Monday, April 29, 2013

Simon & Halbig #1358 – Not Just a White Doll Colored

Reproduction Simon & Halbig #1358 character doll with antique teddy bear

German doll makers, Wilhelm Simon and Carl Halbig, produced high-quality bisque doll head molds, all-bisque dolls, and bisque lower arms and legs for dolls from 1869 through 1920.  Many of their molds were used by other doll companies.  [Antique Trader] Some of these other companies included: Adolf Wislizenus, S.F.B.J., Roullet & DeCamp, Jumeau, Fleischmann & Bloedel (Blödel), Schindel & Kallenberg Wiesenthal, Welsch & Co., Carl Trautmann, Schoenau & Hoffmeister, Franz Schmidt, Louis Linder & Sohne, Kammer & Reinhardt, Dr. Paul Hunaeus, Adolf Hülss, Heinrich Handwerck, Hamburger & Company, Cuno & Otto Dressel, Carl Berger, and C.M. Bergman.  Arranbee, George Borgfeldt, Edison, and John Wannamaker are American companies that used S&H molds.  []. 

Several months before finding my reproduction Simon & Halbig (S&H) #1358, 17-inch character doll, I purchased a set of eight doll note cards.  The front of four of the cards contains an image of an original S&H #1358 doll which is described on the back of the card as:  Bisque Doll Made in Germany; circa 1900 by Simon & Halbig; glass eyes, glass teeth, pierced ears, Negroid features, human hair wig. ©Sugar 'n Spice Doll Museum*.

Doll note card from Sugar 'N Spice Doll Museum

After these note cards arrived, I considered the cover image of the S&H doll the next best thing to owning an original.  Now that I have my beautifully reproduced version, I can say that she is the next best thing to owning an original. 

Circa 1900-1910, the approximate Twentieth Century decade my doll's mold was sculpted, character dolls like this may have been labeled mulatto.  This dated term was widely used at that time when referring to a child with one black parent and one white parent.  Because of the lighter shade of brown used to paint her bisque head, mulatto, as a descriptive term, seemed appropriate to these European doll makers.  She is described as a character doll because she was molded to look like a real child as opposed to the typical dolly face widely used for dolls.

Patricia Smith’s Doll Values Antique to Modern Tenth Edition categorizes dark skinned antique dolls as “Black or Brown Dolls.”  On page 33 Smith describes the deeper complexioned dolls that her book references and values:

Black or brown dolls can have fired-in color or be painted bisque, composition, cloth, papier mache and other materials.  They can range from very black to light tan and also be a “dolly” face or have Negroid features… Both the French and Germans made these dolls.

My doll's artist described her as follows:
This is a wonderful 17” reproduction of Simon and Halbig mold #1358. This mold is hard to find in a real antique, which would sell for $11,000.   So she is the next best thing.  She comes with her antique jointed mohair bear… She is made from white bisque tinted with many firings to get the soft brown color that has depth and shading to make it look old. You can see for instance how I shaded around the nose and under the lip. She has feather stroked black eyebrows painted using many pictures of antique dolls. We carved her 6 teeth out of the clay itself! She has full lips very well shaded to give them depth [and] German glass brown eyes.  She is very appealing. I made her wig from thick soft black mohair, which I had left to fade a bit on a window sill to get the aged appearance. She is on a brown Seeley jointed German body appropriate for her. She has on antique turquoise earrings, [a] beautifully made cotton dress with lace apron, also a tea-dyed pantaloon onsie undergarment that is very sweet and buttons above the bottom!  She wears antique stockings and great leather black shoes with buckles.  She is signed by my teacher who helped me clean and fire the bisque.  Also marked 1358/German/Simon and Halbig/S&H/8.

Close-up of S&H 1358 illustrates her six carved teeth, full lips, aged mohair wig, and antique earrings.

Because the seller indicated she made the doll, I wanted to know more about the doll-making experience and sent her the following inquiry:
I am looking forward to receiving this lovely [Simon &] Halbig, which appears to have been made with loving care and expertise.  Would you share with me your history as a doll-maker?  How long have you been making dolls and was this your first brown [S&H]?   What inspired you to make this particular doll?

The artist-seller replied:
I started making dolls 20 years ago. I haven't made any the past few years as I have gone back to painting. I was a professional painter large oils and prints. I found dolls and started repairing them and painting them with a great teacher friend. They helped me with my restoration skills and I enjoyed so much creating them. I made this black Halbig for many reasons. I loved the mold and was very challenged by cutting the teeth out of the clay as opposed to other dolls I saw that inset them behind the lips. I also liked making her from white bisque with many layers of tinting to create the skintone as you will see. So often brown bisque is used, which is not how the originals were created and leads to a flat appearance.  Hope this gives you a little insight.

A 20-inch example of an original S&H #1358 is illustrated, described, and given a value of $8,000 in Myla Perkins' Black Dolls An Identification and Value Guide 1820-1991, page 46.  While that price seems steep, due to their rarity, originals dolls, based on condition, can command as much or more in today's market.

While the images remain online, an original brown S&H #1358 can be seen here.

Again, while images remain available, an example of an original black S&H 1358 doll can be seen here.

I love my little girl.  After she arrived, I examined her from head to toe.  I then placed her in a chair and sat across from her where I gazed at her for several minutes.  She reminds me of a childhood neighbor, a younger girl who would probably be labeled a special needs child.  One side of Debra's body was visibly larger than the other.  She had full lips and usually kept them parted.  Possibly due to complications from her congenital anomalies, Debra died before she was 20. 

Debra, my S&H 1358 is shown with a replica of an early baby carriage; Teddy is inside.

I can fantasize that Debra, my doll, was made specifically for me; it just took a few years for me to find her without even attempting to do so.

In reality, I appreciate the extra efforts S&H and other early European doll makers used to sculpt authentic features for their black and brown dolls.  The features are so distinct that it is safe to assume the molds were used exclusively for black dolls.  Major American doll companies did not catch up with this much needed process until 1951 when Ideal mass produced the first “anthropologically-correct” black doll, Saralee.  Before then, unless the doll was a racially insulting stereotype, most other American-made, commercially-produced black dolls had been white dolls “colored” brown.

*An online search for information about Sugar 'n Spice Doll Museum was unfruitful.  I, however, believe the museum was owned by Myla Perkins, doll collector, historian, and author of Black Dolls an Identification and Value Guide 1821 - 1991 and Black Dolls an Identification and Value Guide Book II.  Perkins, a former educator, previously owned a day care of the same name.  Many of the dolls in the note card set are included in one or both of her books.




  1. Great post. I love your S&H doll. She is a beauty. As I've said before, I developed a real love for Antique dolls through my years as a doll maker. The doll artist did a fabulous job on her.

  2. Thanks Vanessa. I love her. She and her doll carriage are now in a special place, in the good company of other similar dolls.


  3. This is the type of doll I wish I could see in person. I'd want to get all up close and personal so I could check her out.

  4. Beautiful doll Debbie! I'm jealous! The artist did an excellent job. She looks like the real thing!

    1. Thanks, Bonnie. She does look quite authentic.



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