Vintage Doll
Your reference guide to 20th century dolls
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Bisque and China Dolls

Bisque and china dolls are both made of porcelain. Bisque is unglazed, while china has a shiny glazed finish. While the vast majority of bisque dolls that interest collectors would be classified as antique rather than vintage, there are quite a few bisque and china dolls that fit well into a vintage collection. Click on a photo to see a larger version.

_w_45kewpie (2K)

At the start of the 20th century, the majority of bisque and china dolls were made in Germany. Most of these were similar to the dolls that had been produced there for decades. But early in the 20th century, bisque dolls began to appear that had a decidedly modern look. These were the Kewpies, and they were designed by American illustrator Rose O'Neill. George Borgfeldt, an American distributor, hired sculptor Joseph Kallus to turn the Kewpies into three dimensional dolls, and outsourced their manufacture to Germany. The Kewpies and their wide-eyed "googly" look were all the rage, and they were copied by many other companies. The Kewpies have been made in every material possible, and are still popular today.
Photo courtesy of Withington Auction, Inc.

_2girls1 (2K)German firms continued to produce bisque dolls until World War II, when the factories were converted for use in the war effort. Some of these were German designs and others were produced, like the Kewpies, for American companies. The two dolls pictured are painted bisque - the color is not fired on - and are doll house size. These probably date from the 1920s.
_7girla (2K) _5boopssm (4K) _dollies (2K)

Many vintage bisque dolls were made in Japan during the 'teens, twenties and thirties. If they are marked "Nippon", they were probably made between 1914 and 1921. Later dolls are marked "Japan." Some Japanese bisque dolls were copies of popular German dolls. They made many all bisque dolls that were jointed only at the shoulders, like the ones pictured.

_margirl1 (3K)_margirl2 (3K)_margirl3 (3K)

The Nancy Ann Storybook Dolls are American-made all bisque dolls. These were extremely popular and sold from 1941 into the 1950s, when the company switched to hard plastic. The doll pictured at left is the March Girl, from the months of the year series. Click here to go to the Nancy Ann page and see more dolls.

_gibbs1 (2K)

China, or glazed porcelain dolls were also made in the USA. This is one of the Godey's Little Lady dolls made by Ruth Gibbs of Flemington, NJ in the late forties.

_jjunead (5K)

There are many antique reproduction china head dolls that were made in the mid 20th century. Some were sold as kits, others were made by crafters in ceramics classes, and some were made by professional doll artists. This ad was scanned from the Spring/Summer 1958 issue of McCall's Needlework and Crafts magazine.

_megcu (3K) _abigail (3K) _nellie2 (3K) _kent25 (3K)

Bisque was the medium of choice of many of the early doll artists. Pictured from left to right: Meg from the Little Women series by Martha Thompson; Abigail Adams by Diana Lence Crosby; Nellie Bly by Lita Wilson and Muriel Kramer; and Miss Kentucky by Fawn Zeller. See more on the Artist Dolls page.

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Most of the bisque or porcelain dolls produced in the second half of the 20th century were intended for adult collectors rather than children. This trend continues today. Pictured is Marcella by Wendy Lawton.
Photos courtesy of Withington Auction, Inc.

Sources for this page include:

Copyright 2006-2010 by Zendelle Bouchard.

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