In July, when I was three years old, my father picked me up from the neighbors’ house where I had spent the night, and took me on an outing to the nearby hospital. He left me for a little bit at the big red curly slide outside, then took me inside to get a look at my new baby brother through the wide glass viewing window of the nursery. The baby’s face, which was all I could see that wasn’t bound up in a white blanket, was red and wrinkledy. When asked what I thought of him I said, “He’s funny,” and asked if I could play on the slide some more.
As David grew, he became more interesting as a playmate, and definitely more ornery as the years went by. Now, he is one of my best friends and advocates. I value him immensely as my only sibling.
So, when I spotted this Martha Chase boy in the green velvet suit, I couldn’t resist bringing him home as a new brother for Miss Ruby, my reproduction Izannah Walker girl. His white-blonde hair and bright blue eyes reminded me so much of my little brother, he is perfect as Ruby’s brother!
I don’t know much about Martha Chase dolls yet. Here is what I found out: Similar to Izannah Walker, Martha Chase, who was a doctor’s wife, didn’t care for the idea of children being given mechanical creations and fragile bisque dolls as playthings. She thought that the use of “technology” in mechanical playthings overwhelmed the child’s own inventiveness in play. She also thought that the fashion dolls popular around the turn of the twentieth century were likely to teach children to be materialistic. This idea of creating a less materialistic, “pop culture” toy, in favor of one that is made of soft natural fibers was continued in the early childhood philosophies of Maria Montessori in her schools, and by Rudolf Steiner in Waldorf Education.
Mrs. Chase used her sewing skills, beginning in 1899 in Pawtucket Rhode Island, to create lightweight, more life-like and child-like dolls of stockinet stuffed with cotton (which is lighter than sawdust, a popular doll filler in the 19th century). By 1913, she and the workers in her cottage industry were making dolls in six sizes from 12″ to 30″, and the dolls were selling in department stores such as Macy’s and Wanamaker’s. Mrs. Chase died in 1925, though her company continued to produce dolls into the 1970’s.
I don’t know enough about the Martha Chase dolls to know in what era my Davie doll was made. It seems that his type of blonde boy with blue eyes was common. He measures just short of 18″ with an old cloth torso topped by a sized or gessoed and painted shoulder-head, and he has adorable applied little ears. His left foot has a little stitched-on sole, and his right foot seems to have been re-finished. He has patches on various locations of his body. I could not locate a signature anywhere on him. The outfit he came in is not original. If any of you, dear readers, can tell me more about him, I would be grateful! (I know that you can, Paula! 😉 )
Though Ruby is a reproduction Izannah Walker doll, she is made true to the original ones by Paula Walton. I find the contrast in styling for hands and feet between these two dolls to be intriguing–little girl versus baby, like the difference in china doll heads styled to be ladies or to be children–the face, neck, and hands are so proportionally different for the different ages represented.
How the evening has flown! I hear Ruby offering to read a story to Davie to help him relax into sleep to be ready for Independence Day festivities on the morrow.
Happy Birthday David, Bro!
Post Script: When is a computer like a puppy? When it is new, and you have to teach it everything! Okay, maybe I will grow to like my new Windows 8 technology, but at the moment, true to Martha Chase’s prediction, it is interfering with my own inventiveness! Among other technical difficulties, I have not yet succeeded in getting my old and still quite useful and working printer to interface with Windows 8. I want to scan my old photos! I want to play my DVD’s! Can you teach a new dog old tricks? This remains to be seen.
Happy Independence Day!