Researcher’s Caveat: I’m an archaeologist by training and I’m currently finishing my master’s thesis in the subject. That said, I’m not used to researching whole objects; it’s such a refreshing experience! Although I’m no expert in antique identification, this blog will attempt to chronicle the process of identifying an object from start to finish. My preliminary assessments are just my best-educated guesses and I will provide all the sources I used when I can.
If any of you have any information about a particular object or a research source that can help me out in the process it will be most appreciated! Research is always a work in progress! Also, if you are handling antique dolls of your own you need to be aware of the damages simple things like your hands and sunlight can do to your collections. To help you take the best care of your dolls I have included a link to an online source in preservation techniques called Preservation 101 in the left hand side of the blog.
I hope this will be a fun and informative read for you all!
Dolls are an iconic part of childhood. No matter if you had one of your own, or knew someone who had, chances are you have a childhood memory involving dolls. My favorite, for instance, is my best friend and me tormenting her little brother with our Barbie dolls. Aww, memories! What is your favorite doll memory?
Despite the fact that dolls are so commonplace, dolls are complex and come in all shapes, sizes, and varieties. At the Historical Society we have dolls of all colors, kinds, and descriptions. Today we are going to research one that particularly caught my fancy.
Darling Hilda and accessories
Darling Hilda is just that - DARLING! I was initially amazed by this paper doll’s excellent condition! Darling Hilda had such whimsical and fashionable clothes that I could easily see how she would be a favorite with children of the day. The doll and her accessories came in a box dated from 1894 and sold by Tuck and Sons. I chose to highlight Darling Hilda first because it shows the power of identification marks in determining a doll’s origin.
I started the identification process by examining her box in great detail, which provided some exciting tidbits all on its own! The first picture is kind of hard to read so I have zoomed in on the box cover to help you follow along.
Besides the obvious name embellished across the top of the box, the container was also helpful in determining a date and a manufacturer – two things most doll collectors, or researchers of any kind, try to find out first. Date and manufacturer are so important because if you can identify these two variables it is easier to do more in-depth research. On non-paper dolls these marks might be anywhere, but they tend to be on the neck, the back, or the bottom of the foot of the doll. On paper dolls the best place to check is the box, if you have it, or the back of the doll.
The printing on the picture to the right is hard to read through the photo, but near Hilda’s green sleeve is a small cluster of words that say: DATE FEB. 20th arched over the year 1894. This date is likely the patent date and Darling Hilda may not have been produced precisely in that year. But, it's a good starting point since now we know that is the earliest possible date of manufacture. Let me just say it is a rarity to find your information laid out in front of you in such an easy manner! Thank god for capitalism and the need to brand and date everything!
The picture on the left comes from the base of the box. The lettering says:
Raphael Tuck & Sons
London Paris New York
Publishers to her Majesty the Queen
That small imprint lets us know that Raphael Tuck and Sons is the manufacturer of the doll. Now that a manufacture has been established, it’s easier to do research about the specific company. My information comes from Barbara Chaney Fergunson’s (1982) book The Paper Doll (see the references below). Tuck's company started in 1866 as a joint enterprise between Raphael and Ernestine Tuck. It turns out Tuck and Sons were a popular paper doll manufacturer and collector's have extensively researched their productions. Tuck's dolls have a similar look and seem to come with fashionable dresses (typically 4 dresses) and accessories (typically hats).
According to Ferguson (1982:74), Tuck and Sons produced more than just paper dolls; they pioneered the Christmas card, the scenic postcard, and the valentine card. They specialized in chromolithographs, oleographs, and lithographs – or as I like to think of it- paper. They began doing paper dolls in 1893 and continued to do so until 1940 when their headquarters were destroyed by bombing during WWII (Ferguson 1982:74).
Tuck and Sons’ style changed over the years and if you are an avid collector and can’t establish a production date you can look to certain stylistic differences to get a range. Anything from the cut and construction of the doll right on down to the style of clothing can help you date an object. If you are interested in the stylistic changes of Tuck and Sons, a good overview is found on pages 75 and 76 of Ferguson. My guess for Darling Hilda is that she was produced around the turn of the 20th century.
This concludes our look at Darling Hilda. I could go on and on – trust me – but I wanted it keep it simple, sweet, and to the point. I hope you learned some fun stuff and please share with me your doll stories!
Next Time – Dolls Part 2
We are going to research this fun guy right here!
Ferguson, Barbara Chaney, 1982 The Paper Doll: A Collector’s Guide with Prices. Wallace-Homestead Book Company, Des,Moines.
Goodfellow, Caroline, 1993 The Ultimate Doll Book. Dorling Kindersley, London.
Herron, Lane R., 1998 Warman’s Dolls: A Value and Identification Guide. Krause Publications, Iola, Wisconsin.
This blog is a good comprehensive doll guide that I would recommend if you are just starting out. They have just about everything covered.
This is a cute website with some very interesting articles.
This page tells how to protect and preserve your dolls. A must-read for all doll owners.