1870s Black Cloth Couple
The above pair of dolls was given to me in 2005 by Elizabeth S. Darrah, having been made by her great grandmother, Frances "Fanny" Skinner Henry, who was born in 1849. According to Ms. Darrah, "Members of the Skinner Henry family were active abolistionists." The male has looped yarn hair. Both have button eyes, noses made of rectangular pieces of silk fabric, embroidered mouths, and silk used for their cloth exteriors. The male's clothing is all original. The female wears newer clothing (circa 1950s) over her original flannel undergarment.
Along with the multitude of handmade black dolls, manufactured dolls were also made during the 19th Century. These include dolls printed on cloth that were later handsewn in homes.
Aunt Jemima Doll Family, 1949, photograph courtesy of eBay seller, terryfromin
"Piccaninny"* Boy, Spring Mills Co. Child, and "Piccaninny" Girl
Handmade 30-in Mammy Vacuum Cleaner Cover, photograph courtesy of Margaret Mitchell
No longer piccaninnies, in today's doll market, black cloth dolls have evolved from mammies to elegant goddesses and divas. Modern cloth dolls will be discussed in a subsequent post.
*Pickaninny (also picaninny, piccaninny or pickinniny) is a racial slur which refers to a depiction of dark-skinned children of African descent. It is a racist and derogatory caricature, whose meaning and usage grew to fruition in the antebellum American south, where slavery was legal. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pickaninny] It is a term that should have never been used to describe a person, let alone an innocent child.