The other day when I was perusing Facebook one of the posts showed a picture of paper dolls and then asked if anyone remembered them. I certainly did! Maybe not the ones they showed exactly, but I was definitely a Paper Doll gal. One year for Christmas, I got some real Paper Dolls, Holly Hobby I believe.
The kind you had to cut out carefully and had all the clothes with the little tabs. I was thrilled. Up until that time my paper dolls came from the Sears Catalog or the Montgomery Wards Catalog. Actually any catalog we could find. My sisters and I would spend hours looking for just the right Mom and Dad. We had to have the right baby, we always had a baby, and sometimes, as in the case of my sister Margi, lots of brothers and sisters. Me, I was happy with a mom, dad and a baby. I had a challenge with proportion and many times my baby was much bigger than either parent was. Drove my sisters nuts for me to have a gigantic baby and a tiny mommy and in between dad. I didn’t care I liked the way the baby looked and the rest of my family as well.
After finding the right family, we would then pick out our “house”. All the furniture and accessories were picked, cut out and arranged. Sometimes we found some string and used it for the walls. The other sisters would then play and sometimes so would I. I honestly found a lot more joy in the picking out the family and the arranging of the house. When we done with our “paper dolls”, they would get put away into our special places. Mom gave us an envelope but I always lost mine, so my dolls went under my mattress where they would stay flat.
I was surprised to find out that the first paper doll (as we know them) made was called Little Fanny and was manufactured in 1810 by S&J Fuller, London. Little Fanny came with a 15-page book that included seven figures and five hats. Fanny’s head and neck were separate and would fit into different outfits as the moral tale, The History of Little Fanny: Exemplified in a Series of Figures, was told. It was a little pricey , costing five to eight shillings for each book, so it was the rich kids who got them
Since Little Fanny was such a hit, American J. Belcher printed a paper doll with a similar moral tale, The History and Adventures of Little Henry. Mmorality was a big deal in the 1800’s. Bam! Ten years later, sets of paper dolls were popular toys for children. The first celebrity paper doll was a ballerina named Marie Taglioni, published in the 1830s. In 1840, another was done of another ballerina, Fanny Elssler. Ballerinas were BIG celebrities back then, I guess. Of course, we mustn’t forget the Queen and there was a box set of Queen Victoria as well.
Paper dolls have existed for as long as there has been paper, but they were not as we defined them. They were used as religious ceremonies. An ancient Japanese purification ceremony dating back to at least A.D. 900 included a paper figure and a folded
paper kimono, which were put out to sea in a boat. The Balinese have made shadow puppets of leather and of paper . Other paper dolls, in many forms, were amusements for the wealthy.
Paper dolls for us kids, well they truly became a big hit. As I mentioned above, the commercial set I remember was, Holly Hobby, that little girl with a big bonnet. I did have fun with playing with remember taking a lot of time and being super careful cutting out her outfits I must say , though, that the paper dolls I cut out from the catalogs that mom gave me were truly fun and preferable in my house.