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Everyone loves toys and few are fortunate enough to keep some of these toys into adulthood.  Those kept become treasured heirlooms reminding us of joyful childhood memories. The charming doll pictured here was given to Evelyn Feil as a Christmas present in the early 1930’s.

 May 2017 Armand Marseille Doll

Evelyn remembered that it was an Eaton’s Beauty doll: a special doll marketed by the popular Eaton’s Department Store every year.  The dolls were of the best quality available at the time and sold at a competitive price.  In the 1930’s, it would have cost around $1.00, representing a substantial sum of money during the Great Depression when smaller dolls could be bought between 25 or 35 cents.  It is highly likely that the doll was ordered through the Eaton’s catalogue.  Evelyn remarked that this was the last doll she received as a child and later stored it in a trunk for safe keeping.  Her sister, Vera Sheehan, made the dress, underclothes and shoes the doll currently wears with the dress material coming from Evelyn’s own wedding dress.


The doll was made in Germany by the Armand Marseille Company of Koppelsdorf, near Nuremberg, when Germany was the major producer of toys and dolls.  They began production of doll heads in 1885 and manufactured the parts until about 1930.  The bodies are made of composition; layers of cardboard and glue pressed together then painted and varnished. The bodies were made by various companies who would purchase the heads and attach them.  Germany had many doll and toy companies and Armand Marseille was the most prolific of all, producing upwards of 1000 dolls heads per day at their prime.


On the back of the head are markings, which read, “Armand Marseille/ Germany/ 390/ A 3 1/5 M”.  This shows that the head was made from mould number 390 (one of their most popular) and the head size is 3 1/5.  Her body is fully jointed and poseable and she is an excellent example of a doll from the 1930’s.  Although only a modest 20” tall, this doll features glass eyes which open and close, an open mouth with teeth and a blonde saran wig.  In earlier periods, wigs were made from mohair and some with human hair. 


With the fall of Germany in World War 1 and the resulting depression, the Country lost their market share to the Japanese who excelled at tin toy production and produced porcelain head dolls in a similar German style.  By the 1960’s plastic became the main material for toy production and Hong Kong became a leader in the manufacturing of toys. They continue to lead as a mass producer of the many goods marketed and sold around the world with the markings “Made in China”.

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Last updated: 5/3/2017 4:28:36 PM