Thursday, July 31, 2008

Izannah Walker Doll or Not?

Patricia Hogan, the curator of the Strong Museum dolls, kindly spent a few minutes talking with me about the Izannah Walker dolls in their collection. While there she had a folder with information about the various dolls. The doll shown below was undressed with the back shown. The curator mentioned that she had received a letter saying that this doll was not an Izannah Walker doll. I saw the letterhead at the top of the page the curator was holding and I have a good guess as to who the writer of the letter might be. What fun! This doll has an Izannah-esque head shape with applied ears. It's a bit hard to see because of the way she was positioned. But she has a very different body. Here's are several theories of mine...

1) She's an Izannah doll that has been amended or fixed. Perhaps she lost her body covering or was damaged in some way and some kind grandma gave her new arms and legs. Grandma did a nice job shaping the body, if that's the case.

2) Perhaps she is a Jane Walker doll?

3) Perhaps she is a later doll made inspired by Izannah Walker made by someone else?

4) Perhaps she is an early Izannah Walker doll?

Well, there are many guesses. And it's very interesting to see this doll standing next to all the others - her mitten hands, unpainted arms and legs don't fit into the category of Izannah. Looking at these dolls is all part of the search. By the way, if you haven't read the article The Search for Izannah Walker by Monica Bessette, it's a must read. I just purchased an old copy of Doll News with that article in it from Ebay ;-)

Here are the pictures I was able to take. Apologies for reflections and ghosts of cameras.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Aproned Izannah Walker Doll - Pictures from the Strong Museum

We drove 10 hours with two boys to visit the Strong Museum, primarily so that I could see the antique dolls and particularly the Izannah Walker dolls. We had to take the trip in two days going down and two days coming back, because traveling is hard for kids, and particularly for a child with autism. This is what happens when you have a passion, though - it affects the family vacation plans. ;-) You can see that gathering information about Izannah Walker and pictures of her dolls is a passion of mine!

As I mentioned previously, the Strong Museum allows people to freely take pictures for personal study. It is with their permission and generosity that I am able to post the pictures of the antique dolls here on the Izannah Walker Chronicles. So if you have a chance to visit, or make a donation their way, please do.

I apologize for the ghosts in some of these pictures, which are the reflections of my camera (or sometimes me!). It was virtually impossible to get good side view shots of the dolls without getting some reflection. The pictures below are of the "Aproned Izannah" that is on the far right of the picture above. She seemed to be one of the most primitive of the dolls there. You can definitely see the joining lines where the fronts and backs of the heads were put together. Also, she is a barefoot Izannah, which is considered to be more rare than the booted Izannahs.

That wonderful printed apron!


Feet - I've provided several pictures
because some show different kinds of details.
It was very difficult to get a side view of her feet.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Life Must Be Lived As Play

Across from the admissions desk area at the Strong National Museum of Play a quote by Plato is printed in such large type you can't miss it. But it's an easy thing to read and not understand. It is easy to lose a sense of play and end up living a life prompted by obligation. When you watch a child play, they feel no obligation to do things a particular way. It was interesting to watch the children playing at the Strong Museum - there was a sense of ordered chaos, to be sure.

When I began this blog, it was an act of spontaneity on New Year's Day, 2008. I had not planned ahead of time to do this. There is no obligation here, only joy and fun.

The Strong Museum allows anyone to take pictures of the antique dolls for personal study. They have been very gracious in allowing me to post pictures I took there on this site. Here's the first installment of edited pictures. Taking pictures through glass was a bit like trying to pick up a penny wearing mittens. But I did okay, considering the challenges that the glass presented.

This doll has a haunted, melancholy expression
that is a counterpoint to her warm yellow dress.
She has a crocheted cape around her shoulders.

Because of the length of her dress I wasn't able to take pictures of her boots (or perhaps she has feet?). But she has a beautiful trim figure and looks more like a young woman doll than a child doll. The card dates her to 1845-1855.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My Visit to the Strong Museum - A Sneak Preview

I'm writing from my husband's laptop after a day at the Strong Museum. Our original reason for taking this trip was for me to see the Izannah Walker dolls there. But really, the museum is an oustanding children's museum and would be worth a trip to go with the kids. My kids had a great time there. It is set up with lots of interactive areas but they have thoughtfully included niches here and there that are great for taking a break, reading a book, etc.

In the afternoon my husband took the kids while I spent hours visiting in the antique doll collection area. Taking pictures through glass is definitely a challenge. I experimented and by the end was able to come up with some techniques to help get rid of the glare. Digital cameras are such a wonderful invention - you can see what's working right then! Patricia Hogan, one of the curators at the Strong National Museum of Play, graciously took some time to answer a few of my questions about the dolls. She had arranged to have a couple of the Izannah dolls brought out of storage and shown au naturel so that I could try to get construction details. The Strong Museum has graciously allowed me to post some pictures of the Izannah Walker dolls here. So keep checking in the coming weeks - after I edit the pictures I'll be posting some here.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Raising Canaries

Why do I have a post about raising canaries
on the Izannah Walker Chronicles?

Because oral tradition has it that Izannah Walker raised canaries. Which apparently is not such an easy thing to do. I have two friends, Leslie and Josh, who are experts in identifying birds. I can identify the animal is a bird because it has wings and a beak. ;-) There's a lot to know about birds.

Read an article about raising canaries here

If you read the article (gold star for you!) you will know that raising canaries before electric lights were available must have been a pretty difficult thing - especially in cold Rhode Island. And also, in an age when women were encouraged to spend their time embroidering primers raising canaries might not have been the mainstream choice for women's hobbies.

When I read the little we know about Izannah Walker, I imagine her being played by Katherine Hepburn. Can't you see that? It's probably because I just watched a video of Tasha Tudor called Take Joy and she sounded a lot like Kate Hepburn. All eccentrics.

The people who go deeper into who they are without worry of what others' think are the ones who make a mark on the world. ~ Dixie Redmond

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Museums with Izannah Walker Dolls - The Strong National Museum of Play

Next Monday my family and I are loading up the van to head from Maine to Rochester, New York, where the Strong National Museum of Play is. It's about a 12 hour drive from here. After reading the rave reviews, I am very excited to take my boys there. It is thrilling that a place that has 8 Izannah Walker dolls is also a great place to visit with my children and husband! Something for everyone. :-) I'm looking forward to going to the Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden.

When I get back, I will write a detailed review of our visit there. In the meantime, if you are within driving distance of one of the museums in the sidebar, or have been to one of them, please send in a review of your visit.

If you can't drive to the Strong Museum, you can see the kinds of dolls they have in the book A Celebration of American Dolls from the Collections of the Strong Museum. I own this book and it is a fun one to curl up with at night with a cup of tea.

Ida Mae: An Izannah Walker Doll

Back in the fall I visited with a wonderful lady, who shared her antique Izannah Walker doll with me, and allowed me to document her doll.  ...