Index of American Design collection from the National Gallery of Art.
The following description accompanied the Rag Doll, shown in the picture above, from the National Gallery of Art: Handmade dolls were among the many crafts produced by people of the Spanish colonial southwest. This rag doll, possibly dating from 1795, was made by a California Indian woman for the original owner, a Mrs. Villa. The doll may be seen as an Indian's interpretation of Spanish colonial women. In the early days of the United States, southwest arts and crafts were often the work of Indian artisans.
Credits: Bertha Semple (artist), American, active c. 1935, Anonymous Craftsman (object maker), Mrs. F.C. (Vernette Snyder) Ripley (object owner), Doll, c. 1937, watercolor, graphite, and gouache on paper, Index of American Design, 1943.8.15415
Credits: Stenzel, Erwin, American, active c. 1935, Rag Doll 1935/1942, watercolor, graphite, and pen and ink on paper, overall: 40.7 x 30.6 cm (16 x 12 1/16 in.) Original IAD Object: 12" high, Index of American Design 1943.8.16825.
Another one of my favorite Rag Doll c. 1939 illustrations from the National Gallery of Art is the one shown in the picture above. How adorable is she?
Credits: Angus, Charlotte, American, 1911 - 1989, Rag Doll c. 1939, watercolor, graphite, and pen and ink on paper, overall: 42.2 x 33.4 cm (16 5/8 x 13 1/8 in.), Index of American Design 1943.8.16750.
One of the more unusual Rag Doll c. 1936 illustrations I saw from the National Gallery of Art is the one shown in the picture above. I doubt there were a lot of male rag dolls made, but I love him and his outfit.
Credits: Iverson, Jane, American, 1910 - 1997, Rag Doll c. 1936, watercolor, pen and ink, and graphite on paper, overall: 35.4 x 27.9 cm (13 15/16 x 11 in.), Index of American Design 1943.8.15423.
Another unusual Rag Doll c. 1936 illustrations from the National Gallery of Art is the male rag doll shown in the picture above. Gotta love his outfit, too.
Credits: Iverson, Jane, American, 1910 - 1997, Rag Doll c. 1936, watercolor and graphite on paper, overall: 27.5 x 22.5 cm (10 13/16 x 8 7/8 in.) Original IAD Object: 6" long, Index of American Design 1943.8.15414.
Credits: Lichten, Frances, American, active c. 1935, Rag Doll 1935/1942, watercolor, graphite, and gouache on paper, overall: 48.1 x 31.3 cm (18 15/16 x 12 5/16 in.), Index of American Design 1943.8.15545.
As far as colonial rag dolls are concerned it doesn't matter if you call them rag dolls, pioneer dolls, Appalachian dolls, prairie dolls, prayer dolls, wagon train dolls, pillowcase dolls, handkerchief dolls, table cloth dolls, or folk art dolls they're all basically cloth rag dolls and Americans have been making them since colonial times.
There are many different styles of colonial rag dolls. Some are faceless, some have button eyes, some have hand embroidered or painted on simple faces, some have stitched fingers and toes, some have round heads while others have flat heads. Most are made from rags or scraps of cotton, calico or unbleached or stained muslin fabric and stuffed with fabric scraps, straw, or sawdust. Some are made from pillowcases, hankies, or table cloths - even just square pieces of cloth or multiple strips of cloth.
So, I decided to see what else I could find out about them and what the differences really were. Here's what I found:
The following excerpt is from the Stevens House Children's Exhibit information page of the Webb Dean Stevens Museum: In the early years of the nineteenth century, children from average families possessed few toys. Those that do survive were likely to have been made by hand. Children living in rural areas were expected to work on farms and in shops to help support their family. Schooling was sporadic and the passage from childhood to adulthood happened relatively quickly......
Also common were rag dolls sewed and stuffed from scraps of homespun. Unlike the fragile dolls made of wax or porcelain bisque, rag dolls had an enduring appeal because they could withstand being routinely cuddled, dressed and carted about. Corncob dolls were also made using the material at hand and continued in their popularity from the earliest settlements....
From everything I've read I knew that it didn't really matter what type or form they were they were lovingly made by mothers for their children.
Pioneer & Prairie Dolls
The National Gallery of Art illustration above is of a Pioneer Doll c. 1937.
Credits are as follows: Tallman, Verna, American, active c. 1935, Pioneer Doll
c. 1937, watercolor, graphite, and gouache on paper, overall: 35.7 x 25.8 cm (14 1/16 x 10 3/16 in.) Original IAD Object: 21" high, Index of American Design, 1943.8.15444
Image Courtesy of Lillie Mae's Crafts
Brenda Greenwalt has a wonderful free e-pattern on her Lillie Mae's Crafts website showing you how to make the Lillie Mae Prairie Girl shown in the picture above. Just scroll down the page until you see the picture above and then click on Download.
Here's what Brenda said about her e-pattern: Lillie Mae Prairie Doll - This simple little prairie doll was a delight to create and a delight to display. As she is quick and easy to make, she will make a perfect flea market or craft fair item. Approximately 12 inches tall with bonnet.
Image Courtesy of Lillie Mae's Crafts
Brenda also has a free Prairie Rag Doll how-to on her Lilli Mae's Crafts website showing how to make the prairie doll shown in the picture above.
If you would like to watch a video on YouTube by hope2fly0228 for making a Pioneer Girl Rag Doll please click here.
There was an article entitled, Local ladies bring back the art of pioneer doll-making in the Perryville News Republican Monitor by Amanda Keefe about a group of women who meet at the Saxon Lutheran Memorial to make pioneer, or prairie dolls for the gift shop.
According to the article, "Dorene Grebing holds a piece of muslin firmly in her seasoned hands as she rips it into strips; the first stage of creating a rag doll, fashioned after those in the pioneer days...... The dolls are simple, made and bound by muslin strips, then given their own dress, apron and bonnet, and even a head of hair (made by all kinds of materials)."
Image Courtesy of Rugmaker's Homestead
There is a wonderful story entitled "Make a "Nettie" Doll from Rug Strip and a Tribute to an old-time Rugmaker by Diana Blake Gray Master Rugmaker" on the Rugmaker's Homestead website about a "Nettie" rag doll, shown in the picture above, created in honor of Nettie Carlson, a rugmaker and grandmother.
According to Diana Blake Gray: I hear from so many people that they feel a tremendous connection with the past, and especially the women in their families, when they are making rag rugs. I feel that same connection all of the time. This is a story of one of those connections.
Image Courtesy of Internet Archives and eHow.com
I found the How to Make a Prairie Doll of Rags doll, shown in the picture above on the Internet Archive (Wayback Machine) website.
It was a free user-submitted article from Gail Martin. Here's what she said about her free how-to: When I was a little girl growing up in the Flint Hills of Kansas, my Mother spent many evenings crocheting rag rugs. I remember one winter she used some of the rag strips to make my sister and me matching rag dolls. I carried my doll everywhere I went and I slept with her hugged in my arms. Here's how you can make this old-time doll.
Image Courtesy of TF on SnapGuide
There is a How to Make a No Sew Pioneer Doll guide by TF on SnapGuide showing you how to make the no sew pioneer doll shown in the picture above.
According to the article: This is a easy craft to do with kids. Good for a pioneer or western era craft.
The National Gallery of Art illustration above is of a "Mollie Bentley" Doll c. 1936.
According to their description: Before the Civil War, most American dolls were made at home, and the practice continued much later, in many cases. This rag doll, one of the most popular doll types, is a charming product of home manufacture during the 1880s. Named "Mollie Bentley," this doll was the work of a girl by the same name who lived in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The doll's body and dress were made of various scraps of materials found about the house. "Mollie's" clothing includes two types of cotton fabric popular in the nineteenth century: calico, a name derived from Calicut, India, where cotton textiles were first printed; and gingham, whose name is of either Malayan or French origin, a fabric that had been used from the early days of the colonies.
Credits: Doll: "Mollie Bentley", Rendered by Josephine C. Romano (artist), 1936 and Edith Towner (artist), watercolor, graphite, and pen and ink on paper, overall: 35.9 x 26.7 cm (14 1/8 x 10 1/2 in.) Original IAD Object: 15 1/2" high, Index of American Design, 1943.8.8135 .
Image courtesy of The British Museum
According to Wikipedia.com Rag Doll Page, "A rag doll is a children's toy. It is a cloth figure, a doll traditionally home-made from (and stuffed with) spare scraps of material. They are one of the most ancient children's toys in existence; the British Museum has a Roman rag doll, found in a child's grave dating from the 1st-5th century AD. " Amish dolls are a type of traditional American rag dolls which originated as children's toys among the Old Order Amish people. The best-known type have no facial features. Today, many rag dolls are commercially produced to simulate the features of the original home-made dolls, such as simple features, soft cloth bodies, and patchwork clothing."
The doll in the pictured above is the Roman Rag Doll at The British Museum mentioned in the Wikipedia.com article. According to the museum it is a linen rag doll, filled with rags and papyrus, from the Roman, 1st-5th century AD, that was made in Egypt. If you would like to read more about this doll please click here.
I'd like to think that the Rag Doll from 1842-1857, shown in the picture above, from The Strong National Museum of Play was well worn from oodles and oodles of love.
According to their description: Material muslin | fabric Style rag | rolled Object ID 101.377 National Museum of Play Online Collections.
I think the Rag Doll from 1842-1857, shown in the picture above, from The Strong National Museum of Play is the epitome of a rag doll, made with whatever was available and given with love.
According to their description: Material - cotton Style - rag | rolled Object ID 101.375 - National Museum of Play Online Collections.
The Memorial Hall Museum Online has a wonderful American Centuries .... View From New England website where you can, "Explore American history with hands-on activities, exhibits, lessons, historic documents and artifacts. "
Part of their online collection includes the Bangwell Putt Rag Doll which is a faceless rag doll that was made for Clarissa Field of Northfield, Massachusetts in 1765.
Here's what the website had to say about this doll, "Clarissa Field of Northfield, Massachusetts, was born blind in 1765. This doll was made for her and she fancifully named it Bangwell Putt. Bangwell lacks facial features but her ten carefully constructed fingers suggest the importance of touch in Clarissa's world. Bangwell has a homespun body and is dressed in 18th century fashion, including corset. Clarissa kept Bangwell until she died in her eighties. Bangwell Putt is thought to be the oldest surviving rag doll in North America."
Image Courtesy of The Lawton Doll Company
Wendy Lawton, who is a world class porcelain doll maker, made the Clarissa Fields and Bangwell Putt doll, shown in the picture above in 2000. Her porcelain doll was named for the owner of the Bangwell Putt doll and she is holding the rage doll in her hand.
If you would like to see a picture of the actual Bangwell Putt Rag Doll, please click here.
Here's what Kimberly Young of The Artful Attic blog had to say in her blog post entitled "Meet Eleanor Rigby...SOLD" about rag and cloth dolls: For centuries, rag dolls were made by mothers for their children. Rag dolls refer generically to dolls made of any fabric. Cloth dolls refer to a subset of rag dolls made of linen or cotton. Commercially produced rag dolls were first introduced in the 1850s by English and American manufacturers. Although not as sophisticated as dolls made from other materials, rag dolls were well-loved, often as a child’s first toy.
Image Courtesy of Katie Waller
On YouTube there is a two-part video series by Katie Waller showing you how to make the rag dolls shown in the picture above. According to Katie, "This is an easy, torn fabric, no-sew rag doll that is fun to make, play with... and to give away! :)"
How To Make A Rag Doll - Part 1 video by Katie Waller
How To Make A Rag Doll - Part I1 video by Katie Waller
Image Courtesy of suzysthyngs on Rubylane.com
On the suzysthyngs shop on the Rubylane.com website I found the rag doll shown in the picture above. Unfortunately it's been removed.
The description is as follows: This is a very early home and hand made rag doll. Completely hand-stitched and made of cotton material and stuffed with cotton batting. A wonderful example of an early primitive doll. It is in fairly clean condition with two small stains on the bottom and opposite side. Otherwise in very good overall condition. Stitching is tight and she would be perfect for any doll or child's setting. 4-3/4" H x 4" W at arms. Item ID: RL01428
Image Courtesy of EBay.com
On EBay.com I found the antique rag doll shown in the picture above. She has a rounded head and, according to the website, is thought to have been created between 1800 and 1899.
The description is as follows: Original/Reproduction:Original, Size Type/Largest Dimension: 14" tall, Type: Antique Cloth Rag Doll, Region of Origin:US- Midwest, Material: Fabric, Date of Creation: 1800-1899 , Style: Naive, Primitive
As far as the Appalachian ragdolls are concerned toys were scarce in the mountains so an Appalachian mother could make a rag doll from scraps of fabric as a way to provide her child with a toy to play with.
In Appalachian Toys and Games from A to Z By Linda Hager Pack is an A to Z book about Appalachian Toys.
On Page 27 - the R's we learn that, "A little girl's rag doll was carried, snuggled, rocked and loved throughout an entire childhood. Toys were scare in the mountains, and making a rag doll from scraps of fabric was one way an Appalachian mother could grant her daughter's wish for a rag doll......Normally the dolls weren't sewn, but rather scraps of material were rolled together and then tied to form legs, arms, and a body."
If you would like to read more of this article please click here.
During pioneer times when supplies and items were scarce mothers used whatever they had at hand to make dolls for their children. This included handkerchiefs, pillowcases, table cloths, etc.
Wagon Train Dolls
Image Courtesy of Sandra Greene
The dolls shown in the picture above were made by Sandra Greene's, who is the owner of the Wagon Train Dolls website. They sell wagon train dolls here. They also have a rag doll kit here.
According to her website: Throughout United States history, by far the most popular handmade doll was the cloth or rag doll, especially during Colonial America dating as far back as 1630. The term "rag doll" is used to describe any doll made primarily from fabric, according to the Connecticut Doll Artists website.
Also: Historically, rag dolls were handmade by a mother using scrap fabric and given to her child. These dolls played a major role in a young child's life. In addition to providing girls with something to play with, they were often used to help young girls learn sewing skills. Old rag dolls were made with cloth fabric for the body, dress and apron. Leftover lace, string and yarn were also used for the hair and trim pieces. The doll's faces were either painted, embroidered or just left plain.
Sandra Greene sells her wagon doll kits to museums throughout the U.S. If you were like to know more about Sandra Greene she has a vendor profile on the Museums USA website here.
According to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum website, which sells wagon train dolls here: While crossing the frontier there wasn’t much to make dolls from. Out of the pioneer women’s ingenuity, the wagon train doll was created. It is still enjoyed by many children today. The doll was made from rags, and the term “rag doll” has stayed with it.
Table Cloth Dolls
Image Courtesy of Wagontrainsdolls.com
According to Sandra Greene of the Wagontraindolls.com website early pioneers used unusable table cloths to make Table Cloth Cover rag dolls, like the picture shown above for their children.
Here's what she had to say, "In the homes of our early pioneers many items were left on the supper table for their next meal. Grandmothers used the muslin from the table cover once it became stained and unusable to make dolls for their children. The aprons and bonnets were made from the scraps from the ragbag."
Image Courtesy of Wagontrainsdolls.com
According to the Wagontraindolls.com website early pioneers used unusable table cloths to make Pillowcase dolls, like the picture shown above.
Here's what they had to say, "Pioneers settled in their log cabins during the long winter months when they were snowed in for weeks. During this time they did many chores to prepare for the upcoming year. When children became restless their mother would take the child’s pillow case and make a doll as this one is made. At bedtime the mother would remove the ties from their doll and the pillow case went back on the pillow."
If you would like to know how to make a pillowcase doll, like the one shown in the picture above, Jack Dempsey Needle Art has 3 video's on YouTube showing you how:
The Jack Dempsey Needle Arts website sells pillowcase dolls here.
Image Courtesy of Born Imaginative
If you'd like to know how to make a pillowcase doll the adorable Pillowcase Doll shown in the picture above is from a tutorial on the Born Imaginative blog.
Handkerchief & Prayer Dolls
Image Courtesy of Fashion Meets Food Blog
There's a wonderful tutorial on the Fashion Meets Food Blog showing how to make The Old Fashioned Handkerchief Doll shown in the picture above.
Image Courtesy of It's So Purdy Blog
The It's So Purdy blog has a how-to showing you how to make the Civil War Handkerchief Doll shown in the picture above.
Printable Courtesy of It's So Purdy Blog
If you're planning on making your own Civil War Handkerchief Doll , like the one shown from the It's So Purdy blog they also have a wonderful printable they are offering for free: Here's what they say about their printable: Feel free to print out the card below if giving the doll as a gift, to share the enchanting history of these simple but ingenious dolls.
How charming would it be to give a young girl a pioneer doll with the printable above attached. Charming, indeed.
Image Courtesy of Utah Museum of Fine Arts
The Utah Museum of Fine Arts created a wonderful .PDF tutorial on making Folk Art dolls. The .PDF includes an introduction into "Doll Making As A Folk Art Tradition" and tutorials on making 4 different types of Folk Art dolls.
Included in this tutorial is a section on Page 3 on How-To Make Pioneer Handkerchief Doll, like the doll shown in the picture above.
The Hankie Dolls page of the Folk Dolls chapter of The Complete Photo Guide To Doll Making book by Nancy Hoerner, Barbara Matthiessen, and Rick Petersen has a tutorial on making a faceless hankie doll on pages 82-85 that shows how easy it is to make a simple faceless hankie doll.
According to The Complete Photo Guide To Doll Making book - Page 82, "Hankie dolls were also called church dolls or pew dolls because they were first made for children to play with during church services. The idea was that if the doll was dropped, it wouldn't make any noise."
"The dolls have been made in various ways and we will show you two different ways. Similar dolls were made from lacy women's hankies and given to a newborn baby girl with the intention that she would later carry it as her bridal hankie."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has an article on by Julie Fordham on how to make a handkerchief doll. If you would like to read that how-to please click here.
Image Courtesy of The Historic Cold Spring Village Cape May County Living Museum
The Historic Cold Spring Village Cape May County Living History Museum website has instructions for making the handkerchief doll, like the one shown in the picture above.
If you would like to see and read their Make A Handkerchief Doll instructions please click here.
Image Courtesy of Maggie Weldon
Handkerchief dolls are easy to make and can be very pretty - especially when you are using dainty vintage handkerchiefs. If you would like to learn how to make a handkerchief doll of your own from vintage handkerchiefs there is a wonderful video on YouTube for making a Vintage Hanky Church Doll by Maggie Weldon, like the doll shown in the picture above.
If you would like to view the Vintage Hanky Church Doll video please click here.
There is also a wonderful tutorial on the Wild and Precious Blog showing how to make a handkerchief doll. To see the handkerchief doll and read that blog post please click here.
Image Courtesy of SussexMouse
SussexMouse Crafting Recycling and Tips has a tutorial entitled "TUTORIAL How I make my Handkerchief Church Dolls" showing how she made the handkerchief doll, shown in the picture above.
Image Courtesy of The American Civil War Museum
The American Civil War Museum has a Victorian Era Handkerchief Doll Kit that they sell to make the handkerchief doll shown in the picture above.
According to their description: The Handkerchief Doll is perhaps the best known of all folk dolls and is very easy to make. Although the Handkerchief Doll was certainly around during the Revolutionary War times, it is most often associated with Victorian America. During the 19th century, most children were forbidden to play with toys on Sundays. The handkerchief doll was one of the toys that was still allowed, however, because it was a quiet activity...
The Complete Photo Guide To Doll Making by Nancy Hoerner, Barbara Matthiessen, and Rick Petersen has a how-to and pattern for making a hankie doll on page 82.
Folk Art Dolls
The Encyclopedia of Art had an interesting summary on the definition of Folk Art and what it comprises. If you'd like to read more of that "Folk Art Traditional Crafts: Definition, History, Characteristics, Types"please click here.
According to their website Folk Art is defined as the following: "Folk art" is mostly utilitarian or decorative art created by an unaffluent social class of peasants, artisans and tradespeople who live in rural areas of civilized but not highly industrialized societies; it also encompasses nomadic groups like gypsies......
In regards to the 19th century American settlers they said: The early 19th century settlers who set out in their covered wagons from the East Coast of the United States, to find a new life in the Midwest, often lived isolated lives well away from mainstream sources of materials and culture. This necessitated a self-reliance which led to the widespread production of "folk arts and crafts" within these communities: crafts that reflected the diverse European origins of the people concerned.
Image Courtesy of Theiaults.com
There's just something quietly elegant about The Grand American Painted Cloth Folk Doll in Wonderful Presentation doll, shown in the picture above, which was on the Theriaults.com website. Wouldn't you agree?
According to their description: 30" - All cloth doll with bedpost-shaped head having side-stitched seams and center face seam from nose downward,rounded firmly shaped back,oil-painted brown hair,shaded complexion and facial features,outlined brown eyes with dark upper eyeliner,brush stroked brows,outlined nose,closed mouth with center accent line,rag-stuffed cloth body with unusually short arms, stitch jointing at shoulders, hips and knees. Condition: generally excellent. Comments: American,circa 1880,folk artist of great naive talent created this finely wrought doll...
Image Courtesy of Theiaults.com
I love the sweet simplicity of the American Cloth Folk Doll With Painted Feature and Original Costume, shown in the picture above, from the heriaults.com website.
According to their description: 14" All muslin cloth doll except carved wooden lower legs and feet, flat-dimensional face with slightly-shaped nose, painted facial features including all-around lashes, blush spots on cheeks, closed mouth, stitched-on black silk cap with border coronet of blonde braids, stitch-jointed arms and legs. Condition: generally excellent. Comments: American, circa 1885....
Image Courtesy of Theriaults.com
There's something sweet & simple while at the same time elegant about the AMERICAN CLOTH FOLK ART DOLL, shown in the picture above, from the Theriaults.com website.
According to their description: 18" All muslin doll with flat-dimensional face,simplistically-painted facial features clustered in the very center of the oval-shaped face,shaped torso and stitch-jointed limbs. Condition: very good,original painting,wig may not be original. Comments: American,circa 1880. Value Points: the doll wears her original simple costume,brown cotton dress,straw bonnet,cutwork apron,and heavy knitted red striped stockings,being sold from the estate collection of Madeline Merrill who,in the The Art of Dolls 1700-1940 described the doll as "prim looking homemade cloth doll with naively draw ink features...a simply made but charming doll."
How sweet looking is the Rag Doll 1842-1857, which I would categorize more as folk art, from the The Strong National Museum of Play.
According to their description: Material cloth | textile | paint | ink | cotton | lace | leather | ribbon | silk, Style rag, Object ID 101.374, National Museum of Play Online Collections.
Whether it's a pioneer or prairie doll, rag doll, Appalachian doll, wagon train doll, table cloth doll, pillowcase doll, handkerchief doll or church doll, or folk art doll one thing is for sure - they were all loved by early American colonial girls. And, they continue to be loved today as witnessed by the early American colonial dolls merchandise available for the American Girl dolls and even, Barbie.
American Stories Pioneer Barbie c. 1995
Credits: American Stories Pioneer Barbie, 1995, Manufacturer Mattel, Inc., Material vinyl, Origin, China, Object ID 108.1087, Credit Line Gift of Deborah Ramsey in honor of Janice J. Ramsey
There are all different types of rag dolls with all sorts of names. One thing is for sure - they were all loved by Early American Colonial girls.