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Milliners' Models Dolls

According to German sources of information, papier-mache macerated paper mixed with glue was first used for doll heads about 1820. It was probably invented by the Italians and was used in other countries for small objects, such as boxes and trays, and for architectural moldings prior to its use for dolls. We do not know who first made the Milliners' Models, those dolls with stiff, unjointed, kid bodies, wooden arms and legs, and papier mache heads, with a variety of molded hair styles like those popular from 1820 to about 1860. This seems to be the period during which these dolls were made, but where is not known. Some authorities suggest Holland but nobody really knows.

The Milliners' Models vary in size from about five to twenty-six inches. The original dresses were usually white net over pink cambric. Their purpose was, as the name implies, to carry to England and the United States before there were fashion journals-and for quite a long time afterward too-the latest styles in dressmaking and hairdressing. These model dolls were apparently imported in considerable numbers. When they had served the commercial world, they found their way into the nursery, whence many of them have come down to us.

Children had few toys in the early days and these little creatures must have seemed very wonderful to them. The author has an early Milliners Model doll in her collection that was found in the wall of an old house in Burlington, Vermont. It had crude child-made clothes like those in early prints. Some little girl of long ago must have had a marvelous time with her and loved her well. Perhaps the doll had been put to sleep in a broken place in the wall, and was forgotten and plastered into her hiding place when the hole was repaired. There she had lain for decades, until the house was torn down.

One of the very earliest Milliners' Models, according to the hair styling, is Mrs. William Walker's twenty-six-inch doll, with her hair done in three puffs, one on each side of the face and the third at the top. This kind of doll usually comes only in small sizes. The dolls of 1840s and thereabouts wear long curls on their necks; those of the 1850 to 1860 decade are likely to have short curls arranged around the head, like that of the common china-head doll. Occasionally the familiar chignon or waterfall appears with a net such as that of Miss Amanda Bandy in the writer's collection. Her plumed hat of papier-mache is molded on her head. This is rather a rare type. In fact, Mrs. Emma C. Clear of Redondo Beach, California, says she has seen only one other like it and that was in the former Gellert collection in Oregon. The cloth body is undoubtedly a replacement. Milliners' Models form a fascinating collection. There are so many different types and sizes, and their charm is undeniable.

Papier-mache was used for other types of dolls, and sometimes definite dates are known. A pagebox, doll with kid body and papier-mache head was found in an old trunk in an antique shop in Woodstock, Vermont. The doll was the property of Lucretia Goddard, daughter of Mehitible Dawes Goddard, who was the daughter of William Dawes, the rider with Paul Revere on the memorable night of April 18, 1775. The doll was labeled "Lucretia's doll, given her in 1828 by NVilliam Goddard, of the firm of Pratt and Goddard, 22 Pearl St. Boston." Samuel Goddard was a cousin of Lucretia's and records show that the firm was in the importing business.

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