Friday, May 25, 2018

From Caricature to Celebration: A Brief History of African-American Dolls

My Chatty Cathy Family:  Chatty Cathy (Ashton Drake), Tiny Chatty Baby, Tiny Chatty Brother, Tiny Chatty Baby, 1960s Chatty Cathy, 1960s formerly white-now-dyed-brown Chatty Cathy
In January of this year, the registrar of the Field House Museum in St. Louis, Missouri requested use of a high-resolution photograph of my original 1960s Black Chatty Cathy (the second doll from the right in the above photograph). Their desire was to include the photo on an informational wall panel in an exhibit on African American dolls they were planning. I photographed and submitted photos of my doll to the museum and recently received the following images of the second exhibit room where the Chatty Cathy photo hangs. With permission of Christina Latzer, Registrar, Field House Museum, those images (along with cropped close-ups I created) are shared below:

Close-up of the dolls in the photograph immediately above this one

Another angle of the dolls in the photo immediately above this one

The photograph of my Chatty Cathy is shown above along with descriptive text and courtesy credit.

Courtesy credit extended to me by Field House Museum for use of my photo.

Ms. Latzer wrote:
The title of the exhibit is "From Caricature to Celebration: A Brief History of African-American Dolls", and the photos I sent you are just of the second room (it is on display in the third floor of our historic house), where the transitional and celebratory aspects of the exhibit are displayed. The first room represents the earlier period, with a few traditional dolls from Africa, and a number of caricatures and stereotypes, primarily Topsy-types and mammies. 

The exhibit, which extends through July 15, 2018, is described as follows:


Toys are constant companions throughout childhood and beyond. Today’s children can find themselves represented in their toys, but this hasn’t always been the case. From Caricature to Celebration: A Brief History of African-American Dolls takes you on a tour of dolls spanning more than 100 years. With more than 80 dolls on display, you will take a journey from the earliest days of traditional African dolls and racial stereotypes through the years of assimilation and early acceptance.
The exhibit page of the museum's website ( contains additional information.  If you are in the St. Louis, Missouri area, do plan a visit.

Field House Museum
634 South Broadway
St. Louis, MO 63102

For hours of operation, directions, and admission, navigate here.


Historical Fact About the Field House Museum:  The Eugene Field House is a historic house museum at 634 South Broadway in St. Louis, Missouri. Built in 1845, it was the home of Roswell Field, an attorney for Dred Scott in the landmark Dred Scott v. Sandford court case.

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  1. Hi Debbie !
    It might interest you ...

    1. Thank you for the video and links regarding the Neff Black Doll Exhibition in France. I covered it here.



  3. Neat. Congratulations on having a doll included in the exhibit. Were you interested in starting a doll museum one day? I thought you'd mentioned that before.

    1. It's just an image of my doll that is included in the exhibition. Yes, having a permanent place of public display locally for some of my dolls remains a goal. Thanks for the congrats!


  4. Such a wonderful display. I wish I could visit all the museums that feature black doll displays. So much history can be learned through dolls.

    1. You are right, Brini, so much history can be learned from dolls. They are a three-dimensional representation of man's perception of man.



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