My dear husband (DH) has more experience with doll shows than he’d like to admit. He helped my with my booth at countless shows back when I was selling my reproduction dolls. And he’s attended a few more since then.
He has a theory that there are particular dolls that always travel back and forth to doll shows and never find their way to a collector’s home. They are just traded back and forth among dealers, maybe for years, or decades, or a century. If you go to the same shows over the years, you may see the same doll again and again, in different dealer’s booths.
I rescued one of these orphan dolls.
When I first saw this doll at the Gaithersburg doll show, she was in a simple booth that just had the dolls lined up on a table, not creatively displayed. I asked the dealer if I could examine her and was pleased with what I found.
She stands just under 9 1/2″ (24cm) tall. Her bisque is perfect and she is on a desirable, early French kid body.
This type of French body has “mitten”-type hands and a “Y” seam on the torso. Her body reveals that she has been well loved.
I did not buy her. The dealer said her price was firm and since I had just bought an expensive doll on eBay, I left her there.
But, over the three months before the next show, I kept thinking about her and was determined to buy her if she was still for sale. When I got to the show, I made a beeline for the dealer who had her. She wasn’t there. My heart sank.
I sulked around the show, regretting my decision not to buy her when I first saw her. Then I found her in another dealer’s booth. When I asked her best price, it was $50 less than the first dealer’s firm price. I didn’t hesitate. She was mine.
Although she doesn’t have a big presence, she spoke to me. I wonder if she was one of DH’s orphan dolls and had been hiding at doll shows for a while…
Her clothing is interesting, but is in very rough shape. Even though I will eventually redress her, I will keep and study her tattered clothing. Her tan wool coat with BLUE trim is dirty and has many moth holes.
But it was skillfully hand sewn with princess seams.
Her dress of tan cotton with tiny purple sprigs and remnants of purple whipstitching at the neck has definitely seen better days. To make it fit under the coat better, someone has cut off the sleeves.
But you can see that it originally had wonderful details. It had tiny self-piping at the waist and armhole seams. The front bodice was gathered at the center and the skirt was cartridge pleated.
Here’s a look inside. If you zoom in on the photo, you can see that it has the earliest type of hooks.
Her underwear consists of a rough slip. Someone has added a large snap at the back waist.
She is beautiful in a quiet, sweet, child-like way. And she has short, wispy, painted hair. Her deep, BLUE painted eyes glance slightly to the side.
Boys and girls in the 19th century were often both dressed in dresses, so how can you tell the difference? This can be especially difficult on dolls with short hair. But, usually boys’ hair was parted on the side, while girls hair was parted in the center. So this is doll represents a young girl.
Whether she was one of DH’s orphan dolls, or just arrived on the doll show scene, she now has a home where she is treasured.