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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Doll Collecting

By Clara H. Fawcett

( Article orginally published December 1960 )

House Of Girard And Bru Dolls

The House of Girard in Paris bought out the Bru dolls after the Franco-German war of 1870. This might explain the letter G found on some of the dolls. In 1899 the House of Girard was absorbed by the Societe before mentioned.

A collector with a Steiner doll has good reason to believe that her doll was made in France. It should be known, however, that Fred Kolb, who was in the doll business long before doll collecting became a major hobby, says the Steiner factory in Paris had German affiliations. Steiner also had a factory in Germany the year Mr. Kolb first made a European trip, 1892, and presumably earlier.

Of course, if the name of the country where the doll was manufactured is inscribed on the doll, there is no question of its origin. But one cannot say a doll is necessarily French if a label bears the name "Le Petit Parisien." That was the name of a department store in Paris which attached its own label to all the dolls sold there, whether or not they were made in Paris.

At one time Jules-Nicholas Steiner's name was linked with M. Jumeau. Mrs. Harvey Lee Payne of Arlington, Va., has proof of this in a beautiful doll the head of which is marked Steiner, Paris, France, and the body, Steiner-Jumeau. The latter marking is on the hip and shows a flag with a snake-like symbol curved around the Steiner mark.

Not all the Steiner heads are marked; the unmarked ones probably indicate early models. Various markings include "Le Petit Parisien, Bebe Steiner;" also "J. Steiner, S.G.D.G.," and "Le Petit Parisien, Medaille d'or Paris, 1889."

French Dolls - Jumeau, Bru, Steiner, Griffier

The well-known Kimport firm has this to say: "Just to add interest to the search for authenticity, some careful doll sleuths have found the name "Steiner" stamped on the back of the eye-balls. Then another distinguishing mark found on many Steiner heads is the open mouth showing rows of tiny upper and lower teeth! It is generally admitted that Steiner rivaled Jumeau in French meChanicals, and they are choice collector items today.

"Kimport was almost tripped up recently by a lovely doll marked `Le Parisien.' We at first thought it a Steiner, but Luella Hart's list of French trademarks showed a true `Le Parisien' registered by Monsieur Lafosse in County Seine, August, 1892. That afforded one more name to add to the distinguished Paris group of doll makers."

E. S. Bettencourt of San Francisco, Calif., has some most interesting Steiner dolls. Two of them were shown last month in the photographic reproduction. The beautiful doll at right is of pale, smooth, bisque with cloth at waist, knees, and elbows. Both have voice boxes which operate with pull strings.

The larger doll, 24 inches tall, is impressed on the head with the letters and number, S I E C5 and it is marked in red H. Steiner B.S.G.D.G. J. Bourgion Succ. Her eyes, which open and close by means of a brass rod concealed under the hair above her ear, are set in individual bisque sockets each marked Steiner S.D.D.G. She has long, tapering fingers and separate big toes. There are four wired openings in the back of the torso.

Both dolls have blue glass eyes and well proportioned hands and feet. The head of the 17 inch doll at right has a small opening at top with cork about the size of a milk bottle top. There are two openings equipped with pull cords in the bisque lower torso. Tiny teeth show. Toes are well defined.

Another interesting Steiner doll owned by E. S. Bettencourt is a mechanical 21 inches tall, with bisque turning head and composition body. When one winds a key at her side she turns her head, lifts her arms, kicks her feet, and says "Mama."

Still another unusual doll in the Bettencourt collection is a 15 inch brown bisque boy. His head is impressed as follows: A - 7, Paris. The body is marked Le Parisien Medalia D'or, Paris. He has a black kinky wig, long tapering fingers, and eyes that are a strange yellow-green-like cat's eyes. He has quite a flashy outfit, including a beige vest trimmed with gold braid and bangles, and cap and sash trimmed with red silk braid.

Mrs. R. J. Coblentz of Oceanside, Calif., reports an unusual black Steiner doll with a splendid narrow waisted brown kid body. The Negro doll has black eyes without pupils, two rows of tiny teeth, a swivel neck, and broad Martinique nose.

In the early days France and Germany were so tied together in the manufacture of "lady" as well as "child" dolls that it is not alwavs easy to distinguish one from the other. Sometimes dolls of French design were manufactured in Germany and sometimes German dolls were made for the French trade.

A "lady" doll labelled "A la Poupee de Nuremburg," in the possession of a London collector, looks so much like an early Jumeau that it usually is mistaken for a Jumeau. In general, however, the French dolls boasted a tinier waist, bigger hips, better proportioned hands and feet, and cork under the wig.

In both countries the hairdo might be in the fashionable intricate style of the day with bangs, fringes and puffs, or hanging in loose, long, luxurious ringlets. Fine mohair or angora lent itself easily to styling. Blondes were preferred.

As to clothes both France and Germany had whole streets devoted to making doll clothes and accessories. In the '1870's it was the custom to dress children's dolls in the height of fashion.

At that time dolls were not, as in earlier days, sent as couriers of fashion. This was not necessary after the middle of the 19th century when fashion magazines were plentiful. The so-called "French fashion" dolls were known originally as "Parisiennes."

Sometimes a home dressmaker used left-over material to high fashion a doll dress for a small member of the household. But often the Paris doll came completely outfitted.

As time goes on collectors will come to appreciate more and more the fine, early, unmarked dolls and not evaluate them for the country or the factory in which they were made. Usually, the artist, not the manufacturer, in a given country designs the doll.


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