Special clubs flourish for doll connoisseurs

How dear to this heart are the scenes

of my childhood,

When fond recollection presents them

to view!

- Samuel Woodworth

Famous words seem to echo in the air as doll lovers gather for doll auctions, clinics, doll conventions, and doll study groups from coast to coast.

Ancient tombs in every continent reveal that children have had dolls as companions for centuries. Sir Walter Raleigh brought wooden dolls made in Flanders to the children in the Virginia settlement as early as 1585.

Today's collectors delight in the fine examples of more sophisticated, more carefully made dolls dating from the 19th century. Most of these were created as playthings for the children of the nobility or well-to-do. Few of the wooden, rag, or clay dolls peasant parents made for their children's pleasure remain.

Famous French dolls created by Bru, Jumeau, Schmitt, and Steiner were truly artistic creations of the late 19th century. These lovely dolls with their bisque heads, paperweight eyes, mohair locks, and kid or perhaps wooden articulated bodies are sought by advanced collectors.

But dollmakers copied one another's styles. Frequently heads were manufactured in Germany and sold to manufacturers creating doll bodies and doll clothes in France.

As the Industrial Revolution progressed and competition increased, French doll manufacturers formed the Societe Francaise Bebe et Jouets to combat German competition. The development of this combine deepens the mystery of identification of many dolls for current collectors.

As demand for children's toys mounted in the 19th century, china-head dolls with fabric bodies stuffed with cotton, hair, straw, and sometimes bran were popular playthings. These fair-complected, most frequently black-haired beauties of the Civil War era were also manufactured early in the 20th century, complete with 19th-century hair and face styles, another trap for the unwary collector.

Pedlar dolls, cloth dolls with painted faces, 19th-century rubber dolls, dolls that can walk, dance, play musical instruments - all products of 19 th-century designers, craftsmen, and factories - are sought by eager 20 th-century doll lovers.

Rose O'Neill's creation of the Kewpie doll early in this century first appeared as an illustration. In answer to pleas from thousands of children, O'Neill designed and trademarked a bisque Kewpie.

Now these children are adults and have formed the International Rose O'Neill Club, complete with newsletters and a well-organized annual meeting where they reminisce, exhibit their dolls, and study the many sizes, shapes, and manufacturers of O'Neill's designs.

Today a group of fine doll artists and their patrons have banded together to form the National Institute of American Doll Artists. They are dedicated to uphold the concept of doll design as a fine art. They hold a convention with the United Federation of Doll Clubs, put out a newsletter, and publish books.

Another group, the International Doll Makers Association, sponsors exhibits of historic handmade dolls among its many endeavors.

The United Federation of Doll Clubs is a loosely knit organization of over 600 doll clubs in the United States and Canada. Member clubs promote the study, classification, and publication of doll information.

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