Paper dolls

October 29, 2014

As early as the mid-eighteenth century hand-painted figures and costumes created on paper by dressmakers illustrated current designs in London, Paris, Vienna and Berlin. A London advertisement proclaimed a new invention called the “English Doll” in 1791, that was a young female figure, eight inches high, with a wardrobe of underclothes, headdresses, corset and six complete outfits. S & J Fuller in London produced the first paper doll for their “Temple of Fancy” at Rathbone Place in 1810. Little Fanny from The History of Little Fanny was a popular paper doll with a single transposable head, seven costumes, and a number of hats, as cut outs that were used in the telling of the story.

Belcher of Boston was the first American company to publish paper dolls with their The History and Adventures of Little Henry published in 1812. Cinderella, or, The Little Glass Slipper: Beautifully Illustrated with Figures (London: S. & J. Fuller, 1814) captivated little girls with paper dolls. During the 1820s, boxed paper doll sets were imported from Europe to America. McLoughlin Brothers, established in 1828, was the largest manufacturer of paper dolls in the United States. McLoughlin’s earliest paper dolls were printed from wood blocks that had been pirated from British publishers. McLoughlin Brothers and British publisher Raphael Tuck continued producing paper dolls until the twentieth century. McLoughlin Brothers continued developing paper dolls, along with children’s story and playbooks after its sale to Milton Bradley in 1920.

Peter G. Thompson was a smaller company that published paper dolls in the 1880s. Raphael Tuck was perhaps the best-known manufacturer of finely lithographed items patented their first paper doll, a baby with a nursing bottle in 1893. Paper dolls appeared in advertising, some die-cut, and as cards to cut out. Paper dolls were featured in advertising for Lyon’s coffee, Pillsbury flour, Baker’s chocolate, Singer sewing machines, Clark’s threads, McLaughlin Coffee and Hood’s Sarsaparilla.

Godey’s was the most widely circulating monthly American magazine edited by a woman (Sarah Josepha Hale between 1837 and 1877) prior to the Civil War that dictated fashion and literature trends for generations of women. Godey’s contained hand-tinted fashion plates, clothing patterns and sheet music, and was carried to the frontier. In November 1859, Godey’s Lady’s Book was the first women’s magazine to publish a paper doll. Illustrated in black and white, their paper doll accompanied with a page of costumes for children to color. Good Housekeeping was a major publisher of paper dolls beginning in 1909. McCall’s Magazine developed the most popular paper doll character Betsy McCall spotlighting many artists from 1904 to 1926 in their cut-and-fold McCall Family series. Artist Kay Morrissey developed sweet-faced Betsy McCall, which debuted in 1951. Betsy McCall, followed the original function of paper dolls by modeled fashions that could be made with McCall’s patterns. Paper dolls appeared in newspapers during the Great Depression and were cut out by children who often made elaborate paper doll scrapbooks.

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