A doll is a model of a human being, often used as a toy for children.
Dolls have traditionally been used in magic and religious rituals
throughout the world, and traditional dolls made of materials such as
clay and wood are found in the Americas, Asia, Africa and Europe. The
earliest documented dolls go back to the ancient civilizations of
Egypt, Greece and Rome. The use of dolls as toys was documented in
Greece around 100 AD. They have been made as crude, rudimentary
playthings as well as elaborate art. Modern doll manufacturing has its
roots in Germany, from the 15th century. With industrialization and
new materials such as porcelain and plastic, dolls were increasingly
mass-produced. During the 20th century, dolls became increasingly
popular as collectibles.
1 History, types and materials
1.1 Early history and traditional dolls
1.2 Industrial era
2 Uses, appearances and issues
2.2 Dolls and children's tales
4 Works cited
5 External links
History, types and materials
Early history and traditional dolls
A typical Egyptian paddle doll from 2080 – 1990 BC
The earliest dolls were made from available materials such as clay,
stone, wood, bone, ivory, leather, or wax. Archaeological evidence
places dolls as the foremost candidate for the oldest known toy.
Wooden paddle dolls have been found in Egyptian tombs dating to as
early as the 21st century BC. Dolls with movable limbs and removable
clothing date back to at least 200 BC. Greek dolls were made of
clay and articulated at the hips and shoulders. There are stories from
ancient Greece around 100 AD that show that dolls were used by
little girls as playthings. In Rome, dolls were made of clay, wood
or ivory. Dolls have been found in the graves of Roman children. Like
children today, the younger members of Roman civilization would have
dressed their dolls according to the latest fashions. When Greek and
Roman girls got married they would dedicate their doll to a
goddess. Rag dolls are traditionally home-made from spare scraps of
cloth material. Roman rag dolls have been found dating back to
Traditional African akuaba dolls
Traditional dolls are sometimes used as children's playthings, but
they may also have spiritual, magical and ritual value. There is no
defined line between spiritual dolls and toys. In some cultures dolls
that had been used in rituals were given to children. They were also
used in children's education and as carriers of cultural heritage. In
other cultures dolls were considered too laden with magical powers to
allow children to play with them.
African dolls are used to teach and entertain; they are supernatural
intermediaries, and they are manipulated for ritual purposes. Their
shape and costume vary according to region and custom. Dolls are
frequently handed down from mother to daughter.
Akuaba are wooden
ritual fertility dolls from
Ghana and nearby areas. The best known
akuaba are those of the Ashanti people, whose akuaba have large,
disc-like heads. Other tribes in the region have their own distinctive
style of akuaba.
Japanese hina dolls, displayed during the
There is a rich history of
Japanese traditional dolls
Japanese traditional dolls dating back to
Dogū figures (8000–200 BC) and
Haniwa funerary figures
(300–600 AD). By the eleventh century, dolls were used as playthings
as well as for protection and in religious ceremonies. During
Hinamatsuri, the doll festival, hina dolls are displayed. These are
made of straw and wood, painted, and dressed in elaborate,
many-layered textiles. Daruma dolls are spherical dolls with red
bodies and white faces without pupils. They represent Bodhidharma, the
East Indian who founded Zen, and are used as good luck charms. Wooden
Kokeshi dolls have no arms or legs, but a large head and cylindrical
body, representing little girls.
The use of an effigy to perform a spell on someone is documented in
African, Native American, and European cultures. Examples of such
magical devices include the European poppet and the nkisi or bocio of
West and Central Africa. In European folk magic and witchcraft, poppet
dolls are used to represent a person for casting spells on that
person. The intention is that whatever actions are performed upon the
effigy will be transferred to the subject through sympathetic magic.
The practice of sticking pins in voodoo dolls have been associated
African-American Hoodoo folk magic. Voodoo dolls are not a
Haitian Vodou religion, but have been portrayed as such in
popular culture, and stereotypical voodoo dolls are sold to tourists
in Haiti. Likely the voodoo doll concept in popular culture is
influenced by the European poppet dolls. A kitchen witch is a
poppet originating in Northern Europe. It resembles a stereotypical
witch or crone and is displayed in residential kitchens as a means to
provide good luck and ward off bad spirits.
A traditional Native American corn husk doll
Hopi Kachina dolls
Hopi Kachina dolls are effigies made of cottonwood that embody the
characteristics of the ceremonial Kachina, the masked spirits of the
Hopi Native American tribe.
Kachina dolls are objects meant to be
treasured and studied in order to learn the characteristics of each
Inuit dolls are made out of soapstone and bone, materials
common to the
Inuit people. Many are clothed with animal fur or skin.
Their clothing articulates the traditional style of dress necessary to
survive cold winters, wind, and snow. The tea dolls of the Innu people
were filled with tea for young girls to carry on long journeys. Apple
dolls are traditional North American dolls with a head made from dried
apples. In Inca mythology,
Sara Mama was the goddess of grain. She was
associated with maize that grew in multiples or was similarly strange.
These strange plants were sometimes dressed as dolls of Sara Mama.
Corn husk dolls are traditional Native American dolls made out of the
dried leaves or husk of a corncob. Traditionally, they do not have
a face. The making of corn husk dolls was adopted by early European
settlers in the United States. Early settlers also made rag dolls
and carved wooden dolls, called Pennywoods. La última muñeca, or
"the last doll", is a tradition of the Quinceañera, the celebration
of a girl's fifteenth birthday in parts of Latin America. During this
ritual the quinceañera relinquishes a doll from her childhood to
signify that she is no longer in need of such a toy. In the United
States, dollmaking became an industry in the 1860s, after the Civil
A set of Russian Matryoshka dolls taken apart
Matryoshka dolls are traditional Russian dolls, consisting of a set of
hollow wooden figures that open up and nest inside each other. They
typically portray traditional peasants and the first set was carved
and painted in 1890. In Germany, clay dolls have been documented
as far back as the 13th century, and wooden doll making from the 15th
century. Beginning about the 15th century, increasingly elaborate
dolls were made for
Nativity scene displays, chiefly in Italy.
Dolls with detailed, fashionable clothes were sold in France in the
16th century, though their bodies were often crudely constructed.
The German and Dutch peg wooden dolls were cheap and simply made and
were popular toys for poorer children in Europe from the 16th
Wood continued to be the dominant material for dolls in
Europe until the 19th century. Through the 18th and 19th
centuries, wood was increasingly combined with other materials, such
as leather, wax and porcelain and the bodies made more articulate.
It is unknown when dolls' glass eyes first appeared, but brown was the
dominant eye color for dolls up until the
Victorian era when blue eyes
became more popular, inspired by Queen Victoria.
Dolls, puppets and masks allow ordinary people to state what is
impossible in the real situation; In
Iran for example during Qajar
era, people criticised the politics and social conditions of
Ahmad-Shah's reign via puppetry without any fear of punishment.
According to the Islamic rules, the act of dancing in public
especially for women, is a taboo. But dolls or puppets have free and
independent identities and are able to do what is not feasible for the
Layli (Lurish doll)
Layli (Lurish doll) is a hinged dancing doll, which is
popular among the
Lur people of Iran. The name Layli is
originated from the middle east folklore and love story; Layla and
Layli dolls from Mamasani, Iran
Layli is the symbol of the beloved who is spiritually beautiful.
Layli also represents and maintains a cultural tradition, which is
gradually vanishing in urban life.
Doll was the first doll to enter space, voyaging
alongside British ESA Astronaut Tim Peake. Lottie spent 264 days
International Space Station
International Space Station during the Principa Mission.
She was designed by 6-year old Abigail from Canada, when she decided
she wanted to help kids become more interested in space and astronomy.
During the 19th century, dolls' heads were often made of porcelain and
combined with a body of leather, cloth, wood, or composite materials,
such as papier-mâché or composition, a mix of pulp, sawdust, glue
and similar materials. With the advent of polymer and plastic
materials in the 20th century, doll making largely shifted to these
materials. The low cost, ease of manufacture, and durability of
plastic materials meant new types of dolls could be mass-produced at a
lower price. The earliest materials were rubber and celluloid. From
the mid-20th century, soft vinyl became the dominant material, in
particular for children's dolls. Beginning in the 20th
century, both porcelain and plastic dolls are made directly for the
adult collectors market. Synthetic resins such as polyurethane
resemble porcelain in texture and are used for collectible dolls.
A German bisque doll from around 1900
Colloquially the terms porcelain doll, bisque doll and china doll are
sometimes used interchangeably. But collectors make a distinction
between china dolls, made of glazed porcelain, and bisque dolls, made
of unglazed bisque porcelain. A typical antique china doll has a white
glazed porcelain head with painted molded hair and a body made of
cloth or leather. The name comes from china being used to refer to the
material porcelain. They were mass-produced in Germany, peaking in
popularity between 1840 and 1890 and selling in the
millions. Parian dolls were also made in Germany, from
around 1860 to 1880. They are made of white porcelain similar to china
dolls but the head is not dipped in glaze and has a matte finish.
Bisque dolls are characterized by their realistic, skin-like matte
finish. They had their peak of popularity between 1860 and 1900 with
French and German dolls. Antique German and French bisque dolls from
the 19th century were often made as children's playthings, but
contemporary bisque dolls are predominantly made directly for the
Up through the middle of the 19th century, European dolls were
predominantly made to represent grown-ups. Childlike dolls and the
later ubiquitous baby doll did not appear until around 1850.
But, by the late 19th century, baby and childlike dolls had overtaken
the market. Realistic, lifelike wax dolls were popular in
Paper doll portraying actress
Norma Talmadge and some of her film
Paper dolls are cut out of paper, with separate clothes that are
usually held onto the dolls by folding tabs. They often reflect
contemporary styles, and 19th century ballerina paper dolls were among
the earliest celebrity dolls. The 1930s
Shirley Temple doll sold
millions and was one of the most successful celebrity dolls. Small
Kewpie dolls, based on illustrations by Rose O'Neill, were
popular in the early 20th century. Madame Alexander created the first
collectible doll based on a licensed character – Scarlett O'Hara
from Gone with the Wind.
Contemporary dollhouses have their roots in European baby house
display cases from the 17th century. Early dollhouses were all
handmade, but, following the
Industrial Revolution and World War II,
they were increasingly mass-produced and became more affordable.
Children's dollhouses during the 20th century have been made of tin
litho, plastic, and wood. Contemporary houses for adult collectors are
typically made of wood.
The earliest modern stuffed toys were made in 1880. They differ from
earlier rag dolls in that they are made of plush furlike fabric and
commonly portray animals rather than humans. Teddy bears first
appeared in 1902-1903.
Various antique to modern black dolls
Black dolls have been designed to resemble dark-skinned persons
varying from stereotypical to more accurate portrayals. Rag dolls made
by American slaves served as playthings for slave children. Golliwogg
was a children's book rag doll character in the late 19th century that
was widely reproduced as a toy. The doll has very black skin, eyes
rimmed in white, clown lips, and frizzy hair, and has been described
as an anti-black caricature. Early mass-produced black dolls were
typically dark versions of their white counterparts. The earliest
American black dolls with realistic African facial features were made
in the 1960s.
Barbie fashion doll from 1959
Fashion dolls are primarily designed to be dressed to reflect fashion
trends and are usually modeled after teen girls or adult women. The
earliest fashion dolls were French bisque dolls from the mid-19th
century. Contemporary fashion dolls are typically made of vinyl.
Barbie, from the American toy company Mattel, dominated the market
from her inception in 1959.
Bratz was the first doll to challenge
Barbie's dominance, reaching forty percent of the market in 2006.
Plastic action figures, often representing superheroes, are
particularly popular among boys.
Fashion dolls and action figures
are often part of a media franchise that may include films, TV, video
games and other related merchandise.
Bobblehead dolls are collectible
plastic dolls with heads connected to the body by a spring or hook
in such a way that the head bobbles. They often portray baseball
players or other athletes.
A reborn doll, customized to realistically portray a human baby
With the introduction of computers and the Internet, virtual and
online dolls appeared. These are often similar to traditional paper
dolls and enable users to design virtual dolls and drag and drop
clothes onto dolls or images of actual people to play dress up. These
Stardoll and Dollz.
Also with the advent of the Internet, collectible dolls are customized
and sold or displayed online. Reborn dolls are vinyl dolls that have
been customized to resemble a human baby with as much realism as
possible. They are often sold online through sites such as
eBay. Asian ball-jointed dolls (BJDs) are cast in synthetic
resin in a style that has been described as both realistic and
influenced by anime. Asian BJDs and Asian fashion dolls
Pullip and Blythe are often customized and photographed. The
photos are shared in online communities. Custom dolls can now
be designed on computers and tablets and then manufactured
individually using 3D printing.
Uses, appearances and issues
Colorado girl with a doll
Since ancient times, dolls have played a central role in magic and
religious rituals and have been used as representations of deities.
Dolls have also traditionally been toys for children. Dolls are also
collected by adults, for their nostalgic value, beauty, historical
importance or financial value. Antique dolls originally made as
children's playthings have become collector's items.
Nineteenth-century bisque dolls made by French manufacturers such as
Jumeau may be worth almost $22,000 today.
Dolls have traditionally been made as crude, rudimentary playthings as
well as with elaborate, artful design. They have been created as
folk art in cultures around the globe, and, in the 20th century, art
dolls began to be seen as high art. Artist
Hans Bellmer made
surrealistic dolls that had interchangeable limbs in 1930s and 1940s
Germany as opposition to the
Nazi party's idolization of a perfect
Aryan body. East Village artist
Greer Lankton became famous in the
1980s for her theatrical window displays of drug addicted, anorexic
and mutant dolls.
Lifelike or anatomically correct dolls are used by health
professionals, medical schools and social workers to train doctors and
nurses in various health procedures or investigate cases of sexual
abuse of children. Artists sometimes use jointed wooden mannequins in
drawing the human figure.
Egli-Figuren displaying a Bible story
Egli-Figuren are a type of doll that originated in Switzerland in 1964
for telling Bible stories.
In Western society, a gender difference in the selection of toys has
been observed and studied. Action figures that represent traditional
masculine traits are popular with boys, who are more likely to choose
toys that have some link to tools, transportation, garages, machines
and military equipment. Dolls for girls tend to represent feminine
traits and come with such accessories as clothing, kitchen appliances,
utensils, furniture and jewelry.
Pediophobia is a fear of dolls or similar objects.
Ernst Jentsch theorized that uncanny feelings arise when
there is an intellectual uncertainty about whether an object is alive
Sigmund Freud further developed on these theories.
Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori expanded on these theories to
develop the uncanny valley hypothesis: if an object is obviously
enough non-human, its human characteristics will stand out and be
endearing; however, if that object reaches a certain threshold of
human-like appearance, its non-human characteristics will stand out,
and be disturbing.
Rag doll characters
Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy, illustrated by
Johnny Gruelle, 1920
A doll hospital is a workshop that specializes in the restoration or
repair of dolls.
Doll hospitals can be found in countries around
the world. One of the oldest doll hospitals was established in
Lisbon, Portugal in 1830, and another in Melbourne, reputedly the
first such establishment in Australia, was founded in 1888. There
Doll Doctors Association in the United States. Henri Launay,
who has been repairing dolls at his shop in northeast Paris for 43
years, says he has restored over 30,000 dolls in the course of his
career. Most of the clients are not children, but adults in their 50s
and 60s. Some doll brands, such as
American Girl and Madame
Alexander, also offer doll hospital services for their own dolls.
Dolls and children's tales
Many books deal with dolls tales, including Wilhelmina. The Adventures
of a Dutch Doll, by Nora Pitt-Taylor, pictured by Gladys Hall. Rag
dolls have featured in a number of children's stories, such as the
19th century character
Golliwogg in The Adventures of Two Dutch Dolls
Golliwogg by Bertha Upton and Florence K. Upton and Raggedy
Ann in the books by Johnny Gruelle, first published in 1918. The
Doll is a 1957 children's book by Canadian author Dare Wright.
The story, told through text and photographs, is about a doll named
Edith and two teddy bears.
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Dolls.
The dictionary definition of doll at Wiktionary
Dolls at the V&A Museum of Childhood
The Canadian Museum of Civilization - The Story of Dolls in Canada
Kämmer & Reinhardt
Simon & Halbig
Société Française de Fabrication de Bébés et Jouets
Types of manufacture
Doll collections in museums
Judges' Lodgings, Lancaster
Doll Museum in Drumheller
Victoria & Albert Museum
List of toys
List of wooden toys
Art and craft
Construction (Cat:Construction toys)
Electronic (Cat:Electronic toys)
Physical activity (Cat:Physical activity and dexterity toys)
Toy Industry Association
Toy Industry Hall of Fame