Monday, July 29, 2019

Who Had Them Before Me?

Circa 1920s-1930s composition dolls, 27- and 29-inches tall, respectively. The boy's suit, tie, and shirt were tailor-made by a former doting collector. After he arrived here, this doting collector had the wool suit dry cleaned.  The girl was dressed in this infant-size dress and matching headband after she arrived.  It had been worn by another doll that arrived before her.

Who had them before me and what was their purpose?  Were they played with or purchased as a collectible?  Were they loved and appreciated?

I think I've written about this before... wondering in whose hands or in how many hands my preowned dolls have been prior to arriving here  Knowing a doll's provenance is important; however, sometimes, based on the doll's age, that is impossible. 

One of the reasons I wrote, The Doll Blogs, When Dolls Speak, I Listen was to document the chosen dolls' experiences with me and the origin of their acquisition.  Their source and experience(s) here with me, partially document their existence in the doll world.

This circa 1870s black couple was a gift from Elizabeth Darrah, whose great-grandmother made the dolls.  Her great-grandmother, Frances "Fanny" Skinner Henry was born in 1849.  Members of the Skinner Henry family were active abolitionists, according to Ms. Darrah.

I have an extensive collection of dolls that date back to the late 1800s.  These include, among others, dolls made of cloth, bisque, composition, rubber, and hard plastic mediums.  I am especially fond of dolls from the mid-1950s, most of which are made of hard plastic, which was popular in doll making during that decade.   My 1950s dolls originated from US and European manufacturers.  Most European doll makers used the darkest coloring for their dolls as illustrated in this group photo of a variety of dolls from England, Ireland, and New Zealand, while American-made dolls, like Madame Alexander Cynthia, were usually medium brown in color.
I am also just as fond of the dolls made before I was born.  Those from the 1930s (and prior, like the lovely couple in the first photograph) represent the era of my mother's doll playing years, although I am sure most of her dolls were hand made.  The popular medium used for manufactured dolls in the 1930s was composition, a mixture of sawdust, glue and other materials that were compressed together to create a sturdy composite.

Recently, one of the members of my doll group asked, "Do you ever wonder about who may have originally owned your antique or vintage dolls?"

I answered, "With every vintage doll I acquire, I often wonder about her previous owners and what 'life' she led before she reached me." To reiterate, for all dolls, vintage-to-modern that I purchase on the secondary market whose origins are unknown, I wonder about their provenance.

These are both 9-inch Topsy-type dolls, standing and seated.  Both have three holes bored in their heads through which tufts of hair or braids extend.  Named after the character in Uncle Tom's Cabin or Life Among the Lowly by Harriet Beecher Stowe, the name Topsy was frequently used for black dolls manufactured during the late 1800s through the 1960s.

A day after the above question was posed, I received an email from someone seeking identification and value for a black doll she inherited.  The doll in question was a circa 1930s 9-inch composition black baby with three tufts of hair.  The owner was told by a family member that "the doll was very racist and was called a 'beater' baby because it was given to the children so they would play with it instead of the more expensive white dolls back in the day." 

Until receipt of that email, I had never in my lifetime heard of a doll referred to as a "beater" baby or a doll that was specifically used for abuse.


These Feel Better Dolls were pulled from the shelves of a New Jersey store because they are considered racist.

The above text regarding a doll's provenance and "beater baby" dolls was written in early 2011.  It had been kept in draft mode since that time.  I decided to publish now after reading about the "Feel Better Dolls" that were recently pulled from a New Jersey store following customer complaints that the doll is racist.  It encourages people to whack the doll "on a wall" to release their frustrations (and feel better, as the label on the doll's stomach instructs).  Because the doll is black and because dolls represent people, rightfully so the doll is highly inappropriate.  In addition to urging people to use the doll for battering, the doll's yarn hair colors of red, green, yellow, and black are closely related to the red, green, gold, and black colors of the Rastafarian flag (gold is often mistaken by non-Rastafarians as yellow).  Red, green, and yellow are the flag colors of many African nations, specifically Ghana.

While the doll came in two other fabric body colors (green and yellow), who in their right mind thought this concept was a good idea?

When I ended the original blog some 8 years ago, I wrote, "Have you ever heard of a beater baby?"  If you too read about the Feel Better Doll, I, unfortunately, know the answer to this question.


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Monday, July 22, 2019

Another Nathaniel Doll

Unnamed doll by Nathaniel

I had wanted this Nathaniel doll for quite some time but hesitated to purchase.  After discovering that Marilyn Bloodworth had planned to sell these at a Lewisburg, TN doll show (which has unfortunately now been canceled), I asked if she would sell one to me.  Marilyn agreed.

I was given the option to purchase a nude doll or one that Marilyn would dress. I chose a nude doll.

This 16-inch all-vinyl doll arrived as shown above in a plastic baggie only wearing gold flat slip-on shoes.  I was happy she had shoes.

First clothing option

In my 18-in doll clothing stash, I found a handmade lavender floral-print romper that fits her well.

I added a lavender headband, pierced her ears, and inserted amethyst-colored stud earrings.

This view from the back illustrates the length of her thick, curly hair.

Because the romper was not the preferred look I wanted to achieve, I opted to use a gold scarf to fashion a full-length, no-sew dress.   The scarf was first wrapped around her lower body and torso. It was carried underneath her left arm, around her back, over her right shoulder and across her breast area, tucking any extra length into the previously wrapped areas as I went along.  A tan and brown ombré scarf serves as a headband.

She wears copper earrings and necklace.

Her stud earrings were replaced with copper hoops, shown above and a copper serpentine necklace was added.

Close-up of the necklace



To add realism, her fingernails and toenails were painted with off-white fingernail polish.

Copper wire bracelet

Copper wire was used to create a simple bracelet for her right wrist.

Gold lamé Roman-style sandals
I ordered a pair of gold lamé Roman-style sandals for her as a final touch.  They are shown in a close-up above and in the next full-view photo.

Her look is complete.

Thank you again, Marilyn, for selling this beautiful doll to me.

Marilyn has additional quantities of the doll available for sale.  She can style the doll for you or sell it nude.  Two of her styled dolls are shown next.

Nathaniel dolls styled and sold by Marilyn Bloodworth

If interested in purchasing a Nathaniel doll, please contact Marilyn through her Facebook page.  From there click the "Message" link.  You may also reach her by email here.


There are countless items to collect and write about. Black dolls chose me.

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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Nancy Ann Storybook Flower Power

Nancy Ann Storybook Flower Power
Flower Power, a Nancy Ann Storybook Doll, is the souvenir doll for Dollology club's annual May Day Luncheon.  The luncheon was held on May 11, 2019.  I saw a picture of Flower Power in a Facebook post the evening of the luncheon and later on April Perlowski's Of Dolls blog in a post published the day after the luncheon.  (See the link to April's post at the end of this post.)

After learning that the doll is porcelain, I hesitated to add her to my collection, but because of her diminutive size, her 1970s theme, and the fact that she is said to be Robert Tonner's last doll under the Phyn & Aero brand, I decided to inquire about additional quantities.  Facebook friends, Phyllis Burns and Vicky Hoff Forbes helped me locate the doll in late May.

This close-up photo, taken while the doll was still attached to the box, illustrates Flower Power's sweet face.
Sculpted by Dianna Effner for Nancy Ann Storybook/Phyn & Aero, the doll is full-body porcelain and stands 6 inches tall.  She has black painted eyes and brown wigged hair.

As illustrated here, her somewhat unruly hair extends to her bottom.
Her crocheted top is orange, white, and pink; it has bell sleeves and an empire waist.

She wears denim pants with frayed hems, the legs of which are accented with colorful floral appliqués.

Flower Power's accessories include brown faux leather sandals, a floral headband, and a multicolored beaded necklace, which remain in baggies attached to the box liner.

Her doll stand is also attached to the box liner.

Temporarily out of the box, Flower Power posed in her bare feet before returning to her box.  
See April's doll wearing her headband, necklace, and shoes, here and read her luncheon coverage here.

Thank you again, Phyllis and Vicky, for helping me locate Flower Power.  She's a gem!


There are countless items to collect and write about. Black dolls chose me.

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Monday, July 15, 2019

I Know I'm One, Do You?

Cowboy Curtis Action Figure, Herman Toys, 1987

No, the title of this post is not paraphrasing Pee-wee Herman's often-spoken line on the 1980s Pee-wee Herman Show, "I know you are, but what am I?"

Along with statues of deer, Pee-wee Herman's front yard on The Pee-wee Herman Show was cluttered with other animals and figures as illustrated above.

Raising a male child of the 80s, The Pee-wee Herman Show was often on in our house when it aired. My son, who was around 4 when he began watching the show, used to think Pee-wee Herman lived in a house on our street.  Like Herman's house on the show, one of our neighbors had a pair of deer statues on their front lawn.  Each time we'd drive past that ranch-style house, my son would exclaim, "There's Pee-wee Herman's house!" and I'd always say, "No it's not. Pee-wee doesn't live there." In hindsight, I should have explained to him that the neighbor had deer statues like the ones on the show.  (The statues are no longer there.  So I assume different people reside there now.)

Even though this post includes a picture of a Cowboy Curtis figure that is fashioned after the role played by Laurence Fishburne on The Pee-wee Herman Show as well as a photo of Pee-wee's house, the show is not the subject of this post.

I was recently required to write an introduction of myself to a non-doll-collecting audience.  The introduction ended with the following statement, "I am a plangonologist (I collect dolls)."

If you collect dolls, did you know that's what you are? It's an odd, infrequently used word.  When it is used, most people do not know the meaning.  I encourage all fellow doll collectors to embrace this term.  The next time someone asks about your hobby, and particularly if they give you any hint of side-eye or appear to question your sanity, let them know you are a plangonologist.  Boldly proclaim it and paraphrase Pee-wee if you'd like by saying, "I'm a plangonologist, what are you?"


There are other infrequently used names for people who collect all types of objects.  If you collect things other than dolls, some of the terms listed below might describe you:

  • Arctophile, Arctophillist: A lover or collector of teddy-bears.
  • Aurelian - Collector of butterflies or moths.
  • Bibliophile - Collector or connoisseur of books.
  • Cartophilist - Collector of cigarette cards etc.
  • Conchologist - An expert in or collector of shells.
  • Copoclephile - A collector of key-rings.
  • Deltiologist - Collector of postcards.
  • Discophile - Collector of gramophone records.
  • Exlibrist - Collector of bookplates.
  • Iconophile - Connoisseur or collector of book illustrations, engravings, etc.
  • Lepidopterist - Expert in or collector of butterflies and moths.
  • Notaphilist - Collector of banknotes.
  • Numismatist - Expert in or collector of coins.
  • Oologist - Expert in or collector of bird's eggs.
  • Paroemiographer - Writer or collector of proverbs.
  • Phillatelist - Collector of postage stamps.
  • Phillumenist - Collector of matches, matchboxes, and books of matches.
  • Porcelainist - Connoisseur or collector of porcelain.
  • Tegestologist - Collector of beermats.
  • Virtuoso - A collector of works of fine art or curios.
Source of the above list:

The first section of this page allows you to guess the meanings of the terms used to describe various collectors.

Check out some plangonologist products that I added to Zazzle.


There are countless items to collect and write about. Black dolls chose me.

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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Black Dolls for Black Kids - Africa

Screen snapshot from Africa News

Mark Ruffin, founder of Black Dolls Matter™ tagged me in a Facebook post announcing this  video coverage of the July 8, 2019, Africa News article, "Black Dolls for Black Kids."

The significance of black children owning black dolls has reached the Motherland, and as Mark indicated, my words have, too.

Visit Mark's Black Dolls Matter™  Etsy shop


There are countless items to collect and write about. Black dolls chose me.

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Tuesday, July 9, 2019

New Headscarf for Ashanti Keisha II

Ashanti Keisha II originally wore an orange headband

I replaced the orange headband, shown above, that Ashanti Keisha II was wearing with a multicolored (red, green, yellow, and black) scarf remnant as shown in the next photo.

The scarf is tied on one side.

The side tie with ends fluffed out in an almost floral shape is illustrated here.

Back on display
Ashanti Keisha II and her sisters Cleopatra A, Cleopatra B, and Ashanti I are seen along with other dolls in this crowded corner of the doll room.

I like the scarf much better on her  than  the orange headband.


There are countless items to collect and write about. Black dolls chose me.

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Friday, July 5, 2019

Will There Be Halle-as-Ariel Dolls?

This photo collage of Halle Bailey and redheads with locs is courtesy of Onlyalisa who wrote, "I’m sure you guys heard about Halle Bailey taking the role as the little Mermaid “live-action movie”... Finger’s double crossed Disney does red locs, because they have much awesomeness to work with.  Hopefully, when the merchandise hit‘s the retail market we get lots of dolls & figures <— I hope."

Onlyaisa, a member of my doll group, created the above photo collage which includes several redheaded loc-wearing women flanked around a large center photo of singer/actress Halle Bailey.  Halle is better known by most as one-half of the singing sister duo Chloe x Halle with Halle being the younger of the two talented singers.  They became an Internet sensation a few years back prior to being signed by Beyoncé's management company.  Both sisters star in the Freeform sit-com grown-ish, a spin-off of ABC's black-ish.

OnlyAlisa's inspiration for the photo collage was Disney's announcement this week of their decision to cast Halle as Ariel in the live-action musical production of The Little Mermaid.  Most people are excited for Halle and applaud Disney for thinking outside the box.  Disney, like many others, realize that a fictional character, such as a singing mermaid, can be represented in live-action (and in animation) by anyone with the necessary talent, as indicated by Rob Marshall, the producer, who made the following statement.

After an extensive search, it was abundantly clear that Halle possesses that rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence and substance — plus a glorious singing voice — all intrinsic qualities necessary to play this iconic role. []

Listen to Halle's glorious singing voice in the following YouTube video where she sings "Unforgettable."

Several Internet users have drawn illustrations of Halle as Ariel.  Twitter user, @BossLogic has imagined Bailey as Ariel to look like this.  Another Twitter user, @AliceXZ illustrated Halle as Ariel like this.  London-based artist, Hayden Williams, envisions Ariel like this.  He wrote in a Facebook post,

#HalleBailey as #Ariel
As someone that grew up on the animated classics, I do prefer when the live action remakes stay true to the originals in many ways, however with TLM, I fully embrace Disney switching things up and casting a black girl to play Ariel. Yes, she had a distinctive look that we all remember, but Ariel’s race was never an integral part of the story. On top of that, she is a mythical creature, so she can be any race. Halle can sing amazingly and is beautiful! Sounds great to me & I am sure she will do a fab job. As long as the cast have amazing chemistry + the story and visuals are amazing, i’ll be happy. Please do share your opinions, but let’s be kind and respectful.
#TheLittleMermaid #Disney #Art

While Williams fully embraces Bailey as Ariel, unfortunately, there are others who feel slighted by Disney's Ariel selection and have voiced their great displeasure with online petitions and at least one known Facebook group (Make Ariel White Again) created in protest.  (?!?)

To counter the petition against Bailey as Ariel, another petition, "Keep Halle Bailey as Ariel" has been started.   (Links to these petitions and Facebook group are not shared here because Disney will do what Disney knows best.)

The original character's red hair does not engrave in stone that all future Ariel characters (animated or human) must be of European descent.  By definition, "In folklore, a mermaid is an aquatic creature with the head and upper body of a female human and the tail of a fish."  Any female human with the appropriate costume can, therefore, portray a mermaid.

In a country where children have been separated from their parents for extended periods with no hope of being reunited; placed in deplorable, crowded conditions in cages with inadequate food, water, and sanitation; with aluminum blankets for cover while they sleep on floors, and God only knows what other physical, mental, and sexual assaults they have and are still facing, for some, the concern over the complexion of a Disney fictional character seems more important.

I remain happy for Halle Bailey, applaud Disney for choosing the best person they felt could portray Ariel, and like Onlyalisa, look forward to seeing the manufacture of dolls and other merchandise to represent the new face of Ariel.  I think red locs would be pretty cool, too.

Congratulations Ms. Bailey!  I know your live-action portrayal of The Little Mermaid will rock!

Read more about Halle at the following links:
IMDb Biography



There are countless items to collect and write about. Black dolls chose me.

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Monday, July 1, 2019

Who Mails a Doll in an Envelope?

A 23-inch doll wrapped in a sheet of thin foam was mailed to me inside two paper priority mail envelopes!

I was shocked that Keisha (doll #4 in my collection) arrived unscathed after seeing how the seller chose to package the doll, as illustrated above.  Thankfully, she made it without issues.  That was shock #2 on the date of delivery.  Shock #1 was a notification email sent from the United States Postal Service at 8:57 p.m. that a package had just been delivered.  It was almost 10 p.m. when I read the message and hurried to the front door to find the doll in the corner of the porch packaged as shown.

Here is Keisha as she was after I removed her from the envelopes and before wiping her face and body with a wet towel.

Close-up of Keisha after wiping her face and body off.
As illustrated in the second photo, Keisha arrived with bare feet wearing her original Kente-cloth-print dress, two yellow beaded necklaces, and a brass-tone bracelet.  Some of the inner portions of the bracelet were turning green, so I removed it.

I decided to make sandals for the doll using sheets of brown foam and cork.  A hot glue gun was used to glue the pieces together.

This is the first version of Keisha's completed sandals.

Keisha wears her new sandals in this full-view photo.  Her two yellow beaded necklaces were draped across her body and I added a black headband, which is better visible in the next picture.

In addition to the black headband, I added black rubber bands to the ends of her braids.

Keisha #4, whose historical character I am unsure about, was photographed with Cleopatra A Keisha, Cleopatra B Keisha, and Ashanti Keisha. 

The Third World series of dolls that Keisha is from were dressed as African American historical figures.  It is possible that Keisha #4 is another version of Ashanti Keisha.  Her dress is identical to Ashanti Keisha's dress.  She might be missing a headwrap and an additional cloth that would be worn over the dress.  Her complexion is also darker than Ashanti Keisha's.  In fact, of all four dolls, she has the deepest complexion.  Perhaps the company made a medium brown and a dark brown Ashanti Keisha.  Ashanti Keisha and Keisha #4 have the same hairstyle.

After Ashanti #2 (Keisha #4) was photographed with the other Keisha dolls, I decided to add a cutout design to her sandals similar to what was done for the sandals I made for Ashanti #1 and Cleopatra B.

Using pinking shears, I cut out two strips of brown foam and glued each to the forefoot area of each sandal.

The black headband was replaced with the orange one illustrated here.  Gold-tone round earrings were added.

A gold-tone beaded necklace was draped between the two yellow beaded necklaces that Keisha arrived wearing.  I created a replacement bracelet using a tan beaded necklace by wrapping it around her wrist several times.

Looking as good as she did in approximately 1984 when she entered the doll market, Ashanti Keisha posed for this final photograph prior to joining her sisters in the doll room.
Related Links:
Ashanti Keisha Joins Cleopatra A Keisha

Sandals for Ashanti Keisha

Cleopatra B Keisha Joins Ashanti and Cleopatra A


There are countless items to collect and write about. Black dolls chose me.

Thank you for following, commenting, and sharing using the share button below.

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