Thursday, December 12, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Made in France Used as Souvenir in West Indies


This blue-eyed black doll was kindly offered to me after I was contacted by its previous temporary owner who wrote:



Hi, Debbie! I was given your email address by Sherry Howard over at Auction Finds, a fellow collectibles person.


Sometimes in my picking/selling travels I come across an item which I'm not comfortable selling, like this Mammy doll which was hiding at the bottom of a box of old Madame Alexander dolls. I don't [principally] sell things like this, and yet I know that there are people who collect these for historical or academic purposes so I am reluctant to just toss it. 

Any chance you would like to add it to your a collection? I'd be happy to send it along.
She's cast plastic, has no limbs, is about 5" from head to crotch, and is stamped "France." Although I know little about these dolls, I wouldn't be surprised if the eerily blue eyes were unusual.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Thanks,
Ellen

Circa 1960s souvenir doll from French West Indies

I accepted Ellen's offer to send the doll to me and offered to pay postage, which she did not require.  The doll arrived yesterday.  She is as I suspected and shared with Ellen who was curious about the doll's origin:  a souvenir doll that was probably sold to tourists in the French West Indies.  Upon visual inspection, her rigid plastic construct dates her to the 1960s.  The missing arms and legs were probably attached with a rubber band which deteriorated over time, separating them from the one-piece head and body.

Similar dolls made prior to the 1960s included those with bisque heads with composition bodies and later all celluloid.  The use of celluloid was discontinued in the US during the 1930s because of its flammability, but other countries continued its use in doll making.  Other Caribbean souvenir dolls were made of porcelain and cloth like these three that I own. 

Manufacture of Caribbean souvenir dolls continues as a thriving business for the tourist trade.  Today's dolls can be made of cloth or vinyl.  The plaid of my doll's skirt is similar to that used on newer souvenir dolls in Martinique dress from Fort De France, Martinique, Windward Islands, West Indies.

She has no arms or legs, but has found a new home.

Thanks again, Ellen.  Your little doll find, though limbless, with blue eyes that are not uncommon for these white dolls painted black, has found a new home. Thank you, Sherry Howard, for referring Ellen to me.

Link to previous post on souvenir dolls from Caribbean

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10 comments:

  1. Hi Debbie! I'm not sure if you're familiar with the very excellent French West Indies souvenir dolls created in France by Sandra Dogue. This doll with the blue eyes appears to be a knockoff version based on the Dogue dolls which, in the past, have been extremely collectable because they are exquisite. Her dolls were not white painted black - they were created authentically for the souvenir market in Martinique and excellent materials were used in dressing them as well as gold-tone beaded jewelry. They are also made of lightweight celluloid but I have seen enough of these dolls which are preserved in mint condition to say that they are far superior to the doll shown above. Don't forget - back in the 1930s and 1940s, only the rich could afford to travel to the Caribbean and the quality of many of the dolls reflects that upscale market. I don't know how to post a photo of a Sandra Dogue doll here or I would do so.-

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  2. Thanks so much for the information on Sandra Dogue dolls. Her dolls are not white dolls colored/painted brown. They appear to have so much character and molded in the likeness of real people. I found images by doing a Goggle search for "Sandra Dogue Dolls" -- more info to follow. Thanks again FDL! You know your stuff.

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    1. Well, Debbie - just as you are an expert on Black dolls, I like to think of myself as pretty knowledgeable on international dolls, particularly those "of color" and, like you, I enjoy sharing my knowledge so that other folks can be enriched!!

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    2. And I appreciate your willingness to share, FDL.

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  3. It's probably silly of me, but I find her sending you that doll to be quite uplifting. Her not wanting to trash it but instead sending it to someone who could appreciate it is pretty special.

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    1. No it's not silly at all for you to think that, Muff.

      It's difficult for me to discard dolls and books. I'd like to find new owners for them through gifts or donations rather than discarding something that can be appreciated or increase someone's knowledge like dolls and the written word.

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  4. So happy she found a new home. I immediately thought of Toni Morrison's, The Bluest Eye. Great getting additional information about Sandra's dolls. I'm going to look her up right now.

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    1. So happy am I, too, Vanessa.

      I have a few other ebony-complexioned black dolls from this time period and prior that have blue eyes. The others are not necessarily white dolls colored brown, but all originated from Europe. I am not quite sure what the reasoning was behind the blue eyes for dolls with complexions this dark.

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  5. Debbie - I'm with you - I NEVER throw anything which can possibly be of value to someone else away!! I have also been the recipient of other people's unwanted "treasures" and have been enriched in several cases. My mother lives in a retirement community and many of the residents just arbitrarily decide to give away or sell things they have collected over a lifetime. Unfortunately, there have not been Black dolls among those treasures, but I have really been gifted with some antique Middle Eastern dolls and great books. Always remember the saying - one person's garbage is another's treasure!!

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    1. Your treasures, especially the Middle Eastern dolls, sound wonderful, FDL. I agree with the saying: one person's garbage or trash is another person's treasure and today's collectibles will be tomorrow's antiques.

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Thank you! Your comments are appreciated!