Know for her beautiful paper dolls, such as Rad Doll Sue (1931 for Harper Publishing Co.) and Sally Lou (1931 for Saalfield Company) Fern Bisel Peat grew up in the Midwest. She graduated in fine arts from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1915, and commenced with her career in commercial art with the Birge Walpaper Company and Columbus Coated Fabrics Company, both in Ohio.

She married her college sweetheart, Frank, in 1917 and they lived in the Cleveland area until 1961 when they moved to Florida. They had three children, Billy, Joan and Phyllis. When Joan was born, Frank made some miniature furniture for the nursery, and Fern decorated the walls with appropriate designs. Soon their friends were asking the Peats to decorate their children’s rooms, so in 1921, the Peats established the Peter Pan Studio which specialized in decorating children’s rooms. The Peats painted murals in more than 200 private homes, two Akron hospitals and many childrens institutions in the area. While working on the hospital murals, Saalfield commissioned Fern to illustrate childrens books.

Fern was asked if she ever used her children as models, and she said that they frequantly appeared in her illustrations, but her youngest daughter, Phillis was a model for Round the Mulberry Bush.

1928 – Jiji Lou 

1929 – Animal Caravan, Saalfield

1929 – Mother Goose, Saalfield

1930 – Christmas Carols, Saalfield

1930 – A Christmas Carol, Saalfield

1930 – Fireside Stories, Saalfield

1930 – Tanglewood Tales, Saalfield

1931 – The Cock, the Mouse and the..., Saalfield

1932 – Little Black Sambo, Saalfield

1933 – Picture Story-book, Saafield

1937 – Wynken, Blynken and Nod, Saalfield

1939 – Bunny’s Book of Best Stories, Saalfield

1940 – A Child’s Garden of Verses, Saalfield

1940 –  Four Stories that Never Grew

1943 – Birds, Saalfield


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.