Antique Black Americana Ragdolls As Folk Art I’m a lover of American Folk Art. If asked what my #1 choice in American Folk Art would have to be Black American cloth or rag dolls! Why? The answer is LOVE!
To me this is “Folk Art... at its Fin
News-Antique.com - Feb 17,2010 - Black American cloth dolls were typically made from rags or left over fabric preserved by Black American women for the specific purpose of crafting these dolls for their children. Rag dolls were also made for the children these women cared for .
For the past 100 years most Caucasian American children received composition dolls, not cloth with Raggedy Ann being a major exception. Black composition dolls were rare, generally made in European countries & remain today very expensive. While those dolls are beautiful, they are unable to convey the love & comfort of the cloth doll, a doll made to hug when ill or sleepy & tote around by one arm while playing.
Characteristics sought by collectors of Black American dolls include beautifully embroidered facial features, their little mouths tell a story in themselves. Lips were generally smiling, seldom frowning, some had very tiny rosebud lips. Very few had a tooth or two. Eyes were outlined, or filled in with embroidered stitches, eyebrows were also added by some.
Other sought after features include delicately made ears. Some dolls had hairdos such as pig tails that covered the location of ears. Still other “artistic mothers” added the cutest little fingers & less frequently stubby toes. Black American dolls of the early 50s generally had chubby feet with embroidery outlining “pretend toes”.
The bodies of Black American dolls were made in a wide range of material from socks to cottons, occasionally velvet! There were also dolls made from socks, less detailed than the dolls made of cotton. Some dolls have full one piece bodies that were then stuffed with soft cotton or rags. Civil war era dolls were generally stuffed with straw. The more detailed dolls had their arms, & legs each made separately, then attached to the body with cord, twine or buttons, this type of construction allowed the dolls to sit & be positioned.
“Topsy Turvy” dolls had a Black American doll with a long skirt. When the skirt was flipped over that doll was hidden and a white face doll was seen. I prefer embroidered facial features some prefer painted faces. Later dolls often used a pre-shaped fabric mold for the face. Most dolls made before 1950 were fabric faces not molded ones.
Hair is another characteristic collectors of Black American dolls search for. Some dolls have hair made of wool, or thick yarn. Collectors search for unusual types of hair or hairdos. One of our dolls has a very fancy “coif” that I haven’t seen before that consists of many tight individual curls.
The more artistic the mother, the more finely crafted the doll. Some mothers made the dolls body & head from one solid piece of fabric. Other more talented mothers made the dolls head by sewing sections of the head & face together with several pieces of cloth, thus giving a more realistic look to the face.
Collectors of Black American cloth dolls also search for dolls with unusual clothes. The fabrics chosen tell yet another