Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Topsy-Turvy a.k.a. Topsy-Turvey, Double Doll, Two-Sided Doll

What appears to be simple cloth dolls are Topsy-Turvy or double-headed dolls.  The dolls share one body and a long skirt that hides the head and arms of the doll underneath (see next image).

L-R:  Circa 1980s souvenir Topsy-Turvys from Jamaica and Barbados, respectively;  one head of the Jamaica doll is asleep; the other is awake.  The Jamaica doll is featured on page 40 of my first black-doll reference, The Definitive Guide to Collecting Black Dolls (2003).
This lengthy post was promised but delayed because it involved extensive research and time to compile my findings.  The most recent research, beyond what I have done previously on the subject of Topsy-Turvy dolls, was inspired by the interest I share with blog reader, LatinLady, in exploring the mystery of the Topsy-Turvy doll's original concept.

First made by enslaved servants, why was there a need for one head to be hidden underneath the shared skirt?  Was the doll made for slave children, for white children, or for both?

My interest in investigating the Topsy-Turvy history was piqued on 03/29/2013 by LatinLady, who wrote:


Do you have anything on your site outlining the history of the Topsy-Turvy Rag Doll? For the benefit of those who are unaware, this doll depicts a black doll with a full, long skirt and when you flip over the skirt, there's a completely different white doll underneath.

I'm not certain whether I have all my facts straight and would like to learn more about this doll. It is my understanding that these were originally hand-made at home by black families and specifically designed so little girls could play with their favorite doll without "offending" white folks...They could quickly flip over the skirt when someone white came into the room. What immediately (and sadly) comes to mind is the damage to a child's psyche and sense of self.

Later, doll & pattern companies cashed in on the idea and came out with additional versions of so-called Topsy Turvy Dolls: Smiling/Crying, Awake/Asleep, Red Riding Hood/Grandma/Wolf, 2 different white dolls, etc. These are not authentic Topsy Turvy Dolls and (I feel) represent and underhanded and dismissive attempt to erase history.

Please let me know if you know of any good reference material on this doll. I think this is a very important piece of historical black memorabilia.

All the very best!


HistoricFolkDolls.com has published a very comprehensive history of the Topsy-Turvy doll, which interested parties are urged to read.  In 2008, in chapter 1, on page 46 of my book, Black Dolls A Comprehensive Guide to Celebrating, Collecting, and Experiencing the Passion, I shared before and after images of a circa 1930s cloth Topsy-Turvy that arrived in disrepair.  The images and associated text are shared below.  Particular attention should focus on the text that follows the "Other" subheading where a condensed version of Topsy-Turvy's history is documented:

Illustrations 48a and 48b, Topsy Turvy (cloth), ca. 1940s (before and after restoration)
Material: Cloth
Height: 10in/25.4cm
Hair/Eyes/Mouth: Painted hair, eyes, and mouths
Clothing: Black doll’s red and white polka dot dress reverses to white doll’s pink, white and blue floral-print dress.
Value: $75
Other: Topsy Turvy, also known as Double Doll, Two-in-One, and Upside Down dolls first appeared in the South in the 1800s. These dolls share one body. Each doll’s dress or skirt, when flipped, hides the other doll underneath. It is widely believed that servants made these dolls for their children using
dress scraps. The slave child would play with the white side in the absence of the slave master. Upon the slave master’s approach, the child would flip the doll over to the black side to hide the forbidden-to-play-with white doll. Others postulate the dolls were made by slaves for their masters’ children, who were forbidden to play with black dolls. In the absence of their parents, the white child would play with the black doll and flip the doll to the white side upon their parents’ or other disapproving person’s approach. (The author re-painted the black doll’s face.)


In an effort to document one of the Topsy-Turvy theories, I checked several books from my doll- and black memorabilia/Americana reference libraries for information beyond images, description, and value.  Only a handful of authors whose books I own have documented the existence of Topsy-Turvy dolls.  None of the books mention the origin of the Topsy-Turvy concept.

Published in 1993 with updated values in 1995, Myla Perkins includes black and white images and a paragraph description of several Topsy-Turvy dolls on the following pages of Black Dolls An Identification and Value Guide 1820-1991:

  • Page 33 - Germany, 1890's, 11-inch, bisque double headed doll, one side black, one side white, both with open eyes.
  • Page 68 - Circa 1920's [handmade-appearing] 15-inch tall, cloth, one head black, one head white, both with open eyes.
  • Page 74 - 1990, 13-inch cloth, double doll, black on both sides, one side with open eyes, the other with closed eyes, mass produced, manufacturer unnamed.
  • Page 90 - Composition, 8-inch back/white double doll; black head has three tufts of black string inserted into holes in head for hair, circa mid-1930s.
  • Page 95 - W. D. Co., 11-1/2-inch, composition heads and arms, painted features, shared cloth body; one head black, one head white.
  • Page 99 - Unmarked composition heads with painted features, brown cloth body, 13 inches [circa 1930s].

Published in 1995 as a followup to her first book, Myla Perkins includes one color image and several black and white images along with paragraph descriptions of Topsy-Turvy dolls, and two brief statements regarding dolls by Butler Brothers on the following pages of Black Dolls An Identification and Value Guide Book II:

  • Page 9 - Armless, 11-inch, unmarked doll with black/white heads with embossed pressed paper faces, circa 1890s.
  • On page 34, Perkins writes:  " ... in 1895, Butler Brothers advertised double dolls under the category 'Miscellaneous Dolls' as follows:  'No. 718 Double Head Dolls -- Natural glass eyes, two styles of dress, one darkey head and the other a bisque head with pretty baby face and lace cap.  Appropriate dresses, 14 inches, one dozen in box.' Cost was $2.05 per dozen.'"
  • On page 44, Perkins continues:  "In 1914, Butler Brothers (wholesale distributor) advertised a 23" 'Mammy,' cut out and sew doll, and a 17" 'Topsy-turvy.'  The cost was $1.25 per dozen... [description of Mammy provided].  The topsy-turvy doll is not pictured in the ad."
  • Pages 76-81 illustrate a variety of hand-made and commercially-produced cloth Topsy-Turvy dolls with date origins ranging from 1890s-1990s.  The marked, mass-produced dolls are made by Gambina, Horsman, and Junel Novelty.
  • Page 126 - 7-1/2-inch composition black/white heads with painted features, similar to the doll featured on page 90 of Perkins' first book, except the black head does not have holes for hair tufts. 
  • Page 138 - Brazilian with wooden heads, one head is dark brown; the other is a lighter shade of brown.  Undated.
  • Page 350 - Another Topsy-Turvy doll from Brazil, hard plastic heads in one piece hard plastic body, 6 inches; one head is painted brown; the other head is painted black.  Marks (on back of both bodies):  TR (inside triangle) INC A.
Value references are also included in Perkins' books for each doll, but are omitted here as this article strives to explore the true meaning of the doll's concept, which Perkins' books omit.

Patricia Smith's Doll Value's Antique to Modern Tenth Edition (1994) briefly mentions Topsy-Turvy on page 59 as follows:

Topsy-Turvy:  Two-headed doll.  One black, other white. Oil painted:  $700.00.  Printed:  $500.

Dawn E. Reno's Encyclopedia of Black Collectibles A Value and Identification Guide (1996) includes two Topsy-Turvy passages on pages 105 and 110.

On page 105, Reno writes:
Topsy turvy dolls, which originated as early as the Civil War, represented the best of both worlds.  The doll, usually dressed in a long dress that covered her bottom half, would be black on one side and white on the other.  Topsy turvy dolls were commonly made into the 1940s and can be found in rubber, plastic, celluloid, and composition.  There are also some contemporary topsy turvy dolls.

On page 110, Reno continues and reiterates:
Topsy Turvy dolls were often black on one side and white on the other.  Sometimes they were made in the form of nursery rhyme characters, such as Little Red Riding Hood on one end and the grandmother on the other or the plain and fancy Cinderellas.  These dolls met the same need as rag dolls; they were economical toys that could be made out of scraps of material.  The unique feature of the topsy turvey doll was that it was two dolls in one.  Topsies were made before the Civil War and are still being made today.

(During the 1970s, my father would frequent thrift stores and with delight bring home his findings.  One such item was a Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf Topsy-Turvy, a gift for my younger sister.  The doll was tattered.  So without him knowing it, and with my sister's approval, my mother eventually discarded it.)

Don Jensen mentions and illustrates Topsy-Turvy dolls on page 27 and on pages 30-31 in his book, Collector's Guide to Horsman Dolls Identification and Values 1865-1950 (2002).

On page 27, Jensen writes:

Babyland Rag Dolls -- This series of cloth dolls probably was the first series of dolls popularly associated with the Horsman name.  The first Horsman cloth doll that we know of to bear the Baby Land name (later the two words would be joined to form the more familiar Babyland name) appeared in the company's 1893 catalog.  Babyland Rag dolls became a staple in Horsman's product line and remained there well into the 1920s...

...Topsy-Turvy, a two-headed cloth doll.  Turned one way, it was a white doll; turned upside down with its skirt covering that face, it became a black doll.  

On pages 30-31, Jensen illustrates a 12-inch Topsy-Turvy Babyland Rag doll that has two lithographed faces.  One represents Eva; the other is her maid/servant Topsy, characters from Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1852).  A 14-inch Bruckner Topsy-Turvy with mask-type faces, also part of Horsman's Babyland Rag series, is illustrated on page 31.  Snapshots of pages 30-31 are shown below.

Topsy-Turvy by Horsman, Eva on one side and Topsy on other, circa 1890s as illustrated in Jensen's Collector's Guide to Horsman Dolls Identification and Values 1865-1950

Horsman's Babyland Rag Topsy-Turvy made by Bruckner circa 1800s, also from Jensen's book on Horsman dolls.

According to Stonegate Antiques' website,

From 1901-1924, Bruckner produced this original, 12" Topsy Turvy doll for Horsman's Babyland Rag Doll line that features Caucasian, "Betty", on one end and African American, "Topsy", on the other. The inspiration for this doll is based on the character of Topsy in Harriet Beecher Stowe's classic 1852 novel, "Uncle Tom's Cabin".

The Bruckner Topsy Turvy doll was advertised in a 1907 Babyland Rag Doll catalog as follows:
"TOPSY-TURVY---What is this?
Looks like just a pretty miss.
But turn her over and you'll find,
She is quite another kind.
First she's White and then she's Black,
Turn her over and turn her back.
Topsy that side--Betty this--
Yet complete, each little Miss."

A brief description and value of Topsy-Turvy dolls is included on pages 67 and 136 of Doll Values Antique to Modern Eighth Edition by Barbara DeFeo and Carol Stover (2004) as follows:

  • Page 67 - Topsy-Turvy - Cloth dolls with two heads, some with black doll under one skirt, which when turned over reveals white doll under other skirt.  [Values are included, but will not be shown here.]
  • Page 136 - Under the category "Multi-Face, Multi-Head Dolls/Cloth" is entered, "Topsy-Turvy:  one black, one white head.  See Cloth section." 

Topsy-Turvy dolls are illustrated, briefly described, and assigned a book value on the noted pages in the following black memorabilia references:

Black Collectibles Mammy and Her Friends (1988), page 92 -- one doll is shown.
Black Collectibles Sold in America by P. J. Gibbs (1996), page 214 -- shows one doll.
Collecting Black Memorabilia A Picture Price Guide by J. P. Thompson (1996 ), pages 78-79 (see image below).
More Black Memorabilia A Handbook & Price Guide 2nd Edition, by Jan Lindenberg (1999), page 135 -- one doll.
Pages 78-79 of Collecting Black Memorabilia... illustrates commercially-produced and handmade early-to-mid 1900s cloth Topsy-Turvy dolls with painted or stitched features.  Two have painted mask faces.

While Topsy-Turvy dolls are referenced in several texts, the true original concept remains a mystery.  I continue to believe the first versions were handmade by African slaves, who were shipped across the Atlantic to the Caribbean, to North and South America, and to other parts of the world that participated in human bondage.   The first versions probably were made of cloth with one doll having a black face and the other a white face.  Early versions most likely had embroidered facial features and/or buttons to create eyes.  Whether these early handmade versions were for the children of slaves or for the children the makers were enslaved to care for is uncertain.  What is certain is the concept originated with ingenious African female slaves. 

Post-slavery, commercially-produced Topsy-Turvy's heads often share the same ethnicity, black.  Eyes can vary from open on both heads or one doll asleep and the other awake.  Modern Topsy-Turvy dolls, handmade or commercially produced for the tourist trade in the Caribbean and elsewhere, as illustrated by my two circa 1980s examples from Jamaica and Barbados in the first two images, are quite possibly spinoffs of those made by African slaves whose slave vessels docked in these regions.

Three additional Topsy-Turvy dolls from my collection are illustrated in the next two images.
One composition and two cloth Topsy-Turvy dolls, circa 1930s, 1980s, and 1940s, respectively; the 1930s doll is like the doll on page 90 of Perkins' 1st book.   (See her unclothed here.)  The smallest doll is featured on page 39 of The Definitive Guide to Collecting Black Dolls.  The cloth doll on the far right is the one illustrated previously in before and after images, shared from my book, Black Dolls A Comprehensive Guide...
Hidden underneath:
The same dolls, as shown in the previous image, are flipped over to display the white dolls.
Topsy-Turvy, an ordinary-appearing doll had a hidden agenda; it was cleverly and originally devised to serve an intended, yet, concealed purpose.

After publishing this post, I checked two additional black memorabilia publications:
  • The Art and History of Black Memorabilia by Larry Vincent Buster (2000).  According to his biography, Mr. Buster's master's thesis on black memorabilia was the groundwork for his book.  On pages 129 and 130, he writes, "The world of black dolls is steeped in history and lore, with roots that are long and deep.  Many of the most treasured dolls today have the humblest of origins, fashioned by the hands of anonymous black seamstresses, craftsmen, and other plain folk ...  Among the most unusual and prized folk dolls is the Topsy Turvy doll, which originated in the antebellum South."
  • Black Americana A Personal Collection by Darrell A. Smith (1988) contains two examples of  Topsy-Tuvy dolls circa 1930s and late-1800s, respectively.
Topsy-Turvy has been the subject of poems and doll advertisements.  In the book, Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights by Robin Bernstein (New York University Press, 2011) the poem, “The Topsy Turvy Doll” glorifies the white doll and in 11 words projects inferiority onto the black doll.

The following screen snapshot of an unknown manufacturer's Topsy-Turvy doll ad is included in Bernstein's book:

Note the time frame of antebellum and postbellum as the original of Topsy-Turvy dolls has been used by more than one researcher.


On August 26, 2019, Mr. Bob Nerbovig shared photos of a Topsy-Turvy doll that his mother purchased during the 1960s.  With his permission, his photos are shared below along with his description of this family heirloom.

The black doll wears a red floral-print dress.

Knots of yarn create her hair.  Her facial features are embroidered.

The white doll wears a green floral-print dress.  She also has embroidered facial features.

Yellow yarn was used for this doll's hair.

Bob described his Topsy-Turvey as follows:  We have a very nice black/white topsy turvy doll. They have heart lips and the same pattern dress, red on one side, green on the other. 

Based on the pictures, Bob's Topsy-Turvy, while purchased during the 1960s, could date back to the 1950s or earlier.  This doll is a nice example of a handmade Topsy-Turvy.  Thank you again, Bob, for sharing the pictures and allowing me to share them here.


Follow my Dolls for Sale blog

Please visit and "Like" The Doll Blogs: When Dolls Speak I Listen


limbe dolls said...

Interesting and well-researched post. I had a Little Red Riding Hood topsy turvy doll when I was a child. Red Riding Hood was on one side, Grandma was on the other. If you took of Grandma's bonnet, there was a wolf face on the other side of her head. I never knew that topsy turvy dolls were originally black on one side and white on the other until I read your blog and your books.

Zendelle said...

Thank you for this well written article on Topsy Turvy dolls. You may be correct in your assertion that TTs were first made by slaves - however, I have seen no actual evidence or documentation to back up that claim. Ms. Reno gives no references or footnotes for her information that they date prior to the Civil War. There seem to be no actual dolls or documention of dolls dating before 1890. My own belief is that TTs originated with Uncle Tom's Cabin, which was the second most popular book (after the Bible) of the 19th century. The Christian, anti-slavery theme of the novel (not the racist slapstick stage shows that it was later turned into) appealed to readers of all races, and its two young female characters were natural subjects for dollmakers. While some historians assert that a TT enables a child to cover up the "shameful" side of the doll, I see another interpretation: a TT enables a child to have two completely equal dolls, for the price of one. Of course I have no historical documentation for my theory either! Just my opinion. Thanks for all the work you do on this blog.

Male Doll World said...

Thank you for this post that was very informative. I enjoyed learning about Topsy Turvy dolls.

Unknown said...

Thank you for a very informative piece. While not a collector of Topsy dolls, I very much enjoyed reading about the different theories of their origin.

Muff said...

This rather reminds me of those new dolls that had two faces back to back and one face could be hidden by a wig. They didn't stay in the stores very long as I've already forgotten their names.

Even if the origins are unclear it's quite a clever idea. Rag dolls by nature are perfect for being halved since they are more about squishing and hugging than trying to stand them upright.

Excellent post!

Black Doll Enthusiast said...

Hi Paulette,

On further research, I believe the doll my sister had momentarily was like the one you had. I did not remember Grandma when I published this post and I was too busy to call my sister to get details. The storybook dolls were an interesting concept as an offshoot of the original Topsy Turvy. Thanks for reading.


Black Doll Enthusiast said...

Thanks for reading and for sharing your theory about Topsy Turvy dolls, Zendelle.

I agree that companies rushed to capitalize on the original Topsy Turvy dolls with commercial productions of Topsy Turvy storybook characters and characters from other books, such as Uncle Tom's Cabin.

I stand firm in my belief that the doll originated with slaves for a couple of reasons.

It has been well documented that upon arrival to their strange new lands, to prevent communication amongst slaves (as a means to gain full control over them) those who spoke the same language were separated. Eventually verbal communication was accomplished between slaves, but reading and writing remained unlawful. As a result, early African American history was for the most part verbally passed down from one generation to the next. This would definitely thwart written documentation of something as simple as a doll's origin.

Therefore, your claim that there is no written evidence of documentation of the dolls prior to 1890 supports the belief that the dolls originated from a person who lacked the ability to document their invention.

It also stands to reason that if the Topsy Turvy doll had originated from someone other than a slave, the maker’s name would be documented and have become part of the annals of doll-making history. Where is the proof that a doll company made the first TT or created the concept? There is none.

While Reno's book does not include footnotes to support her belief that the dolls originated in the antebellum South, she is not alone in this belief as another (and possibly more) black memorabilia enthusiasts and authors have cited the same origin, as I noted in my addendum to this post. Reno's book does include a very extensive bibliography. One or more of the references she lists may be the source of her Topsy Turvy origin claim.


Black Doll Enthusiast said...

Thank you for reading and for commenting, MDW, Saliyah, and Muff. I was able to increase my TT knowledge while writing this post. It increased even more with additional research conducted after publishing it.

I agree, Muff, the TT idea is quite clever. I believe they can be categorized as one of the first self-portrait dolls. With the black doll, the slave portrayed herself in her role as mammy and the white doll represents the child she cared for.


RLC said...

When I was a child, my neighbor had a Red Ridinghood Topsy Turvy, just like Limbe Dolls version. In fact, it scared me, as I recall.

I was intrigued by the discussion of the dolls origins and it reminded me of Kimberly Wallace-Sanders's book 'Mammy: A Century of Race, Gender, and Southern Memory' which has a really nice analysis of the Topsy-Turvy doll, along with other images. I recommend her book, because she talks about all sorts of depictions of "Mammy" and it is very well cited. (The librarian in me likes things that are well cited.)

Thank you for the article, I always like it when your blog talks about historical doll topics.

Black Doll Enthusiast said...

Thanks for suggesting Wallace-Sanders' book, RLC. I will first see if I can borrow it from the local library. I checked, but it does not appear to be available on Kindle. It may be a book that I prefer to hold and own anyway. If not available at the library, I'll purchase a copy.

I enjoy mixing in the old with the new. So you will definitely see more historical doll topics from me.


Black Doll Enthusiast said...

I was able to use Amazon.com's "Look Inside" feature to search and find the "topsy turvy" text in Wallace-Sanders' book, which as you indicated, RLC, is very well cited. The antebellum South origin is supported and the two-head theory discussed. This is definitely a book I want to own.

Thanks again for suggesting it to me.


RLC said...

You're welcome. I'm glad it's going to be helpful for you.

Zendelle said...

Thanks for your reply. To be clear, I agree with you that Topsy Turvy dolls most likely originated as homemade dolls; however, my only concern is the date which they originated. Obviously there would be no contemporary written records of slave made dolls; but cloth dolls, like quilts, can be dated by the fabrics they are made from, and to my knowledge no Topsy Turvy exists that can be dated earlier than the 1990s. If you know of any examples, please correct me. Another way their earlier origin may have been documented is in oral histories or published remembrances of former slaves, and perhaps this is out there, but not yet discovered by somebody with an interest in dolls. Your opinion may well be correct, but I still await the evidence. Thanks again for all you do to document doll history.

Black Doll Enthusiast said...

You're welcome, Zendelle. If I see that additional follow-up Topsy Turvy posts are necessary beyond what I have already written here and in the subsequent post regarding the TT DVD, they will be published. For now, I have moved on.


Kwei-lin said...

Thank you so much or your writeup. I've been collecting these for a long short while and I'm trying to set eyes on a picture of a topsy turvy that was probably made in the antebellum period. I've seen handmade cloth dolls estimated to have been made in the 1870's and 1880s. I've seen a picture of one that was estimated as the 1860's, that "seemed" earlier than the ones from the late 19th century, but it's not clear that the dealer was doing more than guessing about its age. I also found an article by Jim O'Loughlin in New Literary History Vol 31 No 3 (2000) page 586, where he refers with no apparent documentation to ". . .the popular Topsy-Turvy doll (which predates Uncle Tom's Cabin) . . " So I'm stumped too. Frankly I'm not even convinced that topsy turvy dolls went by that name until the late 1800s when the term took on a lighter tone and started to be identified with the realm of children. People could write a whole little book about these dolls.

Black Doll Enthusiast said...

Good luck setting the eyes of your Topsy Turvy doll, Kwei-lin.

The DVD on Topsy Turvy dolls mentioned here, offered by the United Federation of Doll Clubs was most helpful in my research. Their DVD probably has an example similar to your doll.


Kwei-lin said...

I can not thank you enough for referring me to this source. I thought I'd looked through almost everything helpful that was either borrowable or cheap out there, with this blog being an excellent starting point. But no, here's another resource that has a slightly different viewpoint. Yay!

Black Doll Enthusiast said...

You are most welcome, Kwei-lin. Thank you for letting me know the additional source of information on Topsy Turvy dolls has been helpful for you.


Kwei-lin said...

Yes, lots of information; I think locating probable examples of antebellum topsy turvy dolls is more than difficult, although there are probably some examples of extremely old black rag dolls on display at a special exhibit at the Mingei Museum in San Diego http://www.mingei.org/exhibition/black-dolls/--anyway, thanks again

Unknown said...

Hello, ive been looking through endless websites trying to find information on the plastic topsy turvy doll (picture with the large and small cloth ones) ,i have this doll but i have no idea how much its worth,the year its from,etc. if you have any information could you please let me know? It would be appriciated :)

Black Doll Enthusiast said...

Hi Karah - I am not sure which doll you are referring to as "plastic." None of the pictured dolls are made of plastic. What I would suggest for you to do is to conduct a "completed" auction search on eBay for Topsy Turvy dolls. In the results see if a doll like yours "sold" and at what price. You can base the valuation around that price as a judge for what the doll "might" sell for in the current auction market.

I do not provide doll valuations but am always happy to sell one of my books that provide "book value" of a doll based on the year the book was published.

Good luck in your search.


K Lum said...

I've been studying topsy turvy dolls for well over a year now, and have hit a research wall which should be solvable. It is apparent that the great majority of topsy turvy dolls from 1890 to 1970 were made for a general (i.e. white) audience. I've also run into accounts of caucasians with very fond memories their topsy turvy dolls. But I'm wondering if Afro-American children during this time played with topsy-turvies. Or were they too uncomfortable for them and their parents due to the themes of subservience and sometimes caricature.

K Lum said...

If you haven't found out yet, the "plastic" doll with the shiny head was made of composition by the Madame Alexander company. There is a detailed picture elsewhere on this blog, and these dolls commonly pop up on ebay. Some of the black halves have hair coming out of holes in the head and others don't. I don't know the year they were made. I've seen an estimated date of 1936 and also 1948. The Madame Alexander company made a line of several downscale composition dolls from the mid-1930s to 1940s and the topsy turvy doll was one of them.

Tina Dawn said...

I collect topsy turvy dolls. I am white, and my family had a beautiful cloth doll when I was young and somehow over the years it got lost. I have no idea where we got our lovely doll(s). When I grew up (I am 64 now) I started looking for a similar doll and now have quite a few. Most are the black girl/white girl, but a few are red riding hood/wolf/grandma. A couple are a asleep/awake white baby. My main interest is in a vintage doll with an embroidered face, and pretty calico type fabric for the dresses. When I display my dolls, it can be the black girl or the white girl, it depends on which has the prettier embroidered features and the nicest vintage dress. Sometimes they are both so nice I have to keep changing them back and forth so I can enjoy them! Your post was very interesting and I appreciate having it to read and teach me more about the dolls. My sisters and I have a blog and I plan on showing off my collection one of these days.

Black Doll Enthusiast said...

Thank you for sharing your appreciation for Topsy Turvy dolls and for taking the time to read this post and share that you found it interesting. If you do write a post about your collection, please post another comment and share the link. Thanks again!


Ginger said...

Thank you for explaining this! I am confused on one point- the historic folk dolls link says enslaved children would hide the black side of the doll, and the black dolls guide says they would hide the white side. Which was it?

Black Doll Enthusiast said...

Hi Ginger,

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. The two theories regarding which side of the Topsy Turvy doll was played with by black and white children varies based on who relates the story. From an imaginative child's perspective, I would like to think both sides were played with, but honestly, we will probably never know which theory is correct.


Karalyn Hubbard said...

Thank you for this article. I just bought one of these dolls yesterday in an antique store and another customer took me aside and told me that I need to research the doll as they thought I had a real gem. I will have to do more research to find out what it may be worth but am more familiar now after reading your article, thank you. I'm going to guess mine is from the 40's era. It has painted faces but twirled up yarn for hair. It is all hand made.

Black Doll Enthusiast said...

Thank you Karalyn for letting me know this post was helpful. You might want to view completed eBay auctions for Topsy-Turvy dolls to see if a doll similar to your has sold recently. The values in green will be the amount at which any doll sold. Black values are unsold items, but there may have been one similar to yours listed recently, sold or unsold. Here is a link to completed eBay Topsy-Turvy auctions.

Good luck with your research.


Karalyn Hubbard said...

Thank you, I will check that out. You have been so very helpful! :)

Black Doll Enthusiast said...

You're welcome!


Unknown said...

I just came from a trip to Cuba and they sell them in different sizes in the flea market. They are black on one side and white on the other, with patchwork dresses and matching headwraps. I bought one for my niece and one for my goddaughter. They are reproductions, obviously, but there may be vintage ones in the country for collectors. Now that the embargo is lifted, it's a great reason to take a fairly inexpensive trip to the island!

Black Doll Enthusiast said...

Thank you for sharing this information.


CissyLovesDolls said...

I cannot thank you enough for this article. I recently acquired a decent collection of dolls in those dolls I don't even know how many topsy-turvy dolls are in there but I have one that is exactly like one of the pictures here I only started to research them did not know the history and I find it sad and amazing out same time that children had to live that way. All I know is my heart goes out for all children all people and I don't care what color they are I am white I have relatives that are black nieces great-nieces and I'm proud of every one of them and I love them all with all my heart too bad the world couldn't think in a different way even after all these years. I myself am 59 years old and I do realize God made all of us we all bleed the same love the same hurt the same we are the same the difference in skin color is just that just a difference it doesn't matter to me I am not prejudiced of anybody's Faith color anything I look at it God made us all. I will take pictures of all my topsy-turvy this afternoon and repost if that's allowed I would like to share my collection with others and I would like also to find more information. All of mine both have heads not Red Riding Hood or the wolf or Grandma one side is blackface the other side is a white face and they're beautiful.

Black Doll Enthusiast said...

It pleases me that this post was helpful for you, CissyLovesDolls. I enjoyed viewing the photos of the dolls you sent by email. The one that is not a Topsy Turvy is a mammy, probably made for the souvenir trade and sold on a Caribbean island. I don't provide values for dolls, but you can always check completed eBay auctions to see if similar dolls like yours have sold. For your convenience, here is a link to completed Topsy Turvy auctions on eBay.

Thanks again for reading this post and for commenting.


ebor said...

I have one of these dolls, Brazilian, which would sort of tie in with the Afro-Caribbean origins, but instead of being black and white, this one is black and brown. Also, it isn't a rag doll but rather plastic, more of a sort of cheap collectors' doll. I'm not even sure where it came from except that it ended up with my daughter's toys. Each doll has a fruit-basket hat on her head a la Carmen Miranda and also has metal hoop earrings and a plastic bead necklace. It looks like a combination of pop and voodoo! Thanks for helping me find a name for it, as I'm going to put it on Freecycle and see if I can find an appreciative home for it, as my daughter doesn't want it anymore.

Black Doll Enthusiast said...

You're welcome, Ebor!

Good luck finding a new home for your Topsy-Turvy.


ebor said...

So far, no responses! :(

Black Doll Enthusiast said...

Give it some time. Someone might be interested soon.


Unknown said...

I have one. Eugene doll and novelty corp. chocolate and vanilla made for victory dolls that was made much earlier than 1990's maybe 50's or 60's. beautifully made, and in mint condition, but can not find the info but have seen pic of doll loving loved on and really bad condition.

solartoys said...

We have a very nice black/white topsy turvy doll. They have heart lips and the same pattern dress, red on one side, green on the other. I would like you to see the pics. Where can I send you 2 pictures? thanks...bob

LatinLady said...

Fantastic job, Debbie ... Thank you.

Sharing an article I recently came across with yet another perspective, which may be very relevant: https://afram101autumn2015.wordpress.com/2015/11/20/little-slaves-and-their-dolls/

Black Doll Enthusiast said...

Thank you LatinLady for the link to another perspective on the Topsy-Turvy doll. It is an informative post.