of the dolls’ face painting, we now have a guide to place dolls into categories for their factory makers, and for their chronology.


A magazine article by Mary Krombholz with a photo of a Kister factory building.


Gretchen’s cotton dress is pretty, but she would turn out better in a silk evening dress.

Gretchen is the third china doll from my collection that I would like to show you in this study of the fancy hair dolls. She has two small braids at the top of her forehead that form a V and then become part of the soft rolls of hair on either side of her face. The hairstyle ends in a fall of three long curls low on the back of her neck. She also has brush strokes on each side of her face indicating individual hairs. This is a desirable feature, and a good trait for a small doll like this one.


Gretchen has soft hair pulled back at the sides, and fine brush strokes on the sides of her face.

I have never seen another doll with a hairstyle like Gretchen’s, not even in a book. She is a small doll with a 2 ½” shoulder head and overall height of 11”. Because she is small, her face painting is not very detailed, but even so, I think she is an A. W. Fr. Kister doll because she has the characteristic thin, almost straight eyebrows, and the long darker line between her lips with an elongated oval for her bottom lip. She is probably one of the 1870’s fancy hair dolls.


Gretchen’s left arm is a low quality Hertwig replacement. She has nice china laced shoes.

Gretchen’s clothing is replaced, with poly/cotton drawers and petticoat with newer eyelet lace. Her small print cotton dress is pretty, but as a fancy hair doll, an evening dress of silk would be better suited to her. Her china right arm has nice detail and seems to be original to her. Her left arm is a replacement, being one of the lower quality Hertwig arms with five fingers all in a row so right and left are interchangeable. Her china legs are the good quality dollhouse doll type with flat soled black laced slippers and burgundy garters with bows painted at her knees.


Sadie is a reproduction of an ABG Curly Top style.


This style has vertical curls down the back of her head. You can see the “P S” initials on her shoulder plate.

The last fancy hair china shoulder head that I would like to show you in this study is Sadie. She is a reproduction of an Alt, Beck, and Gottschalk doll from the 1880’s named “Curly Top” by American collectors. The Curly Top style came in black, like this one, and a pretty light brown that is called “Café Au Lait.”  Sadie does not have a body. She is a well made reproduction doll with the black initials “P S” under the glaze on the back of her shoulder plate. Though her face painting is well done, her mouth does not have the characteristic V in the middle, like true ABG dolls.


This is an antique ABG Curly Top shoulder head with Cafe Au Lait hair that was sold on Ruby Lane. Notice the distinctive V shaped lip line.

First created in the 1860’s and 1870’s, fancy hair china dolls are some of the most beautiful of the china dolls made. There is an astounding variety of styles made, and the styles can usually be documented as exact replicas of contemporary styles in women’s fashion magazines such as Godey’s Lady’s Book and Harper’s Bazar. Some fancy hair styles were made in the 1880’s along with the newly popular child dolls. Beautiful, and much sought after, the antique fancy hair dolls are also favorites for reproduction doll artists now.


Krombholz, Mary Gorham. A Pictorial Reference Guide for German Chinas, 2009.

Post Script:

A word about the photos:

I take pride in a well written article with good photos. Many of the photos I have been posting of my dolls don’t live up to my expectations because they are not focused well enough. I blame this on the quality of my camera. My inexpensive Sony was purchased about five years ago with the expectation of using it for family snapshots. It works well enough for that purpose. However, now that I am photographing close-ups of dolls, the quality of my digital camera falls short. It is all I have to use for now, since I’m not willing to buy film for my really good Nikon 35 mm camera and scan the images. My apologies. JS

Post Post Script:

Fabulous Teen Hairstyles

Fabulous Teen Hairstyles by Erin Mayost

How is this for synchronicity? My daughter just brought me this book, that she checked out of the library, to look at. It is all about fancy hair styles for today’s young ladies! Take a look–you can even read part of it on  JS


Three Pretty Maids Part II: Quintonia


Quintonia, a Jenny Lind fancy hair china doll.

The history of the fancy hair chinas is an interesting one. Mary Krombholz reminds us that women never again have worn such intricate hair styles as those in the 1860’s and 1870’s. In Identifying German Chinas, she tells us how the dolls with fancy hair came to be made by the factories in Thuringia:

“On November 2, 1867 Harper’s Bazar announced it had completed arrangements with many leading European fashion journals. For the first time, current fashions were published simultaneously in Paris, Berlin and the United States. This arrangement was of special interest to the German porcelain factories. Although the latest fashions were first known in Paris, the steel engravings used to create the color fashion plates for the magazines were made in Germany. This allowed German designers to have access to fashion information before it was published.

“There is definitely a close connection between the hairstyles on molded hair dolls and the hairstyles found on models pictured in the fashion magazines such as Godey’s and Harper’s Bazar. A close inspection of the china shoulder head dolls introduced in the 1860’s decade proves that the doll hairstyles are identical down to each wave and curl.” (Krombholz 49, 50)


The Jenny Lind hairstyle has soft, loose, waves pulled back into a low, twisted, bun.

One of the most popular fancy hair china dolls is the Jenny Lind style. This style, with soft hair waved back at the sides, and a low bun in back, was made by several factories, including Alt. Beck, & Gottschalk, Conta & Boehme, A. W. Fr. Kister, and Kestner. While the Jenny Lind style includes a bun like the older china dolls of the 1840’s, it differs because the hair is a softer style, the bun is lower on the head, and it is twisted, not braided.


A portrait of Johanna Lind, the Swedish Nightingale.

Jenny Lind, or Johanna Maria Lind (1820-1887) was a world renowned opera singer from Sweden, who became known as “The Swedish Nightingale.” One of the most highly regarded singers of the 19th century, she is known for her performances in soprano roles in opera in Sweden and across Europe. She was a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music from 1840. In 1850, Johanna Lind went to America at the invitation of the showman P. T. Barnum. She gave 93 large-scale concerts for him, and then continued to tour under her own management. She earned more than $350,000 from these concerts, donating the proceeds to charities, principally the endowment of free schools in Sweden. With her new husband, Otto Goldschmidt, she returned to Europe in 1852 where she had three children and gave occasional concerts over the next two decades, settling in England in 1855. From 1882, for some years, she was a professor of singing at the Royal College of Music in London. (Information gleaned from Wikipedia.)


Quintonia wears her antique cotton dress with added beige lace, and a sheer lace shawl.

My Jenny Lind doll, Quintonia, is another of my “married” dolls, which is appropriate, don’t you think, since her countenance is definitely one of a mature woman. 🙂 What I mean is that I purchased her as a shoulder head with no body, and found a body for her later. She has a 3” shoulder head with sloped shoulders, two sew holes front and back, and a dimple at her throat. She is not marked, so I am not sure of her maker, but based on her face painting, she seems to be A. W. Fr. Kister.


The mature Jenny Lind shoulder head has a dimple at the base of her throat.


The Jenny Lind style has loose hair pulled back into a low bun over beautifully sloped shoulders.

Quintonia was definitely a good find at the Portland Crossroads Doll Show! I spotted her on a little tiered shelf, picked her up, and said to the dealer, “Oh!  I’ve been by here three times and I didn’t see her!”  The dealer said that’s because she just put her out, two hours into the show.  She had been debating about keeping her, but wasn’t sure she could find a body for her.  Well, this little lady is rare enough to pick up just as she is!  I think the seller still wasn’t sure about giving her up.


Quintonia’s body is old and patched. The leather arms appear too large. Her pink boots with tassels are uncommon.

It took me a year to find a body, but now Quintonia is a whole woman, measuring 14” tall. I rejected several bodies I found in the right size because they were too new for this doll, having the small, not very well detailed, black or brown boots of an 1890’s to 1900 doll. This body is machine stitched old muslin stuffed with sawdust or cork and patched with hand stitches. Her arms are hand stitched papery old kid leather with individually sewn fingers, and seem to be too large for the body—maybe added later. They remind me of the picture on the cover of Tina Fey’s book, Bossy Pants, with a stylish woman resting her cheek on a meaty, hairy hand that belongs to a large man! The china legs on this body have very nice black-toed pink boots with green tassels and garters, which are also an unusual find. The boots have low heels in the appropriate style for an 1860’s to 1870’s doll.


Quintonia wears an antique chemise with new made drawers.

Quintonia has an antique chemise with narrow tatted lace trim, and new made split drawers with vintage lace trimming the bottom. She has a vintage four-flounced lace petticoat and an antique white cotton dress with a brown leaf print that has faded to pale gold over most of the fabric. I added the new old stock beige lace at neck, waist, and hem, to make the dress fancier for her. I think she eventually needs an evening gown of rose silk (to match her cheeks) with black lace—what do you think?

It is not clear to me whether this fancy hair china doll was named “Jenny Lind” from the beginning, but this may be the case. Mildred Seeley had a fancy hair china doll with a different hair style that had an old label on the china that read “Jenny Lind,” so it seems that the name was at least used with china dolls from the 19th century. The label on her doll is a bit of a mystery. (Beloved China Dolls, 44)


Elaine Annen’s large Jenny Lind doll who rode the train to Oregon in the arms of her original mistress in the 19th century.


Meet Gretchen next time!

Gretchen, a smaller doll, is awaiting her introduction next. And finally, a view of an 1880’s fancy hair reproduction.

May you also be soothed and inspired by the nightingale. Good night!


Krombholz, Mary Gorham. Identifying German Chinas 1840s – 1930s. Grantsville, MD: Hobby House Press, Inc., 2004.

Seeley, Mildred. Beloved China Dolls. Livonia, MI: Scott Publications, 1996.

Three Pretty Maids Part I: Angeline


Three fancy haired china dolls of the 1860’s and 1870’s.

Fancy haired china dolls are some of the most exquisite dolls made, and they continue to be sought out by collectors, bringing some of the highest prices for antique china dolls made in the 1870’s and later. These next posts highlight three pretty fancy haired dolls in my collection, and one lovely reproduction china head that I would like to show you.

By the 1870’s, china dolls had been produced for about 40 years. The newer, more realistic, Parian and bisque dolls were becoming popular. By this time, the mass production of porcelain was well established, and covered wagon and flat top china dolls were “plain and plentiful,” as some have described them. Though the child china dolls of the 1880’s were made in abundance, and well received by a buying populace, the 1870’s are considered to be the last decade of the “Golden Age” of china dolls.


The elaborate hairstyles are frozen in time on these molded porcelain china shoulder-heads.

The marvel of the molded hairstyles of the china dolls is that they stay fixed as a permanent record of trends and fashions of the time they were first made, unlike clothing on the dolls which could be changed and updated for new styles, as could the wigs on bisque dolls. The plain styles of the covered wagon and flat top dolls reflect everyday hairstyles for women in the 1860’s and 70’s. These dolls were usually clothed plainly, as well. During this time, though, women wore elaborate styles that often took hours to coiffe, and a maid, or perhaps a sister, to achieve, for evenings at the opera or other nighttime events. The hairstyles on these dolls can usually be found in fashion plates in Godey’s Ladies’ Book or Peterson’s Magazine.

Fancy haired china dolls needed silk and tulle gowns to complete their evening attire. They are the dolls who have wonderful elaborate and full silk or velvet gowns with lace and millinary flowers  when found (or photographed) all-original.

Many fancy hair variations were made on china dolls, though these are harder to find now than the plainer sisters. Some of these fancy styles have names attached to them now, by which collectors can identify them. An important note, though, is that the dolls were not made as portrait dolls to represent a particular person. Rather, in most cases, the name was attached to the doll later, and not all fancy haired chinas have a “handle” name.


Angeline wears a unique costume for her debut photo.

Angeline is the newest fancy haired china doll to be added to my collection, and she is probably the oldest of these three fancy dolls. Her hairstyle, with the ringlets trailing alongside her long neck, is quite rare. As far as I know, this style does not have a “handle” name. The reverse roll across her head, and the mass of ringlets in back, reminds me of a Greek Revival style, one that was popular in the Regency era, as in Jane Austen’s time. Angeline has painted brush strokes around her head to look like individual hairs. She has mostly exposed ears and an aristocratic nose.


A close-up of Angeline’s rare hairstyle with ringlets spilling down each side of her long neck. Her shoulder-head is currently tied onto her body under her arms.

Angeline’s seller tells me that her shoulder-head was dug up from the factory grounds, though I could not find out which factory it was. Her brown/black hair has a rough, unglazed texture, while the white part of her porcelain is glazed. I don’t know if this is from being buried for years, but I think not—the rough part seems too regular to be from wear.

The shoulder plate on this doll is an earlier style than the other fancy hair dolls, or the flat top dolls. It has the barest hint of a bosom and the shoulders are not so sloped on the sides. This leads me to believe that Angeline is one of the earliest fancy haired dolls, probably from the early 1860’s. I cannot identify her maker (since I don’t know which factory site she was found on), but her face painting seems similar to those identified as A.W. Fr. Kister. She has a repair on the back right corner of her shoulder plate, and multiple stable cracks/crazing in the porcelain of her shoulder plate.


Though her 1870’s body with sewn-on red leather boots is appropriate to her, It is not original–it was not buried with her.

Angeline’s body is obviously not original to her, since she was resurrected from the ground, but it is an old one, probably from the 1870’s. It is jointed at hips and knees, so she can sit well. She has had it for at least ten years, which is how long she lived with her previous mistress. Her red leather boots are sewn on. Her kid leather arms are quite worn, and her left hand is missing. Her shoulder-head is just shy of 4″ tall, and on her body, she is 13″ tall.

The simple lace edged drawers were the only garment Angeline wore when she came to me. She is modeling a rather unique ensemble for her debut. Her slightly trained skirt is an antique one. Her lace bodice is actually a sleeve remnant from an Edwardian dress or blouse, and her shawl is a fabric remnant. Of course, she needs a proper lady’s undergarments, and a fancy gown. I do like the burgundy fabric of her shawl with her complexion, though, and the stripes are a correct print for her era. She may get a nice cotton gown from this fabric, instead of silk. Wait and see!


A lady needs fresh and frilly under clothing, or “small clothes.”

Next time, Quintonia, a Jenny Lind doll, will be in the spotlight, followed by Gretchen and Sadie. And the History of China Dolls article is in the making.

And now, it’s to the symphony!–or just to my I-pod tonight. Oh well, I have my dreams to sustain me! Good night.