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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Chase Stokinet Dolls - Antique Dolls

By Clara H. Fawcett

( Orginally published October 1962 )

One of the nice things about doll collectors is their enthusiasm and their spirit of fellowship and cooperation.

The desire of one collector to share with another recently was expressed by Grace B. Mitchell of Winter Hill, Mass. Knowing the interest among collectors of Chase stockinet dolls, she sent the following letter from Mrs. Elinor I. Batchelder to her.

Mrs. Batchelder, a relative by marriage of Mrs. Mitchell, at one time painted doll faces for Mrs. Martha Chase, originator of the wellknown Chase Stockinet doll. Mrs. Batchelder says:

"Martha Jenks Chase was the daughter of a doctor; the sister of a doctor; and last, but by no means least, the wife of a doctor.

"Mrs. Chase delighted in making toys for her seven children and the doll business grew from the time she started making dolls for her children.

"Rough handling by small persons made it desirable to have a regular re pair department in her home, although the stockinet dolls were practically indestructible.

"Mrs. Chase did all the designing and making of these dolls herself in the beginning. Later, when they became known all over the country, she took her oldest daughter, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, into the business, painting the faces of the dolls.

"As the demand grew, Mrs. Chase hired a number of girls to work for her. She worked at home, making very dainty underclothes and dresses. There was quite a demand for dressed dolls.

"Some girls came in only certain days to work in what always was called the 'Doll House,' never the 'Shop.' I, who also had attended the Rhode Island School of Design, was the first one hired outside the family to paint faces.

"Mrs. Chase was wonderful to us all and most sympathetic. She had a great sense of humor, and would have the best 'giggle' about things which happened in the Doll House.

"When the 13th of the month came on a Friday it was, in her mind, a 'redletter day' and she gave us a party, saying it was our 'lucky day.' At Christmas, and at Easter time, and especially on our birthdays, she never forgot us, and all of her helpers had the month of August off.

"In the beginning only one building was used, but later she added the Doctor's garage for her doll business.

"The features of the Chase doll were raised, like any china doll. The masks Mrs. Chase made herself, and never let any of us know how she did it. The entire head was covered with stockinet.

"Balls were made on half-inch sticks, about eight or 10 inches long, with cotton, excelsior, and string used in the process. The masks were fitted on these balls.

"Bodies were made of heavy cast-iron cotton cloth and stuffed with cotton; arms and legs, also stuffed with cotton, were made of fine, strong, white cloth. Legs were joined at the knees, and arms at the elbows, and a piece of the same material was used around the neck.

"When heads had been attached to bodies, the arms and legs were sewn on, then the doll was ready for 'hanging Up.'

"The hangers consisted of two or three pieces of furring, about eight feet long, fastened by strong cord, wire, and a pulley arrangement to raise and lower as desired.

"On these hangers were placed a number of heavy wires, bent to form hangers for each doll. The number was governed by the size of the doll to be hung.

"In the hanging process each doll was sized. First the hands and feet were dipped in hot glue and shaped a little, to look more lifelike.

"Then, with a brush, paste was applied to the heads, arms, legs, and necks. When this was done the doll was placed in a hanger until dry, then paint was applied over the same areas and left to dry again.

"The painting process was repeated twice more, and the last time the toes and fingers were tinted with pink. A final two coats were given the heads with a different kind of paint called complexions.

"When this was dry the doll was ready to have its features and hair painted. We made some dolls blue-eyed, others brown-eyed. Hair was always blond, unless otherwise ordered.

"These dolls were made in several sizes, from what were called 00 size, to dolls the size of a year-old child. Baby dolls had more chunky bodies and fatter faces than the older 'child,' and the eyes were shaped a little differently.

"There was quite a variety, Including Mammy dolls, George Washington, little Negro, and character dolls. When a new member of the doll family appeared, each of us took the one we liked best and had our pictures taken in the yard.

"There were also family sets of small dolls, dressed as family groups or wedding parties, according to request.

"One day Mrs. Chase was asked if she could make a human-sized doll for hospital training use. She met the challenge, with improvements as time went an, adding tanks to body for treatments, and tanks in the head. These hospital dolls were made in sizes from a newborn baby to adult.

"At the present time, so far as I know, no toy dolls are made.

"The business was moved after the death of Mrs. Chase in 1925, and I believe is now run by her youngest son."

In another letter to Mrs. Mitchell it was explained that these hospital dolls were hung to dry in the cellar. Since the cellar had uncurtained windows, the effect from the outside was eerie to say the least.

On one occasion it aroused the suspicions of police who were bent on catching a burglar in the neighborhood, and they did some investigating.

No patent on the Chase dolls was ever applied for, but there is a trademark printed on the thigh or under the left arm, sometimes rubbed out with much handling.

The Chase dolls form an important part of the history of American dolls.