By Jan Foulke
Q: My great-grandmother left me this set of dolls. My mother remembers that she kept it in a special drawer and took it out from time to time to show the children one of her playthings. Can you tell me anything about this?
A: Oh, what a treasure you have been given! I love tiny dolls! This darling little playset was made in Germany by the Hertwig & Co. porcelain factory. This was a very large establishment in Katzhutte. It was founded in 1864, and in the 1930s it employed 500 workers and had five kilns. In addition, it employed hundreds of people in the home trade, which meant that they worked in their own homes on piece work, picking up work from the factory and returning it finished.
This large number of employees meant that nearly the whole town of Katzhutte worked for the Hertwig factory. Their specialty was knickknacks, small all-bisque dolls and novelties, and doll heads with shoulder plates and molded hair, many with some embellishments. Their products were well-made for what they were, but they were not luxury items. However, there was a worldwide market for their products and the company prospered.
It’s marvelous that your little set has been so well taken care of over the years. There is a little age dust on it, but that just proves it’s old and not a reproduction, so I wouldn’t try to clean it. The slender all-bisque style of the dolls is referred to as “flappers” by collectors and dates to the 1920s and 1930s.
The girl is especially nice, as she has a molded loop for tying on a hairbow. The dolls are wire-jointed at the shoulders and hips and have painted strap shoes. They wear their original felt and organdy clothing and are still tied in their original box. A fun extra is that each child has a chubby little dog on a leash. Doll collectors would consider you very lucky to have inherited this family heirloom. In fact, they would envy you!
Jan Foulke is an authority on antique and vintage dolls, with over 40 years of experience in the field. She’s the author of the full-color reference book “Jan Foulke’s Guide to Dolls” and writes the Antique Q&A column in each issue of DOLLS magazine. Send your antique doll questions to Jan Foulke.