Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Leo Moss-Type Doll by B. Formaz

Back in early January during a Ruby Lane sales event, I browsed the site for "black dolls" and stumbled upon what my eyes could not believe I was seeing in the tiny thumbnail image of the doll I initially recognized as a Leo Moss or Leo Moss-type.  The price of less than $100 is why I could not believe what I was seeing as original Leo Moss dolls sell for several thousand dollars in today's market. 


After enlarging the Ruby Lane image and reading the dolls' description, entitled black bisque doll, it became apparent that the doll was fashioned in the likeness of a Leo Moss doll and quite possibly, according to documented information about his dolls, was molded from an original sculpt.  The indicator of this was the seller's description that the doll was signed "B. Formaz."  (Oh-my-goodness, I thought.)  This revelation took place during the wee-wee hours of the morning while still in bed, surfing the Internet with my Kindle Fire during an episode of insomnia.  I immediately went to the doll room to get a better look at the images, to read the description, and to make the purchase on a safer device (my desktop computer) before going back to bed, happy about the find.

Leo Moss-type doll by B. Formaz

After the doll arrived, I photographed her, as usual, and entered the purchase information in my Doll Inventory Excel spread sheet as follows:

Description:  Probably made from an original, circa late 1800s through early 1900s Leo Moss mold; 15-inch character baby has porcelain head and hands; brown stockinette body, legs, and feet; brown inset eyes with tear stained cheeks, typical of Leo Moss dolls; open/closed mouth with molded tongue; frowning eyebrows; black molded tightly curled short hair; wears pink and white gingham dress, matching bonnet with ruffled trim and floral appliqué, matching panties, white socks, pink felt Mary Janes with black soles; signed B. Formaz on neck.

Under the heading, Other, I wrote:
B. Formaz is most likely Betty Formaz who, according to Black Dolls an Identification and Value Guide 1820-1991, "brought Moss's dolls to the doll collecting world after having visited the home of Ruby Moss, daughter of Leo Moss. Betty purchased 39 of the Moss dolls and acquired most of the information on the artist."  Described by Perkins as a collector and restorer, it is safely assumed that Formaz used one of those 39 original Leo Moss dolls to create the mold for my doll.

While my doll is a bisque and cloth rendition, Moss, a native of Macon, GA, and handyman by trade, sculpted his doll heads of paper-mache without the use of molds during the late 1800s through early 1900s.  He purchased manufactured bodies from a New York toy supplier. 

Moss used family members and friends as subjects for his dolls.   Research shows if a child cried during the sculpting process, he included the tears. A twist to this story is Moss added tears to child dolls after his wife left him and all, except their youngest child, a baby, to run off with the NY toy supplier!
Close-up of Hattie

I am uncertain what caused my doll's tears.  The doll's original name also remains a mystery.  What I do know is that it was made by the woman who brought Moss's dolls to the doll community.  Initially I was going to name the doll Betty, but I kept hearing the name Hattie in my head after she arrived; so Hattie she is.

In searching the Internet for additional Leo Moss-type dolls made by Betty Formaz, I was able to find only one other.  Described as a circa 1974 doll, it is not as distinctively Moss as my Hattie.  This other doll did, however, win a first place ribbon at the United Federation of Doll Clubs' 25th Annual Exhibit in Miami, Florida and can be seen here

For more information about Leo Moss dolls, the reader is referred to my prior blog posts at the following links:
http://blackdollcollecting.blogspot.com/2010/02/moments-in-black-doll-history-leo-moss.html
http://blackdollcollecting.blogspot.com/2010/02/moments-in-black-doll-history-leo-moss_03.html

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20 comments:

  1. Hello from Spain, i like your Leo Type doll. She is very cute. She is very real with tears. A baby! Great purchase. Keep in touch

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    1. HiMarta,

      The tears are very realistic. I cannot confirm it but I believe Moss to be the first or one of the first doll makers to add the realism of tears to dolls.

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  2. That expression... is just asking for a hug!

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    1. She's had several hugs here, Carmen, but the tears haven't dried up.

      :-)

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  3. I was not familiar with Leo-Moss type dolls. Thanks for the lesson. I love her mouth and her little double chin. Boy that insomnia can have a person spending all kinds of money, late at night, on the internet. Been there, done that.

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    1. Yes, Vanessa, Insomnia can be costly but in most cases, since I'm on my Kindle Fire during these insomnia moments of web surfing, I don't make an immediate purchase. Hattie was an exception.

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  4. Hattie is a cutie. I guess the artist expressed his hurt that his wife caused him by leaving him through his dolls. This was unfortunate for him, but very fortunate for collectors to have such great pieces. Good lesson post.

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    1. Hi GG,

      Either Moss expressed his sorrow through tears on dolls' faces or the true story may be that if a child cried when they sat for him to make their portrait doll, he incoporated the tears into the doll's sculpt.

      I think the latter is probably the true reason for the tears.

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  5. Thanks for sharing the info about your doll purchase. She is very nice.

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    1. You're welcome MDW. Hattie is not the cutest of babies, but she has lots of character. The fact that I believe she was actually sculpted from a doll Moss sculpted, makes her gorgeous to me.

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  6. Thanks for sharing your doll purchase and info about it. This is a cutie and a true collectors piece. I recently got a doll (as an early bday gift) and she is a beauty handcrafted by a woman on Etsy named Rose Dawn. This woman's work is awesome!

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    Replies
    1. Happy early birthday Chynadoll. My eyes were playing tricks on me when I read your comment initially. The first time I thought I saw (as an early baby gift). Baby... she's having a baby! (I thought). Then I re-read it correctly.

      I'll have browse Rose Dawn's store. Thanks for telling me about it.

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    2. Thanks. Lol noooooo baby over here lol! I'm done with all that!

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  7. Now you know I'm jealous Debbie! My ultimate goal doll is a Leo Moss or Leo Moss type doll.Congratulations!
    Bonnie

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  8. Now you know I'm jealous Debbie! My ultimate goal doll is a Leo Moss or Leo Moss type doll.Congratulations!
    Bonnie

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    1. I know Bonnie. There's one out there with your name on it.

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  9. That is some backstory about his wife leaving! I'm not a big looker of baby dolls so I probably missed it, but I've never seen a doll with tears on its face. I've seen commercials about "real eating, pooping babies that make crying sounds," but not tears on its face.

    You have an amazing collection.

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    1. Thanks, Muff. Sometimes I've said I wish I could be focused on one doll type or category of dolls, but that's impossible. I would get very bored.

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  10. Are you familiar with the NEW "Starpath" dolls?!
    http://www.starpathdolls.com
    http://mydollbestfriend.blogspot.com/2013/02/new-york-toy-fair-feature-3-starpath.html
    http://www.dollation.com/dollipedia/brand/starpath-dolls
    http://dollation.com/blog/feed-item/486786
    http://www.kidstuffpr.com/Clients/StarpathDolls.aspx
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5a6drp6oOkg
    info@starpathdolls.com
    lisa@kidstuffpr.com
    Lisa Orman (608) 767-1102

    These were just unveiled last month at "Toy Fair 2013".
    Love mult-ethnic doll lines! The AA girl looks A LOT like
    "Keisha" from "The Magic Attic Club"!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi Emma,

    I was not familiar with the Starpath dolls until you shared the information about them. I love the concept and will try to feature them here on BlackDollCollecting after I have gathered additional information.

    Thanks so much for sharing!

    dbg

    PS I agree, the AA doll looks a lot like Magic Attic Keisha!

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Thank you! Your comments are appreciated!