Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Black Debutante by American Character

Debutante, a 28-inch full-body composition doll with brown eyes was made in 1939 by American Character.

Debutante by American character has never made an appearance here on the blog.  She and I both felt a blog about her was long overdue.

This 28-inch-tall, full-body composition walker was purchased during the late 1990s/early 2000s from an online seller through an ad placed on one of AOL's then-free doll message boards.  The seller was the daughter of Debutante's former owner.  The daughter was liquidating the mother's collection.  I was snail mailed photos of Debutante along with photos of two other black composition dolls.  I purchased all three.  Of the three, Debutante, because of her beauty and rarity, is my favorite.

Her black curly wig that extends below her waist replaces her original wig, which was probably mohair.

Debutante has been rewigged and nicely redressed in a yellow Dotted Swiss dress.  Her composition had been repainted prior to her arrival and I was uncertain at that time if the doll was authentically black.  This uncertainty was documented in my first book, The Definitive Guide to Collecting Black Dolls.  Some years later, I was able to verify that black versions were made.  At this time, however, I do not recall the source of the verification.  I initially thought Comp Dolls Identification and Price Guide, book 1 by Polly and Pam Judd was the source; however, Debutante's name and description are only listed in this book along with other American Character dolls.  After I locate the source that documents black versions, I will update this post.

Debutante is a very heavy doll with chunky legs.

While recently taking updated photos of this lovely doll, I noticed the elastic in her yellow Dotted Swiss undies was stretched. As I was adjusting the waist, I felt a piece of paper, which was a folded note tucked inside all these years! The note documents the doll's name and maker.

This note was found tucked inside Debutante's undies.

The note is labeled, Compliments of PENN/NY Doll Club. The handwriting reads:

Page 42 Modern Collector’s Doll II white on [white one]. American Character 28 inch Debutante Walker. All composition. Unusual walking mech. Spring. Cryer in tummy.” 
The "white one" indicates a white version is shown on page 42 of Patricia Smith's Modern Collector's Dolls Second Series.  I immediately retrieved my copy of this book and scanned the page on which two white versions appear.

Scan from Patricia Smith's book, Modern Collector's Dolls Second Series, page 42, documents two white Debutante dolls, a blonde (upper right); and an auburn-haired version, lower left.

Note that neither white version shown in Smith's book has brown eyes.  Their eyes are blue and gray-blue for the blonde- and auburn-haired dolls, respectively.

My doll's Ma-Ma voice box or cryer has a label onto which is written “35 AMC Negro.” This was probably an auction sticker.

Debutante is with a variety of other dolls.

Debutante is one of the dolls that keeps Layla company.  Debutante and Layla (my Russian-made beauty and the first doll purchased in 2018) can be seen (again for some) in the above photo.

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  1. What a superlative doll! I don't own any American Character composition dolls, but I have several hard plastic and hard plastic/vinyl Sweet Sue dolls. American Character dolls have lovely faces -- slightly wistful, in my opinion. Debutante's original wig could not possibly have been as splendid as the one she has now!

    1. Thank you, Gini! From the moment I saw the snail mailed photos of Debutante, which I probably still have (somewhere in the doll room), I knew she had to come live here.

      Her former owner obviously took great care of her. The wig is nice, but I need to clean it. The lower portion looks dull or actually dusty. Otherwise she is exceptional. I have never seen another like her except for the two white versions in Pat Smith's book.


  2. She looks like she has been really loved. I know she glad to be with you. When I saw her cute chunky legs I knew she was well taken of.

    1. Thanks, Brini. Her former owner took great care of her and the care has continued here (even if her socks and shoes are not period appropriate). She is still loved.



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