Those Fascinating Wooden Dolls

Those Fascinating Wooden Dolls
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Wooden dolls have captivated children since the early days of man, when such toys were no more than sticks wrapped with bits of skin and fur. Dolls were found in most every country around the world and midst the antiquities of the early Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans.

The Ellis Doll

Among the most well-known American wooden dolls were those made by Joel Ellis, a wagon maker of Springfield, Vermont, during the 1870s and 80s. Also known as the "Springfield Doll," it is a rare item today and is valued among collectors.
Ellis obtained his first patent for these dolls in 1873, but probably produced many before that. Made of hard rock maple, the doll was completely jointed and had metal hands and feet. These were the first wooden dolls with mortise and tendon joints. The parts, made under hydraulic pressure, were smooth, and of durable design.

The Springfield area became known as the birthplace of the American toy and doll industry. Soon variations of Ellis' doll were patented, and the Taylor, Mason, Martin, Sanders, and Johnson dolls began to be produced.

Other American Wooden Dolls

Wooden dolls made to resemble, in design and dress, boys and girls were patented in America in 1911 by Albert Schoenhut, a German woodcarver. The unique feature of this doll was the metal spring joint, designed so the doll could assume nearly any position. This wood was molded under hydraulic pressure, as with the Ellis doll, and was advertised as unbreakable.

Other charming dolls were made throughout the ages with cloth bodies and wooden heads and arms and sometimes wooden legs. These were among the homemade variations turned out by pioneer women with the wooden parts often carved by the menfolk or a traveling peddler. The bodies often have fallen apart, but the wooden pieces can be reused when found today.

Dolls throughout the ages have been favored playthings for children. Whether they are made of wood or some other material, dolls will continue to exist and be loved throughout the years to come.

(c)2002 Mary Emma Allen

About the Author

Mary Emma Allen has written "Curios of Yesteryear" for publications since the 1960s. She and her daughter find their trips into the realms of collectibles enjoyable adventures. Mary Emma also writes other columns, books, and travel articles. Her book, "The Magic of Patchwork", takes you into the history of quiltmaking. Visit her web site for more information about her columns and books at


About The Author

Mary Emma Allen researches and writes from her multi-generational NH home. Check out her new site, Tea Time Notes

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