I have loved dolls, history, and the Victorian Era since I was little and can credit my grandmother for that. As a young girl she gave me a Godey’s Fashion print for August 1870 from my great, great Aunt Flossie. I was captivated by the dresses and became hooked. I just love to research everything and anything about the Victorian Era. I also love to design Victorian dolls. I hope you enjoy my Victorian Dolls, Victorian Traditions,The Victorian Era, and Me blog.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The White House Doll

Image Courtesy of  Smithsonian National Museum of American History

In doing my research for the "The History of Faceless Dolls" I ran across several articles regarding a historical doll named "Sally" (shown in the picture above from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History) that is now in the Smithsonian and was otherwise known as "The White House Doll."  She was described as a rag doll, but from the picture above you'd think she was a china head doll.  So, of course I was intrigued and had to find out more.

According to the "Creating A Private Life" section of "Life and Death In The White House" this doll was made around 1829 for Mary Louisa Adams, granddaughter of John Quincy Adams.


According to Child Life in Colonial Days, Volume 1 By Alice Morse Earle - Published 1909, "The White House doll spent the days of her youth in the White House  at Washington, with the children of the president, John Quincy Adams and is still cherished by his descendants."

Section VI of  Our Early Presidents, Their Wives and Children: From Washington to Jackson By Harriet Taylor Upton published in 1890 contains a section about the family of John Quincy Adams and his grandchildren, including Mary Louisa Adams, shown in the picture below from a painting owned by her husband, W. C. Johnson, Esq., Newburyport, Mass.

In Chapter 3 we learn from Mary Louisa's cousin, William, that, in his opinion, she never really had a young life.  "Notwithstanding that it is certain that "Mary Louisa" had a doll who is "still living;" "a big rag baby 'Sally,' the first and only doll," writes Mr. Johnson who owns and cherishes "Sally;" "a personage," he says, "who has served each subsequent childhood in our family." She had it in the White House days.  Her great-aunt, Mrs. Thomas Boylston Adams made it for her just before entries in the bridesmaid dairy...." which were February 26th, 1829.

The section on John Quincy Adams and his family starting on Page 292 of Our Early Presidents, Their Wives and Children: From Washington to Jackson By Harriet Taylor Upton is an interesting section to read and provides a lot of insight into the lives of John Quincy Adams, his wife, their children, and grandchildren.

On Page 29 of The Doll Book By LauraB. Starr published in 1908 we learn that "The descendants of John Quincy Adams treasure a shapely rag doll who spent the days of her youth with the children of the President in the White House in Washington."

The Smithsonian Book of Presidential Trivia By Smithsonian Institution includes the picture of "Sally" shown above.

I know the dress is pink and white, but was hoping to find more information on the dolls face.  At first I thought she was a china head doll, but some of the descriptions say she is a handmade rag doll so she probably wouldn't have a china head.

The question is if she was a painted and cloth face doll was her face needle sculpted.  Can you tell?

I guess I'll just have to visit the Smithsonian and see for myself.


  1. There is reference to this doll in "Miss Dee Dunmore Bryant" chapter 24: http://ia801504.us.archive.org/16/items/miss_dee_dunmore_bryant_1803_librivox/missdeedunmorebryant_24_pansy_128kb.mp3

  2. Thank you for letting me know, Donna. I appreciate that and will check it out. :)