This was what I saw when I opened the little book.
Within the pages of this little book, I found 33 paper dolls, each between
four and four and a half inches tall, and I was rather impressed by my creative
filing system for the collection. Each doll had her own page with her name
written at top. Although the title on the above page indicates
this is a Tillie doll, that might not be her correct name. It's now
obvious to me that my sister or I didn't always put the dolls back in their original
I've never forgotten how much I loved to draw as a child, so I immediately
recognized my own artistry in the collection. I used to draw
a lot of pretty long-haired girls in beautiful dresses, but I was stunned to
realize that I had no memory of ever cutting out paper dolls from the newspaper
or drawing my own paper dolls and designing wardrobes for them and many of the
other dolls in this
I think I probably outgrew this childhood pastime to move into
sewing dresses for my tiny Hollywood Doll, at which time Mary, being five years younger than I, began to play with the doll collection. Since few adults retain childhood memories before the age of seven, perhaps this
explains why neither Mary nor I remember playing with these dolls. They were
probably just one of many things that occupied our time in those days.
Famous Paper Dolls
SEVERAL DOLLS IN THE COLLECTION are ones that I drew myself, but they are
simply different poses of the three commercial dolls I was cutting out of the
newspaper, namely, Brenda Starr, Tillie, and Mopsy. Each of the commercial dolls
came in different poses, usually with two or three different outfits. Using
colored pencils, I designed larger wardrobes for most of the dolls. As I enjoyed
looking through my collection, I researched paper doll collections on the Web
and tracked down some interesting history about the comic strips that inspired
the three dolls I collected:
The "Brenda Starr, Reporter" comic strip was created in 1940 by cartoonist
Dale Messick, according to the caption on a Chicago Tribune photo. Messick was a
greeting card artist from South Bend, Indiana who changed her first name from
Dalia to Dale when told that "editors and readers would be more receptive to a
gender-neutral moniker." Brenda Starr was named after a 1930s debutante, and the
doll looked a lot like actress Rita Hayworth.
"Tillie the Toiler" was created by cartoonist Russ Westover, who based this
character on a strip originally titled "Rose of the Office." When he changed the
title, King Features Syndicate bought the strip and ran it from 1921 to 1959.
The "Mopsy" comic strip was created in 1939 by Gladys Parker, a writer and one
of the few female cartoonists of that era. The idea for the strip was prompted
by a comment from cartoonist Rube Goldberg who said her hair looked like a mop. Mopsy was portrayed as a working girl like her creator, one who was always
surrounded by admiring men who appreciated witty comebacks, something Parker was
famous for. There were different dolls in the "Mopsy Modes" collection, each of
which had different hair colors and styles of dress to fit a particular
profession. The strip ran for three decades.
The Market for Vintage Paper Dolls
MY WEB RESEARCH revealed that there is a large market for paper doll collectors,
especially for those dolls that are still uncut on the old newspapers. On the Kovel's website I found this information:
"The first American paper dolls were published by Crosby, Nichols and
Company of Boston, Massachusetts, in 1854. By the 1880s, sheets of printed
paper dolls and clothes were being made. The first paper doll books were
made in the 1920s. Collectors prefer uncut sheets or books or boxed sets of
paper dolls. Prices are about half as much if the pages have been cut."
In talking with a couple of neighbors about my paper doll collection, I learned
that their grandchildren now play with plastic dolls that have magnetic dresses.
And when I mentioned this to my sister Mollie in one of our Skype conversations,
she said "Wait a minute," and then came back with the stand-up cardboard dolls
she played with as a child. One had magnetic qualities where you would rub the
doll or the dress to magnetize it and it would stick to the doll. She also has
two stand-up "Teen Time" dolls that apparently date back to the late fifties and
The older I get, the more value I find in reminiscing about the past and
thinking about the things I did at different stages of my life. Now in what I
believe to be the last chapters of my life, it's comforting to see that what I
loved to do as a child are still things I love to do now. I still like to draw,
still have colored pencils and chalk and acrylic paints in my art and crafts
collection, still love to design something new and work with my hands.
It was pure fun for me to have a spot on my website to write about one of my
childhood pastimes and share some pictures of a few paper dolls in my boxed
"autograph book collection." I've created a PDF document with photos and a copy
of this article in case readers would like to share it with friends.
DOWNLOAD PDF HERE. Feel free to share this document with
others by email, but please
request permission if you'd to offer it anywhere on the Web.
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