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
story. From the type of fabric, the value of the fabric & variety of patterns & colors one can almost tell the socioeconomic level of the family. Some dolls clothes were made from feed sacks while others were dressed in nice woolens or organza aprons, boys frequently wore jackets Collectors look for special applications, perhaps a little lace, pearl buttons, or a satin collar.
Black American mothers often added aprons to the dresses, some with an occasional pocket, bloomers & occasionally leather shoes. One of our doll even has the name “Kathy” embroidered on her frilly apron. Boys were often dressed in some type of dungarees or overalls, some have pockets. Boys stand out when their outfits are a little more “unusual” then the value generally is higher.
Girls were the most commonly created Black American dolls, then boys, twins consisting of one boy & one girl, then twin boys & the most uncommon adult dolls, adult doll couples! I still remember how thrilled I was with the purchase of my first “adult male” doll, he even has glasses on & a snazzy beret, but he was definitely a “working man”.
Early Black American dolls were made without commercial patterns. Patterns became more plentiful in the late 40s or early 50s allowing the “less talented” of mothers the ability to create a handmade doll. One creative mother made her child a cute doll with velvet head & arms, no torso or legs, her dress was intended to be a pajama bag.
Black Americana consistently falls into difficult to define categories. This is especially true when dealing with commercially produced items from the '20s through the '50s which quite often insensitively stereotyped Black Americans.
In Part 2 “Collecting Black Americana” I will touch on several collectible items. Black Americana covers a wide range of subjects. Those subjects include kitchen items, salt & pepper shakers, cookie jars, advertising, coffee & tobacco tins by Luzianne, folk art carvings & toys & dolls. There is yet another whole field of “ephemera” that includes books by & about Black Americans, early jazz records, cookbooks, post cards & stereo cards.
Those gifted women had great love for their children & hoped & prayed for a better life for her child. Her love was exemplified in her creations!
Whenever I pick up one of these fabulous Black American rag dolls a thousand questions come to my mind. Who was the little girl who drug her doll around by one arm, who talked to her gently, who cared for her well enough to be around today, what kind of a life did she have? What was her future like? Did she succeed? Did she go on to be the same type loving mother to her children? For some, those questions will remain unanswered, for me the answer is again quite simple. The love that created those dolls had to have also created a loving & successful child as well!
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