Marcia Strykowski

Paper Dolls!

petticpatAny fellow paper doll fans out there? I’ve loved paper dolls ever since I was old enough to work with scissors. I sometimes made my own dolls and clothes with the help of the Sears catalog. One store-bought television inspired collection I remember owning years ago was Petticoat Junction. paper doll shirleyA more recent series includes a classic Shirley Temple set which contains three dolls with the largest being almost two feet tall. To temporarily digress a minute, her cheery face reminds me of the beautiful new Shirley Temple stamps recently released. Have you had a chance to check them out?patty duke velvetAnd who remembers Betsy McCall, often featured in McCall’s Magazine? (I couldn’t find any public domain pictures, but I can still see her sweet little face). What a treat to find her every once in a while in the back pages of my mother’s magazines. Later, in the 90’s, Good Housekeeping Magazine often featured paper dolls created by illustrator Joan Walsh Anglund, who recently had her 90th birthday.
My sister recently found her old paper doll collection and therefore I’m adding these interesting dolls to the post. The two smaller ones (called Bobbi Girls) came with a bar of soap to wash their clothes. Each outfit (and doll) also has a back view.dolls with hair

My interest in paper dolls carried over to adulthood and when my Amy books were accepted for publication, it was a natural step to create an Amy paper doll. I whipped up the doll just for fun long before seeing the final book covers, which is why the two Amy’s look nothing alike. You can see for yourself, if you click here.

DSC00578Above is a French paper doll set. Lea and her clothes are made out of a sturdy plastic-like paper that won’t rip. Each outfit is reversible with an entirely different look on the back.

Below are a few more of my favorites. Not surprising, most seem to have a literary connection.favorite paper dollsYears ago, we had a paper doll party for my daughter’s eighth birthday. All the attendees colored and decorated paper dolls who looked just like themselves. Their faces and hairdos were snipped out of recent photographs and then glued to the dolls’ heads. There were also two or three sheets of clothes for them to color.paper doll party final
DSC00576A large paper cut-out person decorated the wall with smaller ones scattered here and there. Even the cake sported a paper doll theme (plastic cake toppings shown at left). Homemade dolls using photographs is a great way to bring long overdue diversity to paper dolls.

Paper dolls have been around for many centuries. The first one to be manufactured was Little Fanny, produced by S & J Fuller of London in 1810. Little Fanny was set up as a small book of chapters with a new outfit to go with each episode. And here in the states, the first paper doll to be mass-produced was The History and Adventures of Little Henry, created by J. Belcher of Boston in 1812. There are mixed reports, but with some research I discovered Henry first debuted in London two years previous, also with S & J Fuller.

Here’s a sheet of Little Red Riding Hood from 1913. It was created by Margaret Hays (who happens to be Grace Drayton’s sister. Who’s Grace, you say? Read on!)red-riding-hood 1913

Celebrity paper dolls became popular during the 1830s, beginning with those fashioned after Swedish ballet star Marie Taglioni who tended to wear elaborate stage outfits. Below is a 1919 magazine illustration featuring actress Norma Talmadge.Norma-DOLLS

And we can’t forget one of my all time favorites: Dolly Dingle! She was created by Grace Drayton (1877-1936), the fabulous illustrator who also brought us the Campbell Soup Kids.
1922_Dolly_Dingle_by_Grace_Draytonpaper dolls

69 Comments

  1. Betsy McCall was a favorite childhood memory. I can still see my Mom’s hands, working the scissors, helping me cut out the current month’s offering. http://tpettit.best.vwh.net/dolls/pd_scans/betsy_mccall/large_format.html

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    • Hi Judi, such fun memories. I remember pasting the thin paper cutouts to cardboard so the dolls wouldn’t be floppy. Thanks for the link. I didn’t want to use any pictures from her personal collection in my post, but it’s certainly a fun website to browse.

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  2. YES!! I’m a huge paper doll fan. My mother got McCall’s magazine too and I waited in anticipation for Betsy’s next set of clothes. My sister and I made our own as well and spent hours designing…drawing tabs on everything – even books for them to hold! I had a paper doll booklet of Disney’s Cinderella characters from the movie. My favorites were the three fairies. And what a cool birthday party activity! Mine’s coming up – May 2. You’re invited. ;o) Thanks for this fabulous post, Marcia!

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    • Oh, yeah, it was fun figuring out where all the tabs should go. I bet you could make an amazing little Pierr paper doll for your upcoming special day. Have a wonderful birthday!

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  3. That was fun and interesting. I hadn’t thought about paper dolls for ages.

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  4. I absolutely adore paper dolls and have a couple of sets on my bookshelf. I would love to own the Red riding hood and Dolly Dingle ones you feature here. When I was a little girl my granny Daisy used to save her magazines for me to play with, one of them featured twin paper dolls, a little boy and a little girl. They were very small and usually printed in black and white, but every now and again they would be in colour. I wish I could remember the name of the magazine as I would love to see them again.
    Has your Amy paper doll been published?

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    • Hi Barbara, I tried to find the twins you mentioned, but could only come up with Nora and Tilly (and sometimes Paul) who were in Woman and Home Magazine. Way back, there was Punch & Judy in Women’s Home Companion. I don’t know where you’d find the Red Riding Hood paper doll, but Dolly Dingle sets are probably available. My Amy paper doll was just for fun and only consists of the one messily-done sheet that can be downloaded.

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      • Hi Marcia, thank you so much for looking it was really very kind of you. The name Tilly is ringing bells, so I’m wondering if it was Nora and Tilly, maybe I’m confusing things because of Paul? Anything is possible – it was sixty years ago. Gosh, I can hardly believe that myself! Happy May Day. xx

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  5. Big paper doll fan here too. Don’t know why I never tried to make my own. I had a collection of TV/movie-themed sets, like the Lennon Sisters, and I loved the Betsy McCall ones in the magazine. I’m marveling at your Shirley Temple paper doll — 2 feet tall? Wow!

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    • Yep, one of the Shirley dolls is quite big. It comes in two sections that you attach. Loved the Lennon Sisters!

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  6. Hi Marcia ,
    I am still fond of paper dolls ! When I was a little girl, I used to draw my own dolls and to make their clothes. Thanks for these good memories !
    Unfortunately, in France, these dolls are nearly unfindable (?)…

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    • Hi Maryse! I was just going to email you. Thanks so much for the beautiful postcard–a nice surprise. I’ve been interested in Modigliani ever since watching a movie about him several years ago. I used to enjoy making paper dolls and clothes, too. Maybe paper dolls will be popular again someday, in France and everywhere. 🙂

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  7. I love that you made your own Amy paper doll! Very creative.

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    • It was a fun craft, Yvonne. Thinking about paper dolls this week makes me want to redo it with improvements or maybe try another character. We’ll see…

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  8. Bobbi Miller

    I was never one for paper dolls. But I have to admit, this was a fascinating read. I love Shirley Temple, and always enjoyed Petticoat Junction. Very, very interesting!!!

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    • The celebrity collections are interesting. I haven’t looked into what’s available today, but I’m sure they’re still producing new ones and I can easily picture a Lady Gaga paper doll, or maybe Selena and Justin.

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  9. What fun Marcia!! I did use to play with the paper dolls from McCalls that I cut from my grandmother’s magazines– My favorite was the paper doll birthday party– with their little faces– what a inventive fun idea! –and love the French paper dolls! thanks for another interesting post!! take care..xo

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  10. I adored paper dolls. My favorite memory is of a set that came with the paper dolls and sheets of fabric prints, so you could design and cut out your own fashions.

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  11. Love this!

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  12. Thanks for this little trip down memory lane, Marcia. I loved paper dolls as a kid. I loved the Madeleine set, but I honestly can’t remember if I had them or if I got them for my daughters! Lovely article!

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    • I forget when or where I got the Madeleine set, but I do remember my daughter and I cutting out the pieces together.

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  13. Oh wow ! now that is bringing back memories 🙂 I remember paper dolls 🙂 I loved them !!!

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    • Seems there are a lot of paper doll fans in today’s online world. 🙂

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  14. Marcia, love this post. I’m from the Betsy McCall era, and I also made paper dolls and clothes from the Sears catalog. You always make such interesting posts. And I love your Amy doll!

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  15. I played with paper dolls some as a kid. I recently saw a variation of paper dolls at Half-Price books. Where the dolls are magnetic, and that’s how the magnet-like clothes stick. It was so cute, I wanted it for myself! 😉

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    • Magnetic paper dolls were a fun invention, sticker ones (kind of like Colorforms) are great, too. I don’t blame you at all for wanting a set for yourself! 🙂

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  16. Ashley

    I still have paper dolls. My newest set is Disney’s Frozen!!

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    • Great! I noticed there’s a beautiful Downton Abbey set out there, too.

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  17. How interesting! I especially liked a book of static-cling paper dolls I had because it was so easy to change :).

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    • Oh, yes, I think I’ve seen those. Great way to avoid fussing with tabs and I’m sure the clothes hold up better, too. I do love cutting paper, though, and making everything from scratch was most of the fun for me. Thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. mirkabreen

    I LOVED these when I was 6-9. Now that I think about it, what a wonderful thing to improve manual co-ordination and enjoy the fruit of the effort…

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    • You’re right, great for developing other skills, too, such as creativity and imagination. And there were plenty of paper cutout options. I remember my son had a colonial village set where he had to cut out and fold many small pieces to create the little buildings of the town.

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  19. Hi, Fab blog! I have just set up mine, but still in the very early stages – 2 months old! Just making efforts to link in with fellow bloggers to improve our followers and get the word out there for us both. I would appreciate you having a peek at my blog, as I have published several posts. Feel free to like, comment, follow or just take a peek. Thank you 🙂

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  20. I love this! I still remember playing with it when I was young! 🙂
    Thanks for visiting and following my blog too Marcia! 🙂

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  21. slochman

    I have savored this post until proper time allowed to enjoy each detail. I loved paper dolls. I was just thinking about mine a couple weeks ago when confronted with the task of buying a birthday gift for a young girl. Then I see your post. How funny! I spent countless hours with mine. How sad for this generation of girls to miss the fun of imagination and child’s play. As always, a great job. I love your writing style and your topics.

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    • Thanks so much, Sharon. I really appreciate your support. I’m sure there are still nice paper doll sets available, but maybe your young friend isn’t into that sort of thing the way we were back in the day.

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  22. I am not familiar with any of the (American?) characters – well, I have heard of “Little Red Hood”, as she is called in Dutch. I can imagine it was a lot of fun creating and playing with these paper dolls back in the day, and even now! Nostalgia…

    Liesbet

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  23. I loved paper dolls too and often made my own. I had a Grace Kelly paper doll I remember. Now I give them to my granddaughters as gifts. They will never grow old or out of fashion.

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  24. Bette Norton

    What a wonderful post bringing back such great memories of playing with paper dolls. I used to make my own too and I also looked forward to my mom’s McCalls Magazine with Betsy McCall in it. I loved her so much that my mom ordered me a Betsy McCall doll. She stood about 8 inches high and had movable joints. I just found today in my attic my collection of paper dolls. Some of them had real hair on them. Also some of mine had magnets on their bodies and on their clothes too. Sadly my two daughters were not into paper dolls. The party you had for your daughter’s 8th birthday was so unique and fun. What a great idea! The kids must of had a ball! I love your collection of paper dolls and that you continue to collect them. It is fascinating to learn of the history of when and where they were originated.. I did not realize they had been around for so many generations. A few years ago I downloaded from your blog your Amy paper doll and cut her out!. A delightful post as usual!

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    • I forgot there was an actual Betsy McCall doll! Sounds like you had/have an interesting collection. Thanks for sharing and I’m glad you enjoyed the Amy paper doll. 🙂

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  25. I was just thinking about paper dolls the other day, esp’/y McCall’s. Funny you should write about them.

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  26. This post brought back lots of wonderful memories. My grandmother used to always tear the Betsy McCall page out of the magazine each month and send it to me. I also really enjoyed the history and pictures of paper dolls.

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    • I’m glad you enjoyed, Sheryl! I was surprised by all the lovely detail in the 1919 Norma Talmadge doll.

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  27. I would’ve loved this when I was a kid. And right now, I’m thinking my friend Barbara (March House Books) would love these, too!

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    • Hi Claudine! You’ll find Barbara’s comment up near the top. We seem to have a lot of common interests.

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  28. Colleen

    I love your blog on Paper Dolls. I never grew out of playing with them I still collect them. So comforting to discover that there are many of us who still love our books and toys from childhood. Playing keeps us young!

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    • It is easy to feel young when looking at childhood pastimes. 🙂 Thanks for your comment, Colleen, and for your PM. I don’t know why the follow confirmation wasn’t working, but I’ll add you from this end.

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  29. I never have heard of paper dolls, don’t know if it was a hit in Belgium ever?

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    • It’s interesting if paper dolls never surfaced in Belgium. Either that or you were born after they were popular…

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was born in 1976!

        Liked by 1 person

      • sharon pruitt

        I was born in 1957 and I have always love paper dolls. I have a big collection now. I order them now my grand daughter love them I have all kind.

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        • Sounds like you have a wonderful collection, Sharon. So nice you can share them with your granddaughter, too. Thanks for letting me know of your interest!

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