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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Paper Dolls - Yesterday And Today

Author: Katherine R. Hubbard

( Article orginally published August 1943 )

RECENTLY Mickey Rooney, Bette Davis and other movie stars of today could be found with Fatty Arbuckle, Mary Pickford, Theda Bara and other movie stars of yesterday in the Junior Museum of the California Palace of Legion of Honor, San Francisco. Sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but they are Paper dolls from our collection.

The Museum proper, featuring Art of Today and Yesterday, recently carried out the theme in paper dolls in the Junior Museum, exhibiting movie stars, girls, women, and in addition, furniture, houses, animals, balbies-all in paper.

The furniture exhibit showed kitchen, bedroom, parlor, and diningroom of 1905; kitchen, dining-living room, and bed-nursery room of 1918; and the newest 1941 furniture (found in five and ten's) in its bright yellow and oranges and blues.

The 1905 kitchen gave us the spice box with double rows of tiny spice drawers, all carefully labeled, and a large drawer for "thyme." There was a wooden ice chest with motto, "No sauce like appetite," and believe it or not, a wooden water cooler, also mottoed, "Water is the best of all things." Here, too, was the latest boon to overworked paper dolls, the "stationary tubs," apparently galvanized iron, set in a wooden frame. They had wooden covers, mottoed, of course, "Water washes everything." The dish closet with its cupboard for bread and cake, drawers for napkins and tablecloths, bore a sheet of speckled paper labeled, "Fly destroyer." The coal range, "Daisy," in black was low and close to the floor. A clock, made like a skillet, hung on the wall. A shoe-blacking case, a two handled chopping knife, a wooden slicer, a wooden salt box, table, chairs, galvanized wash board and wringer completed the kitchen furnishings.

The 1918 kitchen gave us the white enameled sink to replace the black iron sink of 1905; the 1918 set-up also gave us the all white china cupboard, kitchen table and chairs. The stove, still black, has become a gas range with legs.

The 1941 kitchen burst into bright color with yellow trimmed with chinese red and a touch of black. The stove, porcelain enamel, a completely closed in one, showed drawers for utensils. The electric refrigerator foretold our future refrigeration, perhaps; it was brightly colored porcelain enamel instead of white.

The 1906 bedroom furniture was light oak-wooden bed, commode, dresser, chiffonier, and towel rack; the chairs had seats and backs of cane. The dresser and commode were marble topped; the dresser scarf was mottoed, "Good morning." Of course, this ensemble had to have a pitcher and basin, candlestick and pin-cushion to be complete. The paper alarm clock was a treasure. It had a light oak ornamental case, like a mantel clock, and bell on top. Its base bore the motto, "Improve each hour."

The 1918 bedroom, also of light oak, reflected the style of the wooden bedrooms of that era. The bedstead had been modified a bit by cutting down the height, cutting out the corners with ornamental scrolls and adding four-posters for good measure. The chair was upholstered in gay cretonne, thus taking on a bit of cheer.

We'll skip the dining rooms but I must tell you about the 1905 living room, "The Parlor."

There was the large two-pedal golden oak piano, with "Gem of Music" book resting on its embroidered piano scarf-with fringe, and a five-piece "parlor set" in red plush. Four chairs and the "sofa," complete with fringe, gave another insight into the mode of 1905. There was the parlor table light oak-covered by a fringed embroidered runner. Here, too, was The Painting, daintily draped, resting on a floor easel. There was a unique wall decoration, too, in pink and blue ribbons, embroidered "Letters," with lettering irregular. Could this be the gadget Poe talked about in "The Purloined Letter?" The last piece of furnishings was a mirror in a massive gilt frame with two candles at the bottom. This was labeled "sconce."

The Museum owns an old paper house with many gables of about the same era, but as the paper is becoming yellow and brittle, we did not show it. But we did show several other paper houses, one of the most interesting being the LePageville house, at one time given away with LePage's glue. The four houses in the series, beautifully printed as if hand-tinted, were made to represent the colonial, stucco and slate roof, two story, with ell and garage; the Dutch colonial, grey field stone and shingle roof; the Georgian colonial, dignified in red brick, slate roof, and dormer windows; the Cape Cod Cottage, inviting in cream clapboard and green shingle roof. The other paper houses were California and Spanish type cottages.

We showed some paper dolls of about 1900 - McLaughlin Bros., but no date. There was a bride, a grown girl, and little girl and boy. The little boy had a Dutch hair cut with bangs, and he wore a Buster Brown suit, with high collar. The girls had immense hats, also, plentifully adorned with ruffles, flowers, and ribbons. The dresses, very full, had shirrings and embroidered edges, ribbons and flounces; the huge sleeves were gathered in at the elbow, then beruffied or straight to the wrist. The grown girl's hair was similar to that of today. Pompadour in front, with bow on top, loose hair gathered in at the neck with another bow. The bride's wedding gown had immense sleeves, gathered in at the elbow, with four rows of flouncing. Her hats were small and rather "absurd," apparently perching in odd ways on her pompadoured hair. The underwear was beribboned and the petticoat had five rows of flounces.

For entertainment in the paper doll world there were circus sets, theaters, marionettes, and movie stars. Among the movie stars of yesterday were Theda Bara, 1916, with costumes in East Lynne, Under Two Flags, A Fool There Was; Mary Pickford, 1916, in Tess of the Storm Country, Rags, The Orphan. These came from a series of "Cutie-Cut-Ups" on thick gray cardboard in two colors, black and red. Interesting, but not pretty. However, we did have Mary Miles Minter, about 1912, golden-haired and lovely in costumes from Melissa.

With the movie stars of today were Mickey Rooney and Bette Davis from "Screen Life" magazine, 1941; two of six numbers of that magazine had paper dolls.

The circus sets, 1935, were sold for 10 cents and so many labels from Ovaltine for Little Annie Rooney and from Kelloggs for Mother Goose Circus. Popeye in the Thimble Theater, 1935> had an arrangement in the back which, when squeezed gently, caused his arms to move as if fighting. The Marionettes 1939, were complete with stage, scenery, full cast, scenario and tickets.

In the Animal Kingdom we had the Shepherd and His Flock, 1902, beautifully printed, and Farmyard Friends, 1902, with all the domestic animals. Attached to the figures were little blocks of wood to keep them standing. (Shown in the photograph on page 7, as are the little boy and girl of the early 1900's). For animals of today we showed the Nodding Head animals, given away by Kelloggs about 1939. We also showed Walt Disney's Fantasia, 1940. Meanwhile, I've searched everywhere, in vain, for a copy of Walt Disney's Three Little Pigs published about 1935.

In the international section we had "Wide World Costume Dolls", McLaughlin Bros., about 1905, showing Wales, Alsace Lorraine, the American Indian, Turkey, the traditional shepherdess costume for France, and several others. The Friendship Paper Dolls, Friendship Press, 1932, included China, Mexico, Korea, and India. The European peasant costumes, 1933, showed the colorful costumes of Sweden, Norway, Poland, Czechslovakia, Bulgaria, Holland, Greece, several provinces of France, Rumania, Austria, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. Many of these countries have been conquered or dominated by the war. And apparently there are no more of this particular set of -paper dolls even at the publishers. The newest addition was Itosita, Our Good Neighbor, Woman's Home Companion, 1942, giving us the costume of Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Paraguay (complete with cigar) and Bolivia.

An interesting part of this group was brought to the Museum by friends traveling in Europe before Germany began her wars. The group consists of paper dolls from Germany representing four different periods. One, about 1900, has the typical tight waist, the very full skirt with flounces, the panty-waist of that time. Those of pre-World War I grew into "union suits." The boys have tight straight-legged trousers, so typical of Europe before that war. The girl had less odd looking clothes, but her bathing suit was of wide horizontal stripes, with knickers and long stockings. Her clothing included high buttoned shoes and long buttoned leggings. There were many toys for both boy and girl. The latest period -pre-Global War-showed a very modern girl and boy, with clothes no different from those of our own boys and girls. The girl's hair was a very boyish "shingle" and she was dressed in "scanties."

Quite a contrast to the gem of the group, was a chubby, flaxen-haired, blue-eyed darling, about 1905, which we discovered here in San Francisco. She was b-eautifully printed and embossed, and with movable eyes.

China was represented in the international group by nine tiny figures with bits of silk pasted to paper to form Chinese costumes, life-like faces hand painted on tiny padded bits of silk to form the heads.

Too late for the show we received the 1942 re-issue of Chandler's Paper Dolls, 1867, from the Toy Cupboard, Massachusetts, through HOBBIES. These paper dolls are exquisite, a real collector's item, beautifully hand-tinted with coloring straight from Godey's.

Our collection has many items besides the old-timers. The paper dolls of right now are extraordinarily fascinating, because, as is usual with paper dolls, they immediately reflect changes in our lives. Then, too, the shortage of metal and rubber, the mass migration of the people from one part of the country to another have brought about a tremendous increase in the publishing of paper dolls. The most amazing changes are the many paper cutouts for boys-military, naval and air force. Just another classification to add to our ships, planes, trains, greeting cards, mechanical toys that work, history, weddings, beside the usual run - all PAPER DOLLS.

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