By Jan Foulke
Q: I have just acquired a doll with a sticker on the torso identifying her as Dainty Dorothy. I thought it would be fun to have her, since my name is Dorothy. She has a bisque head and a kid body with composition lower arms and legs. Can you tell me anything about her?
A: Dainty Dorothy was a line of dolls sold by Sears, Roebuck & Co. in the United States and Eaton Co. in Canada from about 1910 to 1930. In the 1912 Sears’ catalog, they were described as, “Our very finest quality kid body dolls, ready for dressing, with most beautiful and perfect bisque heads. Finest possible quality hand-curled mohair wig, all sewn on net foundation, parted and ribbon tied.” The bisque shoulder heads featured sleeping eyes with real upper eyelashes and an open mouth with four upper teeth.
The kid bodies were rivet-jointed at elbows, hips, and knees. This was a deluxe feature and made a much more durable and maneuverable body than a mere gusseted body would offer. A special feature was the patented shoulder joint that could swivel. This was an important selling point, as most kid bodies had tab-jointed shoulders. Sears noted the bodies were “beautifully proportioned” with “perfect flesh-tinted papier-mâché forearms and lower limbs” (though some have been found with original bisque lower arms). The dolls were not dressed, but they came with openwork lace stockings and tie-shoes with toe ornaments. Each had an oval paper Dainty Dorothy sticker on the front torso.
In 1912, prices ranged from $1.75 for an 18.5-inch doll to $4.98 for a 28-inch doll. They were Sears’ most expensive dolls. In 1916, prices for the same sizes were $2.25 and $5.95. Though these prices sound cheap to us, at the time they were expensive, especially considering that the dolls were not dressed. In measuring a collection of 37 Dainty Dorothy dolls, we found some variation in sizes as would be expected, but no dolls smaller than 18 inches. However, we were surprised to find three that were definitely 30-inch dolls, though that size was not mentioned in any of the advertising that we found.
None of the original advertisements identified the maker of the dolls, but they did indicate that the dolls were imported. In our group of 37 dolls, we identified four German factories which produced heads for the Dainty Dorothy”dolls. None of these molds are exclusive to Dainty Dorothy, and all of them are shoulder head models.
- The Simon & Halbig porcelain factory of Grafenhain used mold number 1080, which is a shoulder head version of its popular 1079 head — it’s an appealing, almost smiling dolly face with pierced ears. Of the collection of 37, eight were made by S&H.
- The Gebruder Heubach porcelain factory of Licht and Sonneberg used mold number 10633, an attractive model with almost a character look, with a long solemn face, chubby cheeks, and wide spread teeth. Nine of the 37 in our group were made by Heubach.
- The J.D. Kestner porcelain and doll factory in Ohrdruf and Waltershausen used mold 154, a popular model and very high quality. The Kestner dolls have an additional “Kestner Kid Dolls” line on the label. Five of our 37 were made by JDK.
- Armand Marseille, a porcelain and doll factory in Koppelsdorf, used mold 370, its most commonly found model. Of the 37, 15 were made by A.M.
Your Dainty Dorothy is the model produced by Simon & Halbig. Now, to complete your collection, you will have to look for Dainty Dorothy dolls from the other manufacturers. That is the essence of collecting!
Jan Foulke is a DOLLS columnist and author of “Jan Foulke’s Guide to Dolls,” a price guide for antique and collectible dolls now in its second edition. Foulke is a doll consultant for Dan Morphy Auctions in Denver, Pennsylvania, arranging and organizing doll consignments, writing the catalog descriptions, and representing Morphy’s at major shows throughout the U.S. She and her husband, Howard, are charter member and past officers of the National Antique Doll Dealers Association, and members of the United Federation of Doll Clubs and the Doll Collectors of America.