Small Talk Tag: Doll

The Birth of Bye-Lo Baby

Bye-Lo Baby

With baby dolls going on adventures to the playground, being lovingly squeezed through scary, dark nights, and transported in backpacks, strollers, and tricycle baskets, it’s hard to imagine that they were ever anything but newborn look-a-likes made out of plastic. But they were! The first truly realistic baby doll, the Bye-Lo Baby, was produced in 1920. Before then, dolls were mainly little girls and stylish women made of stiff, hard materials.

Creator Grace Storey Putnam modeled the Bye-Lo Baby after a three-day-old sleeping infant at the Salvation Army Day Nursery in Los Angeles. And her doll couldn’t have come at a better time; plummeting birthrates after World War I meant children had fewer siblings, so parents sought out realistic dolls that could encourage nurturing skills. The cuddly doll had a hand-painted bisque head, a cloth body (the cuddly part), and glass sleep eyes, and was dressed in a white christening dress. Bye-Lo Babies were a commercial success, produced until 1952 in various materials: bisque, composition, celluloid, and rubber.

Nettie’s Dollhouse Dolls

dollhouse doll

The contents stored inside the Nettie Wells dollhouse give us a special look at the playtime of a Victorian girl. Among them is a small bisque porcelain doll, who is unfortunately missing a few of her appendages. We learned from Nettie’s writings kept within the house that this doll’s name was Gracie and that Nettie considered herself Gracie’s mama.

It’s still unclear how Gracie may have suffered some bodily losses (we’ve ruled out the possibility of an older brother!), but we can tell from evidence on her muslin underwear that someone tried to repair her with glue. Gracie even had a smaller doll of her own. Nettie and Gracie must have had many imaginative adventures (or misadventures) together, judging from her many accessories, which we’ll peek into next time.

The Fashion Queen

Fashion Queen Barbie

While having three Barbies with three different hair color and styles is nice, wouldn’t one Barbie with the ability to have all three be even better? In 1963, Mattel introduced little girls to a Barbie doll that could change her hairstyle faster than a box of at-home hair dye. Fashion Queen Barbie sported a sculptured hairdo that could be covered with three wigs: a blond bubble cut, a brunette pageboy, and a red flip. Not only were wigs a popular fashion item in the early to mid-1960s, but the hairstyles included were all the rage too! Barbie began to sport the bouffant bubble cut in 1961 in response to the newest haircut of 1960s fashion icon, first lady Jacqueline Onasis Kennedy.

Although she arrived in a striped gold and white lamé swimsuit, this Barbie had an extensive wardrobe thanks to the mother of her owner, Donna. Donna’s mother was a home economics teacher and handmade a faux leopard coat and hat, a striped white and blue sundress, and a red dress that made Ken’s head turn!

Annie Horatia’s Dollhouse Dolls

London Dollhouse

While we at The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures own Annie Horatia Jones’s dollhouse, another important aspect of her childhood play lives in her city of origin at the London Metropolitan Archives. In 1886, Annie’s aunt Tamazine Billings gave her ten dolls for her dollhouse. Each doll represented a member of her family and household. Lucky for us, Aunt Tamazine sewed handwritten cloth labels with each family member’s name onto the doll that represented them.

As you would probably guess, the tallest doll is Annie’s father, Sir Horace Jones. However, the fact that the doll is a full two inches taller than the other dolls in the group says more about Victorian attitudes towards personal status within the family then Jones’s height. The Victorian father was the head of the household, thus the extra two inches. The dolls’ clothing is another interesting look back at 19th-century London!

Batter Up!

Jackie Robinson

Here in Kansas City, we are proud of our connection to the rich history of African-American Baseball and our local Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. With our 2015 World Series Champion Kansas City Royals, we stand on April 15 to honor Jackie Robinson. Robinson played second base for the Negro League’s Kansas City Monarchs before being scouted by the Brooklyn Dodgers to make his major league debut. When Robinson stepped on the field on April 15, 1947, he broke the color barrier in baseball as the first African-American player in the 20th century to play in the major leagues.

Robinson’s fame inspired many toys, including this all composition doll from Allied Grand Manufacturing Company. Based in Brooklyn, New York, Allied specialized in budget-friendly dolls and scored their first homerun with this 13-inch-tall hometown hero. The Robinson doll came with a baseball bat imprinted with Robinson’s signature, a Dodgers uniform, and a baseball cap emblazoned with the letter “B.”

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