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)
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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 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)
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.