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History of Dolls

When we think about dolls for our children, we think of them as just a toy for her. We never really think about how far back in history they go. There is evidence, however, that places dolls as the oldest known toy.


They can be dated back to the Roman Era. As found in the graves of Roman children,  the dolls were carved of flat pieces of wood, painted as a human form, with long, flowing hair made of strings of clay or wood beads.  They were also made of  materials such as clay, stone, wood, bone, ivory, leather, or wax, many of the materials they had on hand. According to Greece and Rome customs, the boys would dedicate their toys to the gods when they reached puberty and the girls dedicated their toys to the goddesses when they married.


Bella the Soft Baby DollDolls were a huge part of the Native American people. It has been discovered that almost every tribe across the world made dolls. Based on the doll materials scientists knew what parts of the world the doll came from, such as fur dolls came from colder climates. Corn husks, pine needles, large leaves, wood, rock, and fur were very common materials. Many Navajo dolls have been found with very intricate and little jewelry made from turquoise around their necks and as earrings which shows the wealth of the tribe.  


In Germany, clay dolls have been documented to go as far back as the 13th century, and wooden doll making from the 15th century. It was around the 15th century, more elaborate dolls were made for Nativity scene displays, mainly in Italy. Dolls with detailed, fashionable clothes were sold in France in the 16th century, though their bodies were often poorly made. The first Russian nesting dolls were carved and painted in 1890 and The oldest Japanese traditional dolls date from 2000BC.


It wasn’t until the 19th century that dolls were made of porcelain and had bodies made of of leather, cloth, wood, or composite materials, such as papier-mâché or composition, a mix of pulp, sawdust, glue and similar materials. Germany was able to mass produce them and they became quite popular during 1840 and 1890. Up through the middle of the 19th century, European dolls were predominantly made to look like adults. Faces of children and babies didn’t come on the scene until around 1850.


Do you remember paper dolls? Oh I loved those! They were dolls made out of paper, obviously but the body was made of a thicker almost cardboard like material and the clothing was paper thin with tabs that you had to push down on the body to make them stay on. Well they came about in the 19th century.  Ballerina paper dolls were the earliest celebrity dolls. How crazy is that? The 1930s Shirley Temple doll sold millions and was one of the most successful celebrity paper dolls!


We all know the fashion dolls are primarily designed to be dressed to reflect fashion trends and are usually look like teen girls or adult women. The earliest fashion dolls were French bisque dolls from the mid-19th century. Contemporary fashion dolls are typically made of vinyl. Barbie, from the American toy company Mattel, ruled the market from her debut in 1959. Did you know the Bratz doll was the first doll to challenge Barbie's dominance, reaching forty percent of the market in 2006? Then later Monster High dolls. My girls really loved those.


Now  the market is being flooded with Reborn dolls. They are vinyl dolls that have been made to look exactly like a human baby with as much realism as possible. I find them kinds creepy. I recently read an article about a police officer breaking the window of a car because he thought the baby was real!


Today, there are a number of different kinds and varieties of dolls for various purposes. They have been a popular toy for many years. They include a collection of functions that permit them to eat, crawl, play peek-a-boo, and even respond to a little one’s voice. Who would have thought they date back to practically the beginning of time? Their designs may change but they will always be a joy for all little girls everywhere.


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