Black and White Topsy Turkey Cloth Doll, c. 1900
If you love early cloth dolls, you’ll know what I mean when I say the exquisite faces on this early 19thc. Topsy Turvy made my heart skip a beat when I first saw the doll in the exhibit “No Longer Hidden, “ black dolls from the collection of Pat Hatch.
The doll is a bit of a mystery because the white doll’s faces and hair look as if they were printed, while the black dolls face appears to be hand painted. The bodies themselves are treadle stitched, while the sateen and cotton lawn clothing is entirely hand-made, with hand-stitched hems and hand-gathering around the sleeves.
At first, I wondered if this might be an early example of a Babyland Rag doll, a line that was introduced in 1893. But at 15” long from head to head and 17″ long from head to hem, this doll is slightly larger than the 14″ Topsy Turvy in an early Babyland Rag catalogue. Also, the features on this one are more elegant and not as child-like as the Babyland Rags. Another possibility is that this is an early cut-and-sew doll inspired by the Babyland Rags. But that doesn’t explain the hand painted face on the black doll. Whatever the history (and I welcome informati0n anyone may have), this is a hard-to-find doll.
Given the fact that she is about 110 years old, the doll itself is in very good, sturdy condition with no rips or tares to the white doll’s face, and one small hole on the black doll’s chin. The clothing, however, is extremely fragile. There is shredding to the skirt fabric, and the back of the white doll’s cap is almost gone. But she is still a rare, beautiful doll that needs to be displayed with care. Again, the doll itself is 15” long from head to head, and 17” long from head to hem. Late 1890s –early 1900s.