They made them themselves, or their parents or older brothers did.
If you didn’t come from a family with a lot of money and you didn’t live in a town, you’d be very much thrown back on your resources for playthings.
The 19th century was the age of industrialization with doll making. Other people made dolls professionally before, but they couldn’t have turned out as many dolls as, say, Simon & Halbig would have.
Simon & Halbig was one of the biggest firms in Germany, making its own dolls as well as ceramic doll heads for other doll manufacturers to their client’s specifications.
Dolls were often the main plaything for children, but there were also dolls that were kept as family relics.
There’s a doll in this museum called the Old Pretender Doll.
Noreen Marshall is the curator of the Dress, Doll, and Childhood collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood in London.
Recently, we spoke with her about the history of dolls, the various materials used and types of dolls that were made, and how dolls have evolved over time.
For example, Olivia Bristol at Christie’s is the president of the Doll Club of Great Britain. It’s hard for us to realize now just how shocking wax must’ve been for people who saw them for the first time.
I loved dolls as a child—I still do—but I never thought I’d become a doll curator. Some people don’t like them, and I find that quite strange.
Caroline, who was a consummate doll curator, actually disliked dolls as a child. We’ve got a lovely wax baby doll from 1900 in mint condition.
The two pieces might have been made in the same factory but by different people.
If you don’t join the correct head size to its corresponding body, the result looks extremely odd. You still had some wooden dolls around, and you can’t necessarily say what people were using to make homemade dolls.
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Noreen can be contacted via the Victoria and Albert’s Museum of Children microsite, which is a member of our Hall of Fame.