Giving Thanks: Food for Thought, and Thought for Food


My china ladies have prepared their home for a festive occaision.

Are you cooking in or dining out for Thanksgiving? This question is loaded with more than gravy and cranberry sauce! Our national holiday of Thanksgiving is traditionally a day of feasting and community with extended family. (Yes, I am purposely ignoring the televised sports aspect.) Ideally, there are sufficient family members who contribute and share in the preparation for the festivities. These days, though, more and more restaurants offer catered dinners for the day and are open for dining in. A good thing? Maybe.

I am a strong believer in the essential goodness of food prepared at home, and of the community building aspect of sharing food and conversation around the dinner table. However, my reality does not always live up to my beliefs. I am a single “head of household” with two jobs. The two family members who live with me are not willing or able to prepare meals. The third family member with whom I often share holidays chooses not to cook. This usually leaves me in a position of wearing myself out as the sole planner and preparer of the festivities and not able to enjoy the gathering, or of choosing restaurant dining with its attendant foibles. Why is restaurant dining a less desirable meal? Here are some deeper thoughts on this issue.


Hazel offers cream of celery soup made with homemade chicken bone broth.

Deng Ming-Dao says in 365 Tao: Daily Meditations:

In cultures where personal contacts are more meaningful and closeness to the earth is a way of life, it is no surprise that people are interested in a complete relationship with their food. They buy it or raise it, they harvest it, they clean it, and they cook it–all before they eat it in gratitude. They don’t become sentimental over their food–practicality is to understand that we kill to survive–but they do give thanks for what has died to sustain them.

Today we have a very incomplete relationship with our food. We don’t see where something grows, we eat foods out of season, we buy prepared foods made by someone we don’t even know. There is a great power in knowing your food, knowing where it came from, preparing it with your own hands. This food, whether vegetable or animal, died for us. The least we can do is partake of it thoroughly and with respect.

Nowadays it is quite common for people to feel isolated. They lament not having friends, not having genuine experiences, not having a sense of who they are. If even the food that we eat and the way that we eat is lacking in wholeness, then how will we feel completion in the rest of our lives? (Tao #277)

Thanksgiving Vintage Family

At least one of my sons has a differing opinion. He believes that with the work-away-from-home structure of our modern lives, it makes more sense for food preparation to be centrally prepared in large quantities for purchase, rather than for individuals or small families to have to spend time in food preparation on a daily basis. This plan frees the limited time we have around work for other activities. (Lucky for him, his wife has a job in a natural foods store that includes a generous deli department. This connection adds an element of locality to their prepared food purchases.) And all three of my sons have a preferred other activity–playing board games! As they proclaim, sharing in playing games builds community, as does sharing a meal.

Victorian Parlour-Games

Deng Ming-Dao continues his thought on food and place with Tao # 320:

Why were people of old so integrated with their surroundings?  Because the objects that they used, the food that they ate, and the activities that they engaged in were straight from their surroundings. They used sticks made from [native wood] as eating implements. They used vines to make baskets. They used gourds as vessels. For food, they grew plants, domesticated animals, and caught fish and game. Their social structure was built around the cycles of the sun, moon, and stars. Newborn babies were washed with waters of the nearest stream. The dead were buried in the same earth that provided sustenance.

Now our food is imported from distant places and elaborately processed. We have no idea where objects we purchase come from, thinking that their presence and convenience is all that is necessary. We have means of transport that can bring us to places faster than our minds can adjust. We abuse our wealth and use it to insulate ourselves from our surroundings.

That’s why being of modest means is not necessarily bad. When one is poor, one is forced to use what is at hand. . . . The closer we can be to the earth and to nature, the more integrated with life we shall be.


Okay, as much as I would like to return to rural 1840, I know that is unrealistic and that I have romantisized expectations of the time. So, is eating at a restaurant for Thanksgiving a bad thing? I think that like being poor in the passage above, we have to make use of what is at hand. I have made the best choice I can for a location for an enjoyable family dinner. I hope the wait is not so long, it is not too noisy, and I will mourn the lack of leftovers to provide additional meals. I will graciously thank the growers, producers, cooks, servers, and others involved in providing the meal for my family. I will greet others who I do not know as they partake of this holiday feast at the same location. I will appreciate the disorientingly fast transportation for reuniting far-flung family members. Perhaps my family will re-convene after our meal at one of our apartments for games. We will admire and appreciate the upgraded game pieces that were artistically handmade by one of our group. Perhaps we will even contemplate who manufactured the forks we take our delicious bites from, and where the plates originated.

Jonathan's game painted by Kendra

Game upgrade painting and photo by Kendra Jackson

My gratitude goes to you, my readers and followers, for making my blog–my creative outlet–a successful one. May you enjoy food that satisfies your body and soul, and may you benefit from community with those you hold dear as well as benefitting unknown people in need of community.


My doll’s house Thanksgiving table. We know where the dishes came from!

Ming-Dao, Deng. 365 Tao: Daily Meditations: 1992, Harper Collins, New York.

Vintage Victorian Thanksgiving



Kling to Simple Delights: The Restoration of a Kling China Doll


Author’s restored and dressed King shoulder-head doll

One of the most delightful simple pleasures for me is the creative act of restoring and dressing a dilapidated antique doll, and then basking in her new countenance. This is the story of the re-creation of Jasper Anne, a little Kling shoulder-head doll.

Mary Krombholz, the definitive authority on Thuringian porcelain factories that made china dolls, tells us that “The C.F. Kling & Co. porcelain factory made porcelain products in the Thuringian [Germany] town of Ohrdruf from its founding in 1834 until the early 1950s.” The production of dolls by this firm probably began in the 1850s with bald head glazed porcelain dolls. “From the simple bald heads made in the 1850s, the Kling factory artists designed a group of shoulder heads with elaborately decorated hairstyles and shoulderplates that are unequalled in modeling and facial painting.”


Page 206, 207 from Mary Krombholz’ book, A Pictorial Reference Guide for German Chinas, illustrates the two Kling dolls in my collection on the lower right.

By the late 1860’s Kling was making Parian shoulder heads that were worthy of display in any fine Victorian home; however, the dolls were intended as toys for children. (Note, a Parian doll is not from Paris, rather is so named because the porcelain is very white like Paris clay. The porcelain on Parian dolls is not glazed, as it is for china dolls.) Kling continued to develop the style of their shoulder heads, following current fashion, and by the 1880s they were making black and blonde haired Kinderkopf, or child dolls, as modeled in these two dolls in my collection. Kling also made bisque dolls (unglazed flesh colored porcelain) with glass eyes, yet the facial painting is consistent through all of these doll variations.


I currently have two Kling china dolls in my collection. They portray the Kling painting style of almond shaped eyes with large round irises. The lips are heart shaped on top, but unlike Hertwig dolls, the lower lip is a half-circle rather than an elongated oval, and has an accent line the same color as the lip paint.

My little Jasper Anne, the black haired Kling, started out as two parts. The factory made body, that had seen much play and child-made repairs, was found at the very end of a Portland Doll Show, hidden in a box on the floor, years ago. I liked its folky charm, and purchased it for next-to-nothing. I purchased the shoulder-head on eBay several years later, as I sought to add a Kling doll to my collection. The face has firing “pepper spots” which look like uneven freckles. I thought the doll would be a boy, and I named him Jasper.


Kling china with pepper spots. Author’s collection


The doll parts in process of restoration. The right leg has been re-covered in muslin to stop the sawdust leakage.


Eventually I realized that this shoulder-head and body needed to go together. The body had no arms and was leaking sawdust at the child-made repairs on the legs, and through the original dark brown, coarsly woven, fabric of the lower legs. It took me another year to find the appropriate arms to complete the body. I gently removed the old repairs which were made with wool yarn and bits of homespun fabric, then re-covered the original brown lower legs with muslin. I re-incorporated the dark yarn and homespun fabric in the repair to keep its authenticity. After making muslin upper arms and filling them with sawdust, I attached them across the shoulders, and then put the shoulder-head on the body, sewing it in place under the shoulder tabs.


The back of the restored body showing the wool yarn and homespun fabric from the original child-made repairs. Jasper Anne is wearing her new felt boots in this photo.

Next came designing the costume. I wanted it to retain the “play doll” flavor, and to have a pastoral charm. I chose a piece of fine antique knitted lace to edge the petticoat, which is attached to a bodice rather than a waistband. I did not make drawers since the body incorporates lace at the bottom of the upper legs, as seen in the above photo. I added burgundy ribbon beading in the lace of the petticoat to match the dress. The lace on the petticoat makes it a little too fine for play, but what a lovely effect, and after all it is protected with her pinafore.


Jasper Anne in her new petticoat with antique knitted lace. She is just shy of 9″ tall.

The dress is made of burgundy linen with a cotton calico pinafore. Sewing techniques included machine and hand stitching.


The linen bodice is lined with the calico print. Setting the sleeve in the armhole was a careful proceedure, and it was hand-sewn in place. The length of the finished sleeve is just 3″.


The dark burgundy linen dress works well with Jasper Anne’s bright face painting. The bobbin lace (I think) on her cuffs echos the petticoat lace and is set off by the dark dress, which has two “growth tucks” above the hem.


The pinafore was based on an antique style which had red embroidery worked on white fabric. I hand-drafted the pattern based on the photo of the antique pinafore, and hand stitched all the way around to finish the edges.


Next came a bonnet in a Kate Greenway style to coordinate with the dress and pinafore. I used a little antique Staffordshire dish as a template for the circle of the bonnet crown.


Finally, to complete the outdoor ensemble, Jasper Anne needed boots for her muslin feet. Again, I hand drafted the shape for the wool felt boots. Her feet are stub shaped, so no sole was needed.


The boots have glass bead buttons, and the bonnet ties with a silk ribbon.


All of the garments fasten with metal snaps, and glass and mother of pearl buttons were added to finish the outfit.


Jasper Anne is completely clothed and ready to play on the prairie or walk to town.

From conception to finished doll, this project took me close to two years, including much wait time between finding parts, gathering materials, and the calling of life’s necessities. Jasper Anne is another example of how a lovely antique doll can be restored and created from inexpensive parts to become a true simple delight.


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


Antique photo English curly blonde girl with lowbrow china doll

A doll to be played with.



A New Home for the Old Dolls (and for me as well)


Four antique china dolls and one well-made reproduction doll.

The old china dolls are able to stretch their legs, er limbs, in front of lace curtains in our new home–still an apartment–in Oregon City, a place with enough history for them to feel right at home! This grouping of cabinet sized ladies (14″ to 16″) presents a nice array of some of the oldest hairstyles for china dolls. The doll on the left in the wine colored dress is my newest aquisition and my oldest doll. She is from the A. W. Fr Kister factory and dates to the mid 1840’s with a braided bun hairstyle. (Oh what a luscious find!) Next, in the black dress,  is a doll from the Kestner factory with a covered wagon hairstyle dating to the 1850’s. She is all original, and also precious. The middle doll with the cream floral blouse is very rare with curls falling down to her shoulders, and a mound of curls in the back. She is probably made by Kister and dates to the 1860’s. The doll in the red dress has the Lydia hairstyle, with long sausage curls falling onto her shoulders. She is the reproduction, though the original dates to the 1840’s. Finally, on the right, in the indigo blue dress is a Greiner-type china made by the Kloster Vielsdorf factory. She dates to the early 1850’s with a hairstyle similar to the covered wagon, but her ears are exposed. She is a child, or kinderkopf, with her short neck and wide eyes, while the others are damenkopf with long ladies necks and mature faces. The covered wagon hairstyle was common for girls and women in the 1850’s, and the covered wagon doll shown here could be a child, though her original dress is that of a grown woman.

DSC02970This photo shows the hairstyles from the side.

DSC02971The little blonde girls like their perch under the lamp. They are in the range of about 12″ and date from the 1880’s to about 1900. First, in the light blue dress, is an Alt Beck and Gottschalk factory little Highland Mary with bangs and curls in back. In the middle with the pink dress and apron is a Hertwig factory doll with the high curl on the top of her head. And on the right in the white dress with lace is a shy Kling factory girl with a center part and wavy hair with brush strokes.

Thank you for joining us for this little house-warming gathering. We hope that you join us again for more history and inspiration with the dolls.

Antique CDV Little girl with corkskrew curls and her china doll

This girl wears an 1850’s style dress and has her hair in the long corkscrew curls fashion of that time. Her doll may be china or papier mache–hard to tell.


Nuances of an Art Recapitulated


A reproduction Lydia china doll with well done face painting

Antique dolls are an art form. It is easy to see the art in the beautiful French bisque dolls of Bru, Steiner, and Jumeau, yet the less complex porcelain china dolls exhibit their artistry in the design of their face and shoulder mold, in the purity of the porcelain from which they are made, and in the beauty of their hairstyles and face painting. As one who collects and studies antique dolls, I often come across reproductions of the antique dolls in my searches. The durability of the one piece porcelain shoulder-heads renders them quite attractive for making new molds from the antique heads.

In all fairness though, molds, or copies,  were being made of the old doll heads when they were still contemporary. Old papier mache heads have been found that are copies of German china dolls, and not all have a known maker. Martha Chase modeled her cloth dolls after French or German bisque dolls of the time, possibly using a bisque doll as a mold for her oil painted dolls. Even the Schoenhut “Miss Dolly” was modeled after a German doll owned by a child in the company’s family.


This Schoenhut wooden Miss Dolly doll in my collection dates to about 1915.


Schoenhut, an American manufacturer, found it profitable to add the Dolly Face doll to their line of character dolls at a time when dolls could no longer be imported from Germany during WWI.


Here is an antique German bisque dolly face by Heubach. The Schoenhut doll above is quite similar with fat cheeks and pretty, but non-descript, features.

Many antique china dolls (as well as other antique dolls) are so rare now that a well executed reproduction can be a blessing for collectors like me who may never see one of these older revered dolls, much less ever expect to own one.  For this reason, a few artistic reproduction dolls, as well as a reissue doll, have gained entry with respectable status into my collection of antique dolls.


I have already introduced you to my reproduction Izannah Walker doll, Miss Ruby. She is a faithful and artistic rendering of an antique doll, made by Paula Walton. She is very close in her production to an antique Izannah Walker doll, and very likely as close as I can come to owning an example of this highly sought after and extremely expensive example of American folk art at its’ best.


Miss Ruby is my reproduction Izannah Walker doll


Cordelia, a reproduction china doll, has pleasant face painting, but it is not the same as an antique German china doll. Also, the glaze on her porcelain causes the crisp lines of the detailed braids to be lost. She is not signed by the artist.

Another reproduction doll in my collection is my first china doll, Cordelia. She was most likely molded from a Parian doll, a porcelain doll that was not glazed, but made from white bisque. This hairstyle was also reproduced by Emma Clear and named “Toinette.” I have not yet found an antique doll with braids like Cordelia to add to my collection.


This antique Parian doll has the same hairstyle as Cordelia, but with added flowers in the loop of the braid. She also has molded lace around her shoulders and glass eyes. Her braids are crisp with individual brush strokes in the hair. She is much more exquisite, and better artistically rendered than Cordelia.


An antique  Hertwig “Curl on Top” china doll is shown next to a reproduction of the same doll.

The Hertwig “Curl on Top” china doll is uncommon, but not rare. I purchased the reproduction of this doll, on the right above, while waiting to find an antique one to add to my collection. I was not happy with the reproduction. In comparison, the porcelain quality is inferior, the hair color is a bit garish and lacks crispness, and the face painting has no depth. I am happy to have found my antique Hertwig doll. Notice that the reproduction shoulder-head is slightly smaller than the original. This shrinkage occurs when a mold is made of an existing head. The new head is molded from the antique and shrinks when fired in the kiln.


The face painting on this 13″ Hertwig doll is typical for this manufacturer, circa 1900. The hair is nicely molded with brush strokes.

Another doll on my wish list is an 1840’s Lydia china doll. Unfortunately for me, this antique doll is quite rare, and well out of my price range when she is to be found. I have, however, seen a few good reproductions of this doll, and I was fortunate enough to have added one to my collection.


An antique china doll with Lydia hairstyle circa 1840. The face painting on this doll indicates that she was made by the A. W. Kister Porcelain Factory. Note her pink tint with whites of eyes.

The reproduction that I purchased has an appropriate reproduction body with flat soled shoes and spoon hands. Her face painting is well done. She cost me 1% of the $5000 to $6000 that an antique Lydia sells for.


This is the reproduction Lydia, marked “Rossi” on the back of her shoulder-plate. She may have been molded from a doll like the one above. Her coloring is not as high as the antique doll pictured above, and her lips are painted differently, yet her painting is good. As with the antique Lydia, she has a pale pink tint and the whites of her eyes remain white.


The little doll in the pocket of the antique dress is an antique “baderkinder” or Frozen Charlotte with a Lydia hairstyle.

“Curly Top” is another uncommon, though not rare, china doll that is often found reproduced. This one with black hair is marked “P S” on the back of her shoulder-plate.


The painting on this 3″ reproduction Curly Top is well done, but not quite like the originals. Again, the hair is not crisp through the thicker applied glaze. Some antique Curly Top dolls have delicate wisps of hair painted at the tips of the curls.


This circa 1880 antique Curly Top in my collection, with Cafe Au Lait hair, is larger than the reproduction above, with a shoulder-head that measures 5 3/4″. She is beautifully painted in the style of Alt Beck & Gottschalck dolls. The accent line painted between her lips has a very slight V dip in the middle which gives her an introspective smile.

Almost all of the newer china doll copies are reproductions; however, there is one that is a re-issue of an antique doll made by the original company. This is the Royal Copenhagen porcelain doll with a brown bun that was originally made in the 1840’s. Royal Copenhagen re-issued this porcelain shoulder-head from their molds beginning in 1977 with production lasting into the 1980’s. This doll (along with a larger lady and a boy doll) is well made and artistically rendered from the original company. It is difficult to tell the difference from the original antique doll. She is a work of art, beautifully sculpted with her long lady’s neck, mature face, pale pink tint, and face painting details.


The smaller re-issue Royal Copenhagen Bun Lady doll in my collection is also known as “Amalie” by collectors.


This antique 1840’s Royal Copenhagen doll, from the collection of Kirsten Johansen, was featured on the May 2015 cover of Antique Doll Collector magazine for their article on Royal Copenhagen Dolls.


“Denmark” and the Royal Copenhagen waived blue lines are clearly visible on the back of the shoulder-plate of the re-issue doll in my collection.


I recently found an appropriate body for this doll with low heeled shoes and lady-like hands, but she has no clothing yet.

With much of what we consider as art at its’ finest, we must visit a museum to see it in all of its’ splendor. It is the rare and wealthy collector who can hope to own a Degas sculpture or a Carl Larsson painting. We may decide to bring home a small reproduction of a favorite sculpture, or a print of a painting we admire. Likewise, some of the most lovely antique dolls are so rare that bringing one into our personal collection is just not possible. Of course an oil painting will be much higher quality than a print of that painting. And so an original antique doll will be superior to a reproduction. With this maxim in mind, it is best to bring the antique doll into a collection whenever possible. Yet a good quality reproduction of an antique doll can bring the art of the doll recapitulated into our space, and bring joy to our collection when the original doll is out of reach.


Antique photo of girl holding a Covered Wagon style china doll

May you surround yourself with art that speaks to your heart and soul.

The Making of Moira


Some antique dolls are just special, and you know it when you find them, even when they are not whole. Moira is such a doll. I found her as a shoulder-head with no body sitting on a shelf with another more common shoulder-head. I brought them both home with me.


Moira’s hair is puffed around the back of her head and covered by a snood. Some of the black color has worn off the high points on the back of her hair–a sign that a long-ago little girl played with her and loved her.

China dolls are unique among many other dolls because their molded hair does not change with time, and it holds a record of a specific fashion in its time. Of course, the most commonly found china dolls are the lowbrows, which were made into the 1920’s or 30’s. The flat tops, while older and dating as far back as the American Civil War era, are still common and readily available. Dolls with more unusual hairstyles add variety and interest to a collection, and incentive to study their history. I was immediately attracted to this doll’s hairstyle which has a puffed roll around the back of her head covered by a snood, with the front of her hair exposed with a center part. She also has beautiful face painting with a serene expression.


German Chinas page 155 has a photo of a doll similar to Moira in the Conta & Boehme section.

When I turned to my invaluable reference book, A Pictoral Reference Guide for German Chinas by Mary Gorham Krombholz, I found a photo of a doll very similar to Moira in the section on Conta & Boehme dolls. This was exciting for me because I rarely see dolls made by this factory. Conta & Boehme made porcelain products in Poessneck, Thuringia from 1800 until the factory closed in 1931. The earliest china doll shard found on the factory site dates to 1845. This doll with a snood dates to the mid 1860’s. Some Conta & Boehme dolls are marked with the company’s trademark of a shield with a bent arm inside. If Moira had such a mark, it is now lost because her shoulder-plate was broken and is professionally repaired. The repair is so well done that I cannot find the edges. The only difference in the repaired part is that the porcelain is more opaque and creamy. It does not have the ice-blue luminous quality of old porcelain, as does the face of this doll.


It is difficult to tell that Moira’s shoulder-plate has been repaired, though the light from the photo flash shows the color difference from her face and neck to her shoulders. She has the added interest of three sew-holes front and back.

After identifying Moira, I wanted to find a body that would suit her. Within the year, I found one that is the right size, quality and age. Moira’s shoulder-head is 5 1/4″ tall and 4 1/4″ across the shoulders. Completed, she is 19″ tall. While her shoulder-head could take a slightly larger body, she is buxom and becomming on this one. The body is old cotton with cloth feet and leather arms. It is stuffed with cotton batting and horsehair. The leather is old and cracked. Her right arm has a break that is held together with masking tape. Because of the condition of the leather, I will not attempt to repair it by sewing. It will just be how it is.


Moira has quite a mid- 19th century silhouette with her silky sloping shoulders and the horizontal neckline of her new chemise.

Moira’s body came with a set of drawers and a short petticoat. I left them on and added another set of long drawers and petticoat with matching knitted lace. While 19th century undergarments consist of three basic pieces–chemise, drawers, and petticoat–a number of the dolls I find, or undergarment sets, are missing the chemise. The chemise, of course, is a simple knee-length shift that is the first garment worn next to the skin. It is often undecorated, or may have lace at the neckline and sleeves, but never at the hem since that part never shows under the petticoat. I made this chemise for Moira. It was cut simply from one piece of muslin folded in quarters and cut to Moira’s size. It is machine sewn on the long seams with the lace hand sewn, and the neck is just gathered with the red ribbon beaded through the lace.


Moira serves tea in her antique morning dress with waived braid trim.

One never knows when a special doll will make herself known. Moira is one of those unassuming beauties who may have been passed up by many because she was just a repaired shoulder-head. Now she is made, and a complete doll again.


Antique photo of a girl holding a china shoulder-head

The August Dolls


Along with Augusta, these four dolls came home with me from the Portland Doll Show on August 20th.

Some seasons, at the semi-annual Portland Crossroads Doll & Teddy Bear Show & Sale, I find  my bag filling up with every manner of doll accessory. Doll clothing–ranging from late-1800’s to modern–abound, and one can spend hours rummaging through the dollar bins, sometimes to fair advantage. I come away from this show with crocheted items, chairs, mini books, little old tea cups, old leather shoes, fabrics and laces, teeny cards of buttons, and teddy bears. Sometimes after hours of wandering and choosing, I realize that I have not bought a doll. But not this time!


An enigma–a Hertwig (ABG?) Currier & Ives doll, and a Kister doll with very curly hair.

These two 20″ tall chinas found their way into my bag early in the morning. The first girl, on the left, is a Currier and Ives hair style. She has tendrils of hair falling onto her neck all the way around, and her ears are exposed. This girl, who I have named Clara, has all the characteristics of a doll made by the Hertwig factory. She has long single stroke eyebrows that almost wrap around her eyes, which are not outlined or highlighted, and the pupils gaze upward. She has a pursed heart-shaped mouth, and a large incised size number “6” on the back of her shoulder plate. And finally, she has the quintessential Hertwig lower legs with horizontal ribs and short brown boots. Her cloth body appears to be original.

I have not previously researched Currier & Ives dolls, and now, after looking her up in Mary Gorham Krombholz’s book, A Pictorial Reference Guide for German Chinas, I have conflicting information. The Currier & Ives doll in the book is in the Alt, Beck, & Gotschalk chapter; however, she defies Mary’s criteria for ABG dolls. She is a large doll and does NOT have eye accent dots or outlines, and she does not have the darker lip accent line or the V dip in her lips. Furthermore, ABG made the Spill Curls doll at about the same time (1870’s to 1880’s) which is a very similar style to the Currier & Ives doll, and is undeniably from ABG. The Currier & Ives doll has face painting that fits all the criteria for Hertwig dolls, she has the large size number incize mark on the back of her shoulder plate, and my doll, Clara, has a body with unglazed porcelain arms and Hertwig type ribbed legs with brown boots rather than ABG type C-cup hands and black heeled boots with the V-shaped top. She looks different from my other ABG dolls. Therefore, in my opinion, the Currier & Ives doll is a Hertwig factory doll, and not an ABG doll. I welcome further comentary on this issue!

An Alt, Beck, & Gottschalk china doll with the Spill Curl hair style is shown on the right. This doll is clearly from the ABG factory and is similar to the Currier & Ives hair style doll on the left. Note the similarities and difference in the face painting.


Clara came dressed in split drawers and a lace petticoat. The red cotton dress with feather stitched embroidery was one of those endearing finds in a pile of newer baby doll clothing. It is a perfect young girl’s dress for this doll, and layers nicely with her petticoat. (A child of this late 1800’s period would wear a shorter knee length dress, and not a full length petticoat. However, I think Clara should get to keep the clothing that she brought with her.)


The Currier and Ives doll, Clara, shows off her Hertwig ribbed limbs with brown boots.


Even the lady dolls enjoy a bottle of Maryhill wine!

This lady china doll has an unusual curly hairstyle that is similar to, but is not, a flat top style. Her hair, with comb marks in the back, falls smooth to her ear level, then ends in tight round curls all around. It is this unusual hairstyle that recommends her. She has the facial features of a doll made by the A. W. Fr. Kister factory with straight single stroke brows, eyes that are not highlighted or outlined, and an upper lip with low, far-spaced peaks. This doll has a professionally rebuilt shoulder plate and a new made body with cloth feet and newer unglazed porcelain lady’s lower arms. She came unclothed. She currently has no small cloths, and is wearing an antique silk gold and honey striped wrapper dress. I bought this dress to try and clothe Miss Bettina or Edith of the white chemises and petticoats in the doll’s house bedroom, but this dress’s sleeves are too narrow for those dolls. This new curly headed doll has narrower arms, and the dress fits her fairly well.


Bessie greets the Hertwig twins in the child-sized Seth Tudor chair. She is thinking about pushing the twins out of the chair so she can try it–just her size!

The smaller blonde china is without a doubt a Hertwig lowbrow doll. At 12 1/2″ tall, Bessie is just right to be a child in the doll’s house. She has nice quality china arms and smooth (not ribbed) china legs with black boots and blue painted bows. Bessie came dressed in a nice lace trimmed pinnafore style petticoat and tucked drawers.


Bessie is delighted with the ABC blocks, the story books, and the wee china doll that are now her toys! The lady doll is an ABG curly top hairstyle in the Cafe Au Laite color. She has brown leather arms, blue leather boots, and is wearing an 1880’s polonaise style antique dress with a new underskirt.


The smallest all-bisque doll is also a Hertwig. At 6″ tall, Chelsea has nicely molded features with crisp curls, comb marks in her yellow hair, and detailed hands with molded knuckle dimples and fingernails. She wears a molded camisole and drawers with blue trim and blue bows at her knees above her bare feet. Her legs were un-strung when I got her, and the edges of them are chipped at the hip. I kept the narrow elastic cording that had been used to string her, but added china buttons to keep the knots from pulling through the holes again. Her arms have the original wire armature. She fits nicely as an infant in the Breton cradle in the doll’s bedroom.


Augusta is all freshened up with a new place to sit on a small Windsor sewing rocker with an age appropriate quilt remnant.

I was content with my china and bisque doll finds this time, and was wandering around, peeking at my favorite booths and looking into all the corners. Then, Gussie just sort of leaped into my arms later in the day. Although I had been looking at Greiner dolls for a number of years, I was not intending to buy another doll this day. She was the right doll at a very good price, though she was a shoe-less waif with a dusty dress when I found her.


Here is Gussie all ready for bed in a night dress made of 19th century pink calico. (It is quite long and was most likely made for a baby.) She didn’t want to give up her new shoes (found at the doll show just for her) while she waited for her dress to dry from its’ laundering.



Undies all freshened up and a good look at her mid 19th century cloth body.

German born Ludwig Greiner came to the United States in the 1830’s, settling in Philadelphia. He made papier mache dolls and patented his process of reinforcing the papier mache with cloth. The patent label reads, GREINER’S IMPROVED PATENT HEADS Pat. March 30th ‘58. Some pre-patent Greiner dolls have glass eyes, and there are variations in the hair styles, though all the Greiner dolls have a distinctive look. Gussie is 26″ tall with a cloth body and legs, and dark brown leather lower arms and hands. She has black hair and dark blue painted eyes.


Augusta’s patent label, glued on the back of her shoulder plate.


A linen petticoat.


China and glass buttons all down the back, including the blue ringer on the petticoat just visible at the bottom of the photo. The cotton dress is gorgeous, but is in frail condition.


Freshly dressed in her deep burgundy dress with gold floral print, “new” old kid leather shoes, and a golden real sanddollar pendant.

Antique photo girl with Greiner doll

Antique photograph of a little girl holding a Greiner doll with dark leather arms.

We’re wishing all of you all the joys of poking around, viewing, and purchasing at your favorite antique show or rummage sale. Take joy!

Artful Accomodations


Bettina and Edith are quite at their ease in their small cluttered bedroom space.

Now that the dolls are home and comfortable with each other in their family, we can turn our attention to creating their home environment. A doll room can be a cozy backdrop for displaying our cherished antique dolls, and it can offer an abundance of whimsical elements to delight. The 1:4 size room is the perfect size to reward the senses–with little things to look at, and with treasures just right for holding–with alluring pleasures.

As with our home environment, there are elements of style to be considered for our doll rooms. One need only to gaze into the magnificent array of The Thorne Rooms to realize how varied the choices can be for small antique rooms. Of course, most of The Thorne Rooms represent affluent estates.

Dining Room 1770-1774 Hammond-Harwood House, Annapolis, Maryland

Thorne Rooms Dining Room, 1770-1774 Hammond-Harwood House, Annapolis, Maryland

Tasha Tudor’s Doll’s House, while cozy and inviting, also includes furniture and accoutrements that are more appropriate for an affluent household.

Tasha with mini gilt birdcage by her doll's house

Tasha with her miniature birdcage in front of her Doll’s House. This photo was taken when her dollhouse was on large shelves in her home, before the house was built to display at Colonial Williamsburg.

Joy Harrington’s Izannah home is more modest in its furnishings, yet it still contains many lovely antiques that are scarce and relatively expensive when sought in today’s markets.


Joy’s Izannah home contains many lovely antiques such as tiny peg-wooden dolls, Staffordshire dishes, miniature paintings and drawings, books and photo albums, tiny needlework, and paper boxes, as well as the Izannah Walker dolls.

Antique furnishings are most desirable when creating a home for antique dolls. The ambiance and patina of the era is necessary to best preserve the presence of the doll. The doll, herself, will have a lot to say about the style of room in which she would like to reside. A French fashion doll demands an affluent residence, while a German bisque may like the modernity of an early 20th century abode. Early cloth dolls such as Izannahs, and mid 19th century china dolls, seem to prefer Early American and middle-class Victorian surroundings.

Doll furniture 1865 Napolean III fo French fashion doll

French Napolean III doll furniture of 1865 for an antique fashion doll.

Having at least some antiques in the room setting furthers the antique doll’s presence. Yet, when one cannot supply a house-full of antique miniatures, it is still possible to create a charming space with vintage collectibles and found treasures along with antique furnishings. A key factor is a strict adherance to natural materials. Even when some of your doll room furnishings are new items rather than antiques, they must be made of wood, metal, cotton, paper, pottery, etc., and never of plastic, polyester, acrylic, or any other man-made substance, if they are to have a chance of blending into an antique setting! Allow me to  share some ideas and combinations that have worked for me in creating my doll rooms.


The antique kitchen cabinet is perfect for displaying the Staffordshire toy dishes. The antique milking stool is a fair alternative for a table. Antique calico fabric peeks from the laundry basket. The stool under the laundry basket was a second-hand store find. It was covered with daisy decals when I bought it. I painted it with dusty blue/grey paint left over from a larger painting project to bring it into style for my small display.

Of course, the foundation of a doll room is the furniture. Chairs seem to be plentiful. It is easy to find doll size wooden Windsor chairs, that are a fair copy of the life-size chairs, with turned spindles. Even new or vintage chairs can look authentic. My doll rooms started with my Victorian bed, purchased at a flea market over 30 years ago. Adding the dresser from the Brimfield Antique Fair, and the ladderback chair, furnished the bedroom. I then found a perfect rustic antique doll kitchen cupboard for displaying my toy Staffordshire dishes.


Caroline shows the stack of unusual green Dresden Flowers Staffordshire plates. Other kitchen necessities include a tiny tin mold, a little key, two antique silver salt spoons, a victorian doll set of two knives and two forks, and a wooden kitchen spoon, that is a new handcrafted baby spoon.


The antique milking stool and spice cupboard that furnish my tiered keeping room. The dolls are 17″ and 15″ tall. Behind them is the antique doll quilt made of tiny triangles of 19th century cottons.

The wooden spice rack also works well as a kitchen cupboard in the doll room. I have not yet purchased a table for the dolls, but my antique milking stool fills in nicely for now. A good modern alternative for antique furniture is that made for the American Girl historic dolls. I especially like Felicity’s tea table, though the AG furniture is just about as spendy as antiques!


Mary Morgan has quite an array of wooden toys, dolls, and books, as befits a middle class Victorian child. She is 21″ tall.

Toys and dollies add whimsy to the setting for child dolls. Mary Morgan has plenty to choose from! The little bisque Highland Mary is a perfect companion for her, though this dolly was not the right toy for Miss Ruby, the Izannah doll. Mary also has a rocking horse and a hobby horse, both vintage second-hand-store finds. She holds a little Japanese Kokeshi doll with a wobble head, while several more, including a teeny pair, are on the floor. I found these at a flea market in Japan. They add that popular Victorian flair for the Orient to Mary’s playroom.


The little Kokeshi dolls were a vintage find in Japan when I lived there. The kitty was a new catalog purchase.

Mary also has a little hand-turned music box that plays “Greensleeves,” a Russian doll spinning top, a wooden house consisting of three blocks, a wooden kitty, and a set of ABC blocks in a basket. The blocks were purchased new at a craft store. They blend fairly well, their drawback being that they are pastel colors, rather than the authentic primary colors for antique blocks. The little Beatrix Potter books were purchased new, and came as a complete set in a box. Since Peter Rabbit was first published in 1902, the era is fairly close to blend with Mary Morgan’s play room.


Little Davie spends hours playing with his wooden animals and trees set. He is almost 18″ tall.

A wooden Noah’s Ark toy was a popular Victorian era toy, especially nice for boys, and as a Sunday toy. I do not have a Noah’s Ark. Instead, I have this marvelous little German set of wooden animals and trees. It came with other little blocks for building. It is just right for Little Davie’s toy. I purchased these toys new from a toy store in the late 1970’s. They were included with the several sets of wooden blocks that my children played with in the 80’s and 90’s. This is a case of just waiting long enough for a new purchase to become vintage!


An assortment of small books includes an antique reprint (Don’ts for Mothers), a small journal in antique style, Little Gift Books, a small antique autograph album, and an antique gem tintype photo album, along with the paper cover new Beatrix Potter books.

Since I adore books, and my own home is full of them, they will naturally appear in my dolls’ house. However; I do not have a doll desk or bookshelf yet, so the books tend to lay or lean in inviting stacks. There are some beautiful antique miniature tomes to be had, in leather volumes that are lovely for the doll house. I am not in a position to afford most of them, though. The collection that I have put together thus far includes both antique and new books. Little Gift Books that can be had new from the booksellers can work if care is taken with your selections. The two I have here, under the chair and topped with a little navy blue leather Shakespeare volume, are Love Letters and A Child’s Garden of Verses. They are both editions of antique writings. Also, they are both muted colors with vintage styling to the dust jackets. This helps them to blend with the antique books in the antique setting, while filling out my library affordably.


An assortment of paintings (prints) and photograghs for the dollhouse wall.

Art for the walls of the dolls’ house also contributes to the sense of realism and completeness of the room. Antique miniature paintings are lovely, and available, but again, the price is more than I can spare. Alternately, small antique frames can be had at antique fairs and flea markets, often for a neglegible price. Usually the art or photograph in the frame can be changed to one more suited for the doll room. Small art prints are also easy to be had. Sometimes, little antique tintype photographs in their cases, like the one above of a young woman, can be found affordably. The three oval prints that I have on the wall are new reproductions. They appear authentic with metal frames and convex glass just like antique frames.


Bettina enjoys her collection of miniature perfume bottles.

Little trinkets fill out the contents of the doll room. Any Victorian lady would appreciate a collection of fine perfume bottles for her bedroom. These are vintage, found at a local antique mall, while the cobalt bottle in the middle is new and hand blown, from a craft fair.


The perfume bottles on a crocheted doily.

A Victorian lady enjoys her needlework and textiles, as well. I have been able to include antique fabrics and quilts in my doll rooms. The bed is covered with the lovely rose and grey early 19th century block print fabric, and the dolls have several cutter quilt pieces that they enjoy. They have a variety of doilies that I have crocheted, and several pieces of cross stitch that are appropriate for their home. Again, an early 19th century miniature sampler would be much appreciated for this home, but it  is an aquisition that must wait for now, so personally hand crafted needlework fills in nicely for antique items.


Bettina displays several cross stitch pieces that I made.

Finally, since I like nature’s art as well, my doll rooms include natural items too. Nature can also supply miniatures. Small baskets for the doll rooms are easy to come by. The little coil basket in the display below was handmade and has a long cord to wear as a necklace. The little band boxes came from a craft store.


The little natural wonders that Caroline shows include a basket of seashells, a cobalt plate with even smaller shells, a bottle of malachite chips, a tiny wasp nest, a little feather, and several crystals and amethyst.

Little treasures can be found where antiques are found. They also show up at flea markets, secondhand stores, craft fairs and stores, retail stores, outside in nature, and in the hands of those who craft them. Anything of an antique nature that shows up in your home can most likely adorn your doll rooms as well. And the little 1:4 whimsies will indeed delight you and your dolls alike!