Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Doll Stands: They Deserve More Respect

As anyone who collects more then a few dolls knows, doll stands are a major pain.  If you try to store them in a container, they tangle together into a nasty mess, and no matter how many are in that container, we can never find the perfect stand for a specific doll.  This one will be tall enough, but the support arms aren't wide enough.  That one will be too tall, leaving the poor doll hanging from the support arms in perpetual suspension.  And so it goes,

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Uncovering a Treasure: Jumeau Fashion Body

Have you ever had the experience of uncovering a treasure from what looks like a pile of junk?  Well I have, and the thrill of such a discovery is very satisfying. 

During our work a couple of years ago at the Gold Nugget Museum, we were opening storage boxes and trying to identify and assess the contents, recording our observations so we can get a better idea of the condition of the entire collection of over 1500 dolls.  Like many other museums all over our country, display space is limited and although we'd love to have more then seven display cases for dolls, it isn't possible, so a large number of dolls remain in storage containers, awaiting their turn in the display cases. 

In one large sized storage container, we uncovered what looked like a German celluloid doll, dressed in an obvious homemade gown, made in the style of the late 1800s.  The head was broken, and completely separated from the body.  The dress and shoes completely covered the body, so at first glace, it might have been tempting to just wrap the doll back up and put it in the category of needing major restoration.  But since we were trying to get a very complete evaluation, we instead did a very detailed inspection, and were shocked to discover a wonderful french wooden body under the dress.

The celluloid head appeared to be that of a child, while the body appeared to be that of a french fashion doll. Apparently, someone tried to make a complete doll by putting the celluloid shoulderhead on an available wooden body, and later, the celluloid head broke too.   I took photos of the body to a UFDC national convention, and two well known antique doll experts identified it as a valuable Jumeau body, needing restoration.  We now have the body displayed at the museum, since it is not very often that one can see the intricate details of such a finely made body.  I hope that you enjoy looking at it too.  The body is approx 21 inches tall. Missing hand, broken index finger on other hand, and broken toes on one foot.  BJD enthusiasts - take a look.... antique dolls could be posed very well too!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Our Little Secret

Hello, folks.  Would you like to know a secret?  We actually have FUN working as a volunteer at the Gold Nugget Museum.  Let me count the ways:
  1. It's climate controlled - always comfortable for humans as well as collectibles. 
  2. There's usually a stash of goodies in the kitchen; should we become too famished to continue, we can sneak a cookie.
  3. The people there are great.
  4. We get to see things older then ourselves. 
  5. And last, but most important, we get to take care of the dolls.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Doll Study: K&K Bisque Head "Mama" Doll - Part 2

Although I am unsure which German firm made the bisque head for the K&K doll that was reviewed in Part 1 of this study, I do have information about the firm that made the other parts of the doll.

 K&K Toy Company was owned by the George Borgfeldt Company.  It was established in 1915 in New York City and produced dolls for Borgfeldt until they ceased operations after being sold to the Cameo Company in 1925.  K&K produced many dolls for Borgfeldt, including Kewpies, Flossie Fisher's Own Doll, Hollikids, Happifats, Bye-lo Baby, Betsy Ross, Red Riding Hood, and Rose Marie.  In 1924 they advertised that the "K and K stands for Kept Klean", but it is speculated that it really stood for George Kolb and Fred Kolb, or Kahle and Kolb, all of them men who held responsible and high level positions in the Borgfeldt company.

For you scholarly types, thirsting after more information about the complicated and long history of the George Borgfeldt Company, I recommend articles written in the UFDC Doll News Magazine by Jennylou Hamilton Schoelwer - Summer 2000 and Summer 2001 issues.  This is absolutely required reading for anyone hoping to understand the complicated marketing and production system that the Borgfeldt Company established in the United States, bringing artist and producers together,  and producers and wholesale buyers together, both internationally and in America.
To obtain copies of these articles, contact the UFDC office for a copy of the article or a back issue of the magazine if it is available. They can tell you the price.  This is what you want: 
Borgfeldt, George - Dolls of the Early Years:  SU00,40
Borgfeldt, George - 1901-1960, Kolb Years: SU01,38

For those who like to look at beautiful photos of dolls, I recommend "Collector's Encyclopedia of American Composition Dolls, 1900 - 1950, Volume II" by Ursula R. Mertz. This is a beautiful book with wonderful color photos, and she includes a section about the Borgfeldt Company and the K&K dolls. On the box of at least some of the K&K dolls it says "Made Under Sanitary Conditions" and Ms. Mertz said that this phrase was frequently used by Borgfeldt in their advertising. There is one photo of a K&K doll made with a German bisque head and two photos of composition head K&K mama dolls. I found the following quote from this book very informative relative to my search: "It is a little known fact that in the 1920s Borgfeldt and the Horsman Company (there may have been others) produced some mama dolls with German-made bisque heads. They always used American-made composition limbs for these and construction was identical to the composition mama dolls." Ms. Mertz also pointed me to the above mentioned Doll News articles, by mentioning it in her Borgfeldt section. I do not yet have Volume I of the this book, and it may also include information about the K&K dolls and Borgfeldt.

Based on the emphasis that the Borgfeldt company placed on letting their customers know that their dolls were made under sanitary conditions and that K and K stands for Kept Klean, I am now wondering if many toys in the late 1800s and early 1900s were made in filthy conditions, with unsanitary and unhealthy materials?  Or did they mean that they protected their workers from unsanitary and unhealthy conditions during production of the dolls?