Thursday, February 13, 2020

Saralee's Sibling

17-inch stuffed-vinyl doll by Ideal presumed to be Saralee's older sibling

After several years' search for a sibling of Ideal Saralee, at least one of them, I am blessed to now own one.  After discovering the existence of Saralee Negro Doll in Myla Perkins' book, Black Dolls an Identification and Value Guide 1820-1991 (1993), a two-year search for Saralee commenced.   My Saralee, seen here, arrived in the late 1990s.

In Judith Izen's Collector's Guide to Ideal Dolls (volumes 1 and 2; 1994 and 1998), the author included illustrations of head sculpts of other dolls that were supposed to be part of Saralee's doll family.  Izen's book indicates that these dolls were never made.  It was later brought to my attention by Gerald Corbin, the owner of an all-vinyl 1950s doll by Ideal, that Saralee's brother was made.  Corbin's doll is shown here and is featured in my second book, Black Dolls a Comprehensive Guide to Celebrating, Collecting, and Experiencing the Passion (2008).   From this information, I knew at least one Saralee sibling had been created, a brother, or an all-vinyl doll dressed by the owner as a boy.

Other collectors are known to own dolls referred to as Saralee's brother; however, their dolls are not all vinyl.  Like Saralee, their dolls have a cloth body and bent baby legs.  Their dolls' head sculpts are clearly different than Saralee's as illustrated in this comparison headshot photo shared by Black Legacy Images of Saralee and a doll identified as her brother.

After seeing baby siblings, I knew at least two versions of Saralee's siblings existed, presumably both boys.

This is one of my doll's first photos upon arrival taken before she was sanitized.

My doll was offered on eBay as "Saralee."  When I viewed the auction and saw pictures of the doll's stuffed-vinyl body and examined the photos of the doll's facial features, which are broader than Saralee's, I knew it was a sibling.  I also knew it was not Saralee because Saralee has a cloth body. Dressed as a girl, I wondered if she was a brother like Gerald Corbin's doll or perhaps actually released as a girl.  Corbin described his doll as measuring "approximately 14 inches."  My doll has a very similar face as his doll and an all-vinyl body but she stands 17 inches tall.  It is possible that Corbin's indication of "approximately 14 inches" is off and that his doll and mine are the same doll.  It is also possible that my doll is a big sister (or big brother).

Because the doll arrived dressed as a girl, I have not changed her gender.  I did, however, have to work with her before I could incorporate her into the doll population.  The doll was quite dirty with a thick musty, mildewy odor.

In preparation for cleaning the body, I removed the dress and the hand-sewn panties which had yellowed with age and were very dirty.

A note was made of the head and back marks which are,
(on the neck, and)
(on the upper back)
The head marks are identical to the head marks of the doll identified as Saralee's baby brother.  I do not know the markings of the 14-inch boy owned by Corbin.

Cleaning and Airing Out

I removed and hand-washed her dress and underwear.  Both items were laid flat to air dry.

Baking soda wash

Initially, I used liquid soap to wash the doll's entire body (without immersing it in water).  That did not remove the stench.  I created a paste using baking soda and water and applied this all over the doll.  This was left on for 24 hours before rinsing off.

Close-up of baking soda wash

After the baking soda was washed off, Saralee's sibling was laid supine near an open window.

Since fresh air and sunlight work well together to remove odors, instead of taking the doll outside, I opened a window and placed her on a sunlit windowsill for a few hours after washing off the baking soda.

I decided she needed direct sunlight and more fresh air exposure.  So I tied a piece of string around the doll's neck, fastened the end of the string to a wire clothes hanger, and hung the doll outside for a week to 10 days, bringing her in each evening.  (A quicker fix to remove the smell completely would have been to remove her head and the original stuffing and restuff her.  I might still do this.)

With the smell finally faded enough that I can only sense a hint of it if I hold the doll close to my nose, I redressed her in her clean undies and dress as illustrated next.

Her undies are still yellow, but they are clean.  It could also be that the fabric was originally yellow.
As illustrated in the full-length photos in this post, the doll arrived with bare feet.  I found a pair of burgundy Mary-Jane-style shoes that fit her chubby feet, but she needed socks.

A white knit headband was used to make Saralee's sister a pair of socks.

I used my headband-sock-making method to make a pair of socks for this girl.  See "headband socks" link under Related References.

Wearing her clean dress and undies, new socks and shoes, here she poses all cleaned up.

Saralee's Sister (Kaavia) and Saralee

Saralee's sister posed for a couple of final photos with the original Saralee Negro Doll by Ideal, who was once thought to be the only Saralee doll produced by Ideal.

Their subtle facial differences and their different complexions are noticeable in this close-up.  Both have brown sleep eyes and upper eyelashes.  Their noses are shaped similarly.  Both have open/closed mouths with molded tongues.  The original doll's bottom lip is wider.  Their eyebrows and hairlines are shaped differently.
The original Saralee is marked on the head only:


Related Links
Ideal's Saralee Negro Doll
Headband Socks


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  1. Those two are just plain adorable. Congrats on finding Saralee; I'd like to own one myself someday.

  2. It's nice that Saralee has a big sister with her. To me it looks like her undies were yellow to begin with.

    1. I'm thrilled for them to be together, too. You're probably right about her undies being yellow originally. But I can tell you when she arrived they were dirty tan.



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