"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
charming Kewpies. Some of the dolls bear the marks of many years
hard use; others rest pristinely in their original boxes, sales
The dolls chosen for inclusion in the exhibit also vary greatly
material, and condition. They all share one common characteristic:
are representative of the kinds of dolls available to Nebraska
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
historical sources were examined to ascertain their availability
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
for sale in Nebraska stores. Patterns for dolls were also published
magazines such as The Delineator, and Godey's Lady's
dolls show the combination of store-bought and homemade parts.
Store ledgers occasionally list doll types and their purchase
Photographs, notably those taken by Solomon D. Butcher in the
sandhills, frequently show children holding their dolls. Letters
and diaries also contain references to dolls given and received
Christmas or other gifts.
A greater variety of sources was used to
document dolls available after
1900. Newspaper advertisements and
mail order catalogs are quite specific,
usually containing illustrations of dolls sold, as well as listings
manufacturers' lines carried by the store. Photographs of general
department store interiors clearly show dolls displayed for sale,
family snapshots reveal children with dolls at play. Women's
include advertisements, doll patterns, and feature stories about
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
their price tags and store sales slips attached. The collection
valuable record of the kinds of dolls available in Lincoln through