Official Nebraska Government Website
Nebraska State Historical Society

The Doll Show
Nebraska State Historical Society


"The Doll Show" is based on the doll collections of the Nebraska State
Historical Society.
The collections are extensive, ranging from simple
homemade rag dolls to elaborate fashion dolls, from china heads to
charming Kewpies. Some of the dolls bear the marks of many years of
hard use; others rest pristinely in their original boxes, sales tags intact.
The dolls chosen for inclusion in the exhibit also vary greatly in age,
material, and condition. They all share one common characteristic: they
are representative of the kinds of dolls available to Nebraska children
between 1850 and 1949.

Many of the oldest dolls selected were brought to Nebraska by immigrants
from other states and other countries.
They became family heirlooms,
and were donated to the Society along with complete accounts
of their histories. Other dolls have obscure origins, and a wide variety of
historical sources were examined to ascertain their availability in

Territorial newspapers are among the earliest sources of information
about life in the state.
Toy advertisements in these papers indicate that
doll parts -- heads, hands, feet, and bodies -- and complete dolls were
for sale in Nebraska stores. Patterns for dolls were also published in
magazines such as The Delineator, and Godey's Lady's Book. Many
dolls show the combination of store-bought and homemade parts.
Store ledgers occasionally list doll types and their purchase prices.
Photographs, notably those taken by Solomon D. Butcher in the Nebraska
sandhills, frequently show children holding their dolls. Letters
and diaries also contain references to dolls given and received as
Christmas or other gifts.

A greater variety of sources was used to document dolls available after
Newspaper advertisements and mail order catalogs are quite specific,
usually containing illustrations of dolls sold, as well as listings of
manufacturers' lines carried by the store. Photographs of general and
department store interiors clearly show dolls displayed for sale, and
family snapshots reveal children with dolls at play. Women's magazines
include advertisements, doll patterns, and feature stories about the latest
in manufactured dolls.

The Society's richest source of information on dolls from 1920 to 1948 is
the Elizabeth Gaylord Rathburn collection.
Mrs. Rathburn purchased
many dolls during this period, later donating them to the Society with
their price tags and store sales slips attached. The collection provides a
valuable record of the kinds of dolls available in Lincoln through World
War II.


Virtual Exhibits

Doll Show


Dolls #1

Dolls #2

Dolls #3

Dolls #4

Dolls #5

Dolls #6

Dolls #7

Dolls #8

Dolls #9

Dolls #10

Dolls #11



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Last updated 26 May 2005

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