American Made Dolls

The first doll to be patented in America was the papier-mache head created in 1858 by Ludwig Greiner, a German immigrant to Philadelphia. There were other dolls being made in this mid-century period, including the Darrow rawhide doll, but the numbers were small in comparison to the numbers being imported from Germany.

In 1873 Joel Ellis of Springfield, Vermont patented a jointed wooden doll from hard rock maple, with metal hands and feet. Wooden dolls were later made by the Schoenhut Company of Philadelphia. The first of these was the small circus clown, made in 1909 for the Humpty Dumpty Circus. In 1911 a patent was obtained for larger dolls made from wood molded under heavy pressure and heat.

Rag dolls had always been popular because they could be made at home. Sometimes patterns were given in ladies’ magazines, and in 1889, Mrs. Celia Smith and her sister-in-law, Miss Charity Smith, designed a doll printed on cloth which could be cut out and assembled. This was so popular that the idea was adopted by many companies, especially for advertising promotions.

The first two decades of the 20th century saw the invention of a great many dolls. Notable among these are Raggedy Ann, Mary McAboy’s Skookum Indian Dolls, Rosie O’Neill’s Kewpies and Grace Story Putnam’s Bye-Lo-Baby. German imports dwindled, while home products crowded the market.