Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Doll Study: K & K Bisque Head "Mama" Doll - Part 1

When I first saw this doll in the museum, I was not particularly impressed and paid very little attention to her.  She looks a little goofy because her eyes need some minor adjusting, her shoes are way too big, and her outfit, although cute and well made, doesn't particularly suit her.  It is hard to explain, but I thought there was something a little "off" with this doll, and was suspicious that she might be a "put together", since she had clearly been previously redressed and worked on. And it seemed odd to have a German bisque head with composition limbs that looked somewhat primitive next to the elegant bisque.  But much later, as we began to dust and arrange the shelf of dolls that she occupied, I took another look and became very curious to know more about this doll and her origins. 

Dolly101: Put together - a doll that does not have original parts.  This is a common practice by some folks who work on dolls.  If arms or legs are missing, they create a complete doll by using parts from another doll. Sometimes this works out well, and sometimes it is an unmitigated disaster.  Children don't care.  They just want their doll to have both arms and legs.  But doll collectors do care, and it is a VERY BIG DEAL.

In retrospect, I am embarrassed at my inept first attempt to get an identification for this doll.  I was in a hurry, and did not remove her clothing, and looking at the back of her head I could see the number 50 at the pate rim, and assumed she was a flanged neck doll and unmarked.  But shortly after I posted her photo on a couple of doll collecting forums, helpful and knowledgeable collectors pointed me in the direction of the K&K dolls, and returning to the museum I was delighted to find that she was indeed what they thought she was. 

Underneath her cute velveteen two-piece suit, the doll is wearing a shredded white silk blouse with a small red bow, and pink cotton panties.  The blouse seems to serve no purpose, since it cannot be seen at all when the suit is snapped shut. Could it be the remains of a former outfit? Or did Miss K&K often remove her coat when the weather turned warm?  And the panties look like they were borrowed from another doll.  Her shoes and socks appear to be sized for a real human baby.  The cotton socks are adoringly vintage - but much too big for the doll's foot.  However, they may give us a clue as to the date that this doll was redressed, lovingly I should add, even if the clothing is not completely appropriate from a purist viewpoint.  I can visualize a mother staying up late to dress an old doll as a gift to her child, or perhaps even making a matching outfit for the child and the doll.  However, this doll shows very little evidence that she was a play doll except for her missing original garments. 

This doll is almost 24 inches (60 centimeters) tall.  She is marked with a "50" at the pate rim, and has additional markings on the back of her shoulder plate: Made in / Germany / K&K / 60 / Thuringia.  Her bisque head was made in Germany and imported to the United States (some time between 1915 - 1925) where it was combined with the rest of the doll parts by the K&K Doll Toy Company, which was owned by the George Borgfeldt Company. 

The doll has a bisque head, composition arms and legs, and cloth body with a non-working round cry box.  She appears to be stuffed with a darkish material, so I think it is wool felt.  Notice that her knees still retain the rosy blush. (See a primer on doll making materials at

 Her composition is in remarkably good condition, as is her bisque head and cloth body.  There is glue residue on her head, where someone was a little too enthusiastic in their application of wig glue.  She is missing her original pate, and in it's place there is a neatly glued round of cardboard that was cut from a box that once held envelopes.  She has two small holes in the back of her head, and holes at the bottom of the front and back shoulder plate. The shoulder plate has been glued to the cloth body.  In the photo below, you can see the museum's accession number that has been written on her back.  You can also see where the doll stand has indented her body.  (She's now been removed from that torture.)  She has stitching at the hip level, which allows her to sit nicely, although of course, without any knee joints, it is an awkward straight-legged look.  Because she has straight legs and not bent legs which are typical of baby dolls, it is generally agreed that she is depicting a young toddler. 

The long wig is human hair and styled with a center part and long sausage curls. The wig base has been cut so that it will fit on her head. For this reason, I do not think it is original. It is not glued down, but the beanie hat holds it in place.

As you can see, she has an open mouth with 4 teeth, blown glass blue sleep eyes, and multi-stroke feathered eyebrow paint.  Her lower eyelashes are painted, and it looks like she had upper hair eyelashes when new.  Her eyelid wax is in good shape.  She still has good color in her cheek blush, and I think if her eyes were properly adjusted she'd be a very pretty toddler. She is also deserving of more appropriate antique clothing and footwear (while keeping her mommy-made garments as part of her history).  I'm growing very fond of this 80+ year old doll and would love to see her restored to her original beauty.  And I've discovered that if I hold her up to my shoulder as if she is a real human baby, her weight and bulk contribute to the feeling that she is real.  And isn't that what "mama" dolls are all about?
Dolly101: Mama doll - a toddler doll with a cry box that when activated makes a sound that is much like a toddler saying "mama".  Sleep eyes - eyes that close when the doll is reclined.  
Comments welcome.  I would especially like to know which German firm produced the bisque head, and would love to see photos of this doll dressed in her original clothing.  I am hoping that the style of painting, the "50"  mold number on the pate rim, and the fact that she is marked "Thuringia" will be a clue that a knowledgeable doll collector will recognize. 


  1. Hi there, I'm a doll collector and I have found your site through Google Search. Would you mind to do a link exchange with me? Email me at Hope to hear from you :) Thanks, Bella

  2. I have a doll that has 39 under the letters k and k. Also, It has no knees well it has leather legs from the thighs down plus She lost her hair she is with a cut where the wigs goes and ot does have two small holes in the back of head . What do they mean? Can you tell me what year that doll was made and it reads , Made in Germany with number 39.