Monday, June 26, 2017

First and Most Recent Norah Wellings Dolls


Circa 1930s 14-inch Norah Wellings Islander

Norah Wellings began making dolls in 1919 as the chief doll designer for Chad Valley Dolls of England.  She formed her own company in 1926 (Victoria Toy Works) where she continued making dolls along the style of Chad Valley dolls, made of cloth (velvet, velveteen, plush and felt) with mask faces or molded faces underneath.  Many of her dolls were sold as souvenirs for the tourist industry.  Her dolls were also sold on cruise ships.

Close-up of 14-inch Norah Wellings Islander illustrates her expressive face and glass eyes, which seem to look through you.
I acquired my first Norah Wellings doll during the late 1990s/early 2000s from a local antiques dealer.  It is a 14-inch doll made of stuffed velveteen with molded facial features, glass eyes, smiling mouth, and painted teeth.  This circa 1930s doll represents a native islander and wears only a wheat-colored and orange grass skirt and one orange arm bracelet.  The doll's left leg has orange and wheat-colored grass tied around the calf.  There is a dark area in the same location on the right leg where the same material had been tied around that leg.

Hand made scarf (by me) to cover this doll's missing hair
Some of the black mohair used for her hair is missing from the crown of her head.   I had great intentions of replacing the missing hair, but never did.  Instead, I made her a head scarf using a piece of a brown and gold cotton scarf.

I have always wanted at least one additional Norah Wellings doll to upgrade the first one shown in the above photos.  That opportunity presented itself with the eBay purchase of my most recent Norah Wellings doll.  (Thanks again DS for sharing the link.)

14-inch Norah Wellings Nassau souvenir doll

She has such a lovely face!
Except for the usual cheek and nose rubs to the velveteen, the newest-to-me Norah Wellings doll is in excellent condition.  She still has all her original jewelry and has both her original black cloth tags.

Cloth tag on right side of neck reads "Nassau."

Many Norah Wellings dolls found today no longer contain the cloth tag that identifies them as Wellings dolls.  My doll's identifying tag remains intact on the bottom of her right foot.

The tag sewn to the right side of her neck reads:  Nassau.  Her right foot tag reads:  Made in England by Norah Wellings.  Her sewn-on gold dress, made of velveteen, has two felt orange circles on the front of the skirt and two on the back of the skirt.  Her short curly brown hair almost matches her complexion.  This circa 1950s doll was probably sold as a souvenir doll on the S. S. Nassau cruise ship, which sailed under this name from 1951 through 1961 before the name was changed to the S. S. Acapulco.

Both are delightfully lovely dolls.  Their smiles make me smile.
The Nassau and Islander display well together.
Links of Interest
Norah Wellings Dolls 1930s to 1960s by Denise Van Patten
See more Wellings dolls here.
See a rare, 36-inch doll here.
Allwin and Chad Valley Dolls

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11 comments:

  1. These dolls are so pretty, and in great shape. I wish that tourist sites still had dolls like these.

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  2. Those smiles! Those eyes! Each doll is cute on her own, but even cuter (and clearly happier!) with a best friend.

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    1. Yes, those smiles, those, eyes: Norah Wellings was truly a gifted artist. Best friends have a way of making you happy, don't they, Gini?

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  3. Aren't they gorgeous. At first I thought maybe your first doll was a Joséphine Baker portrait doll, especially as it came from the early 30s & especially with her eyes and smile. :)

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    1. They really are gorgeous, Julius! Thank you! Wellings was ahead of her time. Her dolls were so very realistic looking compared to most dolls made then.

      There are felt Josephine Baker dolls that depict her in the banana skirt. I'm not sure if Wellings made made one that represents Baker, however.

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    2. Oh wow!! I didn't know there were official Joséphine dolls! When I was at school I made a Joséphine Baker rag doll for art class...long lost to time unfortunately as the Lynn Whitfield mini series based on her life had been released. So I was slightly obsessed by JB! I'll have to google her dolls!

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    3. Lenci made one during the 1930s. Several other companies made their versions. The Lenci one looks like a child with boobs, but it's the most popular and usually sells for mega bucks. There is a photo of Josephine Baker in her dressing room with the doll in the background at the link:

      Josephine Baker with doll in backgroun

      Here is the actual Lenci doll.

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  4. Your dolls are so sweet. That woman was incredibly talented to be able to not only create smiling faces that look so good but to do it in velveteen!
    Thanks for your pictures and those you linked to. This was very interesting.

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Thank you! Your comments are appreciated!