Wednesday, September 28, 2016

September 2016: An Interview with Laurie McGill

Laurie is a member of the Dallas Doll Club, which received its charter in the United Federation of Doll Clubs, Inc. in 1959. She is a former editor of DOLL NEWS (2013-2015)—UFDC’s quarterly journal. Laurie is the editor of the DOLL COLLECTORS OF AMERICA, INC.’s bi-monthly BULLETIN (2003-Present); and she is proud to state she is a Charter Subscriber to ANTIQUE DOLL COLLECTOR magazine…



When did you start collecting?


I segued from playing with dolls to collecting dolls  formally the summer I turned ten. The Junior level of Girl Scouts offered a badge then called the “Collector,” and I earned it with my array of dolls, which by that time included my mother’s childhood Patsy doll, my own beloved childhood dolls and various souvenir dolls I had acquired on family vacations. Around that same time, I earned the “Book” badge by reading all of Johnny Gruelle’s Raggedy Ann books and Mariana’s Flora McFlimsey books, among others.

Laurie Windham (McGill) sits amidst her burgeoning childhood doll collection, December 1962.

Then the summer I turned twelve I seriously considered putting my dolls away as I entered junior high school, but I met a new friend that autumn whose grandmother had owned a doll repair hospital. Recognizing my unusual curiosity in the stories behind the dolls, her grandmother nurtured my interest by introducing me to her early copies of the Janet Johl and Clara Hallard Fawcett books along with publications such as Kimport’s DOLL TALK and Elizabeth Andrews Fisher’s TOY TRADER. Much later my friend gave me her grandmother’s doll clothes patterns and tools that she had used in her doll repair shop.


The year after we first met, my friend and I started a two-girl doll club (“The Dollers”) that we patterned after the United Federation of Doll Clubs, Inc. My friend’s grandmother was our advisor. We met every other Saturday. One year my friend would serve as President and Treasurer, and I served as Vice-President and Secretary. The next year we traded offices. Dues were 10-cents a meeting, which we diligently saved to help finance our spring break conventions. Our banquets always consisted of my mother’s meatloaf, baked potatoes and green beans with chocolate roll for dessert. Our convention souvenirs were purchased from Paul Ruddell’s doll book company – the source for doll books back then. The club lasted throughout our eighth and ninth grade years.

After all this time, my friend and I are still the very best of friends, although she went on to other things, leaving me to continue doll collecting on my own. I eventually joined the United Federation of Doll Clubs in 1978.



What are your favorite dolls?


My favorite dolls are far too many to list here. I prefer antique dolls, but others have crept into the collection for various reasons. If I am asked which dolls I would save should—heaven forbid—a fire occur, I always state I would sweep up my mother’s childhood Patsy doll, my aunt’s childhood Patsykin doll, my own childhood Sweet Sue doll as well as my childhood Madame Alexander “Kathy” baby doll (which I named “Debbie” after my little sister) and my Teddy-Bear-with-the-Jingle-Bell-Eyes. I am extremely sentimental, and these toys have been with me the longest. Seniority rules!

In the forefront is Laurie’s mother’s Eff-an-bee Patsy doll (right) with her Aunt Betty’s Eff-an-bee Patsykin doll (left). Behind the dolls is a photograph of Laurie’s mother (right) and her aunt (left) as children.


Have your tastes changed over the years?


Oh, yes, my tastes have vastly changed as I’ve learned about different dolls over the years. When I was still in high school, my mother subscribed to not only DOLL TALK and TOY TRADER for me but also HOBBIES: A MAGAZINE FOR COLLECTORS. It was in HOBBIES that I began to learn about antique dolls in the “Dollology” column. I remember seeing advertisements where a Jumeau might be priced at $500—a vast amount to me as a teenager.

There was a doll museum in Wisconsin that I would visit each summer during my high school years. Our grandparents lived in Minnesota and my father would drive me across the St. Croix River and into Wisconsin so that I could see the museum. I remember a woman who was working in the museum one day telling me that “any serious doll collector has a Bye-Lo Baby in her collection.”

I took that remark to heart and a brown-eyed, bisque-headed Bye-Lo Baby was the very first purchase I made upon entering the workforce out of college. I still have this doll today.

After entering the workforce following college, Laurie’s first antique doll purchase was a brown-eyed, bisque-headed Bye-Lo Baby. It’s a Boy! The doll came with its original blue flannel Bye-Lo Baby blanket.

I remember buying a lot of composition dolls during the first five or so years after I began working. Many varieties of Madame Alexander’s 1940s Scarlett O’Hara dolls and many versions of Ideal’s 1930s Shirley Temple dolls entered the collection. I knew of Shirley from seeing her movies on television, and I knew of Scarlett because the movie, GONE WITH THE WIND, had just been reissued in 70mm in the late 1960s. In my early days of buying dolls, I felt most comfortable in purchasing familiar things.


As I reached my thirties, though, I sold most of the compositions and began purchasing china, bisque and cloth dolls. Later I grew interested in the very early dolls of papier-mâché and wood, and I seem to lean toward those now. Perhaps my favorite doll of this type is a Queen Anne which came with a provenance. The doll stayed in the original family for generations; then went to a dealer who kept it for a while; and then to me. Affectionately known as “Anne in the Van,” upon completion of purchase, the dealer kindly drove the doll to me from Kansas to Texas.

One of Laurie’s prized possessions is a Queen Anne doll which came with a provenance. Resting in a bureau drawer carefully wrapped in black paper—and kept in the same family for generations—the doll’s original gown is trimmed in silver.


I’ve veered off onto other doll-related by-paths and have a sincere appreciation for the delicate, early hand-colored paper dolls as well as children’s story books about dolls and paintings of children with their dolls. Dollhouses and miniatures are another interest.



What are the characteristics that attract you to a certain doll? 


A doll has to “speak” to me. It doesn’t need to be in mint condition. In fact, I actually prefer dolls that have been loved and played with (albeit gently) by a child. I dislike bringing a doll back to its “original condition” as though it just popped off a store shelf. A doll’s personal patina is important to me. That tells me the doll has a story to share—would that it could.  A doll with a provenance or with an original-owner photograph is always irresistible.



Do you sew for your dolls?


While I do not sew for my dolls, another side-interest is antique sewing things. My husband built a set of shelves for me on the back wall of my laundry room to house my collection of child-sized sewing machines. Beneath the shelves stands my grandmother’s early twentieth century treadle sewing machine. Baskets overflow with doll patterns dating from the late 1800s through the 1960s. Buttons are another passion. Rarely do I visit New York City without stopping into Tender Buttons on East 62nd Street, and rarely do I leave this charming shop without making a purchase from their antique/vintage drawers. (Ask me how many 1920s-era dolly-faced Flapper—Garter—Buttons I own, and I will have to admit: Too many!) I also love antique doll quilts—especially those made by a child—many of which are framed and hanging in our family room as art!

Child-sized sewing machines decorate an entire wall in Laurie’s laundry room, helping to make laundry day not so laborious! Pictured is just one example with other vintage sewing-related objects.


Are you looking for anything in particular right now?


Rarely do I attend a doll sale with the purpose of seeking a particular doll. With that being said, I would love to add an Izannah Walker to my collection one day. Various things, though, influence me on the dolls I choose to add to the collection. Perhaps it is a well-researched article in a magazine. Perhaps it is a presentation given during a monthly doll club meeting. Perhaps it is a segment on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW. This past summer during the annual UFDC convention in Washington DC, I came home with a lovely papier-mâché nun that called to me the opening night of the sales room. I abstained from buying her, though, until I heard Friar Francois Sainte-Marie’s engaging program on the history of nun dolls later in the week. Once I learned the fascinating story behind dolls-in-habits, I felt the papier-mâché doll dressed as a nun was a must-have.


Laurie’s most recent purchase is a 15-inch papier-mâché doll dressed as a nun. The doll is pictured in Danielle Theimer’s book, The Encyclopedia of French Dolls Volume 2 – L-Z on page 506 (Gold Horse Publishing, 2006).




I am grateful that even after fifty years of collecting dolls, there are so many things still to learn. I think back to my mother and to my grandmother who instilled the love of dolls in me as a very young child. I remember my mother patiently helping me pair up the 8-inch doll shoes before she tucked me in each night. I remember the day my grandmother gave me my mother’s Patsy doll. I think back to my friend’s grandmother with her doll repair shop, and I realize how extraordinarily fortunate I was that she nurtured my interest in the history of dolls at such an early, impressionable age. That serendipitous encounter put my life on a path that has been rewardingly rich in history, literature, fashion and art.








Sunday, September 18, 2016

October 2016 Sneak Peek!

It is always exciting when a previously unknown rare doll or toy is discovered. Auction Team Breker will offer such a discovery on November 5 when they sell Gustave Vichy’s “Eccentric Clown,” an unusually large piece  measuring nearly forty inches. You’ll read about this and other important automata in our October issue.
The amazing realistic sculpture of Pierre Imans wax mannequins is truly astounding. Samy Odin recently purchased a pre-WWI two-volume catalog featuring Imans’ creations and began his research into this company. The techniques used in their manufacture were similar to poured wax dolls.
Elizabeth Bentley Hamilton’s found her passion when she purchased a late nineteenth century dolls’ house from France. Containing wonderful furnishings, two of the dolls captured her attention and decided the theme, “Wedding Day Preparations.”
It’s that time of year when we reveal the UFDC blue ribbon winners, a very special highlight of the annual convention. In our October issue we bring you the exciting results in the first of two parts.
Ursula Mertz writes about a  charming American composition doll labeled “Flossie Fisher’s Own Doll” inspired by a popular game in the “Ladies Home Journal.” Not only a doll, but china and tin dollhouse furniture resulted from  Helene Nyce’s very successful Flossie Fisher’s Funnies’.
We also bring you a look at this year’s National Doll Festival!
Happy Collecting!

Antique Doll Collector, P.O. Box 239, Northport, NY 11768
Call us Toll Free at 888-800-2588

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Restoration and Doll Hospitals

Doll hospitals have probably existed as long as dolls have. It’s no surprise, then, that many of the questions I get from collectors are about repairing dolls.  While The New York Doll Hospital died along with Irving Chaise its legendary owner, there are still doll hospitals around the world in operation.  I have read stories about one in Rome, and one in Australia that were intriguing.  American Girls have their own doll hospital and beauty parlor for maintaining the dolls. We have a need for one locally; we once had at least three, but the owner of the last one operating died this past July.
Clearly, we need another one.   I seriously urge anyone with a certificate in doll repair or expertise in the area to advertise his or her skills widely.  Life Time Career Schools had a course that is still in operation.  From what I’ve read of the lessons and material, it seemed like a credible venture.  In any case, where dolls are concerned, remember to do nothing that can’t be undone.
On the other hand, The Internet features many sites on doll repair.  We don’t personally endorse any of them.  As with anything else, do your homework; don’t send out your dolls if you are unsure. Get references, and ask other customers if they were satisfied.
If you do need help and repair for your dolls, try the website of the Doll Doctors Association, aka DDA, featured recently on CBS’ Sunday Morning. This video is featured on their website.  DDA is “Dedicated to the sharing of knowledge, techniques and philosophies associated with the restoration and preservation of antique and modern dolls.” (Doll Doctor’s Association).
DDA describes itself as a ‘social club created for doll repair specialists,” enthusiasts, and conservation.  They note that they are “not an educational institution,” but that they do serve as inspiration for each other.
There Hospital Locator is a link that helps anyone with access to the DDA website locate a doll hospital in her area. The site features useful links about doll repair and collecting as wells membership information. Active members receive the “Doll Rx Newsletter,” published three times a year.  There is also available for purchase a book called The Best of the Doll Rx.  DDA presents at UFDC convention and holds an annual meeting of its own.
Noted author and collector Genevieve Angione once said that all dolls are collectible.  Since they are collectible, they deserve quality care and conservation.  All antique and vintage dolls are unusual because no more are being made.  We have a finite supply to collect.  Dolls and toys by nature are ephemeral; they were meant to take hard play and not to last, yet they are important cultural artifacts that tell human history as nothing else can.  They deserve to be curated and conserved.  If you are looking for help in doll repair, then DDA is the place to start.

Some Links:

Doll Collecting at; Library of Articles on Doll Restoration.

Doll Doctor's Association.

Fawcett, Clara Hallard.  On Making, Mending and Dressing Dolls.

Holub, Joan.  Doll House Series.  Scholastic Books.

I am not a Doll Doctor, but here are my Home Remedies for Dolls.