Sunday, February 21, 2010

Horsman composition dolls

I have two Horsman dolls in my collection: a mama doll that was made in the late 1920's, and a Patsy family competitor, called Nan.

The Horsman Doll Company is one of the oldest doll manufacturers still extant. It was founded in 1865 by Edward Horsman and has changed hands several times over the past century. Today, it is run out of Hong Kong and is called Horsman Ltd.  I really like that despite the change of hands, the Horsman name still carries weight.

My Horsman mama doll is typical of dolls made in the late 1920's. She has a soft cloth stuffed body, a "cryer" (that still works), and four teeth. She is 22 inches long with composition head, arms, and legs. Her mohair wig is a replacement and although her clothes are old, they are not original to her. She has tin sleep eyes and is marked EIH Co. Inc. on the back of her neck.

The little boy in this photo is holding a Horsman Baby Bumps (circa 1911.)

Mama dolls were made for little girls (and boys) to cuddle - hence their soft cloth stuffed bodies. It amazes me that they have survived nearly one hundred years with nothing more than some staining or small seam splits. Even the stuffing hasn't settled to a great degree.

Nan* was manufactured in the 1930's in response to the Patsy craze. My Nan is 19 inches tall and all composition with molded hair, sable eyelashes, and tin sleep eyes.  She is unmarked and sometimes gets mistaken for Patsy Ann, although Nan has a noticeable dimple in her chin. She has a toddler body and a bent right arm. I think Nan is just as sweet as Patsy Ann.

Horsman dolls are rather iconic and are a great addition to any vintage doll collection.

*corrected from Jane

Monday, February 8, 2010

Nancy Ann Storybook dolls


Ms Nancy Ann Abbot, a dress designer of San Franciso, started her own doll company specializing in "wee dolls for wee collectors." Ms Abbott started her venture from her own apartment, and the first dolls were made of bisque. In 1937, she took on a partner, Les Rowland, to help her with marketing these tiny dolls. In 1937, she became incorporated and Nancy Ann Dressed Dolls was born. The company's name was changed to Nancy Ann Storybook Dolls in 1945 and sales topped a million dollars. Bisque dolls were produced from 1936 - 1947, and hard plastic, from 1947 - 1960. Dolls average 5 1/2 inches tall but can be as small as 4 1/2 inches to 7 inches tall.

The earliest bisque dolls had bodies that were made in Japan, but by the time World War II was heating up in Europe, the dolls were being manufactured in California. Each doll during this era was hand painted. Later, the dolls were made from hard plastic. 125 different dolls were marketed, based on nursury rhymes, children's fairy tales, dolls of the world, days of the week, months of the year, seasons, and popular jingles. By the time the 1940's rolled around, the Nancy Ann Storybook doll company produced the largest volume of any dolls manufactured in the United States.

As the dolls gained in popularity, Nancy Ann Abbot expanded her range to include an 18 inch teen Nancy Ann Style Show doll, an eight inch Muffie doll that was a competitor of Ginny, as well as a toddler and baby doll (Debbie and Sue-Sue).

The dolls are actually very good quality and have held up well over the decades.  Nancy Ann changed her dolls' costumes every year, making some dolls difficult to identify without tags. Dolls have distinctive faces, however, and many (but not all) are marked Nancy Ann or Storybook Dolls USA on their backs.

I have two Nancy Ann Storybook dolls, and I know women who own dozens! These adorable dolls are made of hard plastic and have flirty eyes (eyes that move side to side as well as open and close.)  They have soft mohair wigs and their eyelashes and shoes are painted on. At one time, they would have worn hats or ribbons in their hair. Their clothes, while removable, aren't really meant to be removed. The dolls' underclothes are taped to their bodies. I don't know who they were meant to be, as they came to me without boxes or tags. They are, however, very sweet, and they don't take up a lot of room if you have limited space for a doll collection. The earlier bisque dolls will fetch higher prices than the hard plastic dolls at auction, and even moreso if you're fortunate enough to get a tagged doll in its original box.