Paper Dolls

During our IMLS grant work, our Collection Facilitator, Haiden Nelson, came across a great collection of paper dolls. Read below as Haiden shares about what she found out about these items.

Paper dolls have been produced as children’s toys since the early 19th century. Some paper dolls were printed as advertisements, enticing children or their parents to buy products. Here are a few examples of paper doll advertising.

This 1920s doll and accompanying outfits came in an envelope and were likely distributed through bread purchases, judging by the bread companies on the envelope and on the back of the doll. Even after the doll was cut out, all the brand names would still be readable. Notice how the envelope states that the dolls are for boys and girls! Showing charitable mission, the envelope also asks the holder to please donate the paper dolls to a child in need if there is not a child in their home.

These paper dolls are from the 1890s. They were produced by the W. F. McLaughlin Coffee Company, which was based in Chicago. These dolls have creases so they can stand on their own. Even the skirts have fold lines so they stay on the doll, hands free!

Sometimes paper doll advertising was much more straightforward. This dress was drawn to represent a real dress that could be purchased in-store. As printed on the back of the dress, “Buy a real dress just like this one at our store./ Order by Number/ Lot No. 610/ Smart little aeroplane model; made of good quality gingham Empire vestee effect; pleated skirt; large roomy aeroplane pockets; wide belt; smart collar and cuffs are trimmed with two rows of suttach braid./ Colors: Blue, pink, tan, green, brown./ Price….$2.50”

Thanks for reading and keep an eye out for more treasures from the collection!

Thank you for reading and see you next time,

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