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Barbie: The History of Dolls within the Wenatchee Valley

Note: This is not an exhibit within the museum. These photos are not currently available for viewing within the museum, but only for these blog posts.

The highly anticipated Barbie movie will focus on children’s love and fascination for the classic Barbie doll. But what about the dolls before Barbie? How can dolls of the past tell us about growing up within the Wenatchee Valley?

Before the inception of the famous Barbie doll in 1959, the most popular type of dolls were bisque-type dolls. Bisque-type dolls were made with a ceramic material for the head and sometimes limbs and were also made with real hair. These dolls were commonly made in Europe, France, and Germany.


51-21-34: Date Label: c. 1950 Culture: French Country: France Description: A doll in Provincial costume. Wool suit – brown pleated skirt – green and brown plaid jacket – beige blouse – hat matches jacket – blue eyes. Dimensions: 13 3/8 in. (34 cm)


China Head dolls are comprised of head, neck, and limbs made out of china, tied together with fabric. They originated in the 18th century and were typically more expensive. These china and porcelain dolls vary in style depending on price, manufacturer, and country of origin.


Date Label: c. 1950
Country: France
Description: A china head doll in Provincial costume. Movable eyes. crinoline petticoat, rose cotton dress, long sleeves with lace trim, blue apron, gold cross at neckline. Auburn hair with black cap. CAUTION: hair piece does come off head.
Dimensions: Overall: 14 3/4 x 5 1/2 in. (37.5 x 14 cm)
Inscription(s): 301 France, E. R. T.


In 1915-30’s, Boudoir Dolls or bed dolls became popular for both children and adult women. Many of these dolls were dressed in late 19th century garments, or were decorated as “flappers.” These dolls were used more for decorating beds rather than for play.


Country: United States.
Description: A bed doll with purple hair, a long faded aqua dress trimmed with gold-colored lace and aqua ribbons. It has flowers on its wrist and hat.
Dimensions: 32 11/16 in. (83 cm)


Another popular doll were the Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls, which became popularized between 1918-20 alongside the Raggedy Ann Stories and Raggedy Andy Stories.


Date Label: 1955 – 1965.
Country: Tacoma, Washington, United States.
Description: Raggedy Ann doll with white dress with blue and green floral print design. Donor’s comment: “I received Annie for Christmas ’55. I loved her, lots and lots of kisses on her pretty little mouth and loving care, always. Did discard her apron though as I remember thinking that was for kitchen work and my Annie had better things to do – adventures! – with me.”
Dimensions: 20 x 5 x 2 1/2 in. (50.8 x 12.7 x 6.4 cm)

Date Label: 1955 – 1965.
Country: Tacoma, Washington, United States.
Description: Raggedy Andy doll missing clothing. Donor’s comments: “I received Annie for Christmas ’55. Dyna (sister 3 1/2 years, older born April 1948), unhappily, got Andy. She never liked him and dropped him in mud puddles and dragged him behind her small bicycle, lost his clothes and generally disregarded or abused him.”
Dimensions: 20 x 5 x 2 1/2 in. (50.8 x 12.7 x 6.4 cm)




















Between 1920-40, composition dolls began to take over the popularity of bisque dolls. These dolls were typically made with a combination of glue and sawdust. Composition would be used either for the head and body or just the body.


Date Label: c. 1948.
Country: United States.
Description: Doll with a composition body, movable arms, painted face, auburn hair, and dressed in a light aqua and red dress.
Dimensions: 6 3/4 x 2 1/4 in. (17.1 x 5.7 cm)

Date Label: c. 1948.
Country: United States.
Description: Doll with a composition body, movable arms, painted face, pink dress, pink ribbon, and lace hat, and has a light green flower in her hair.
Dimensions: 7 1/4 x 2 1/4 in. (18.4 x 5.7 cm)


















In the 1940s, hard plastic started replacing the composition dolls of before. The Ideal Toy Company began using hard plastic in 1942, with many dolls resembling famous celebrities like Judy Garland or Shirley Temple.

In the 1950s, there was also the recent invention of vinyl dolls, with the heads made out of melted vinyl and were much softer than hard plastic.


Country: (Wenatchee area), Chelan, Washington, United States.
Description: Vinyl, female doll with soft body – 28″ tall – sleep eyes – pearl necklace – long pink net dress with silver and pink net ruffle over pink satin – dark pink velvet sash – gray plastic heels with white elastic strap and plastic simulated rhinestone buckle – blond rooted hair – slight damage to dress – holes on bottom front lace.
Dimensions: 28 in. (71.1 cm)


Note: The museum’s collection database only has so much information on each doll, so classification on date/type/country may not be available.

Photograph and Digital Image © Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center.  Not for reproduction or publication.

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