Saturday, November 29, 2008

Jane Walker Dolls

Monica Bessette left a comment regarding Jane Walker on the previous entry which showed pictures of the Walker house in Somerset. I thought it was worth posting here:

Hi Dixie,

Don't forget. . .this was written for the Somerset Historical Society, and these dolls were known to locals as Jane Walker dolls. The following is from my 1998 article, "Walker Dolls: A Family Business" It comes from a paper presented at the Somerset Historical Society meeting of March 18, 1957. The writer of the paper was former town librarian, Flora B. Wood. Flora's mother, Augusta Louisa Marble, born in Somerset in 1861, is the subject of the following excerpt reprinted in the October, 1994, issue of The Spectator, and entitled,


"When my mother was a little girl in the 1860s many of the little girls of Somerset had a Jane Walker doll. I have a picture of mother holding one. They were handsome and lifelike and were made by Miss Jane Walker, who lived on Main Street in the Village. They were made in several sizes and sold for up to 10 dollars. I haven't succeeded in locating one, though it is possible someone has one, as they were quite famous locally and there must have been many of them. Mrs. Arline Simmons Sampson remembers going to Jane Walker's house when she was a very old lady and no longer made dolls. Mrs. Sampson says she dressed very quaintly almost in Pilgrim style. She liked children, and always treated them to apples and cookies."

Izannah's older sister, Jane Walker, remained in the house that was left to the two of them until her death in 1899 at age of 85. Izannah left Somerset in the early 1850's when she moved to Rhode Island. This 1957 paper was presented long before Walker dolls were collected by modern day collectors. Hope this helps.

Monica Bessette

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Favorite Detail

One of the Walker dolls that I've seen had what looked like surgical tape holding the boots and legs together. What I love about this is it's such a homemade patch job. No historically accurate repair here! Someone wrote the name "Perry" on the tape. Do you think that's the name of the doll or the name of the owner? In any case, this is one of the charming things about old playthings - the way their owners have altered the doll over time. It reminds me of The Velveteen Rabbit.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Izannah and Jane Walker

In one of Monica Bessette's articles she suggests that some of the dolls that we know as Izannah Walker dolls were actually made by Jane Walker. I find this an interesting nugget, and of course, it would be lovely to know more. Today I received an e-mail from Diane Goodwin with a link to a Youtube clip of a walking tour of Somerset, Massachusetts. If you watch the clip and fast foward to the point of 6:20, you can see the early Walker house located at 373 Main Street. Diane pointed out there were a couple of errors - one being that Izannah and Jane lived in the house in the early twentieth century - that should be nineteenth century. And the narration ends with "the product is still known today as the Jane Walker doll." Hmmm. The plot thickens? To view the video discussed above, please visit the Somerset Historical Society's site and click on the video associated with 363 Main Street

Friday, November 14, 2008

Izannah's Molds?

Recently I was reading German Papier Mache Dolls 1760-1860. In it they show some pictures of wax models used to make Voit molds. The wax models are so beautiful! And it's amazing that they've survived so long. This got me to wondering:

"What happened to
Izannah Walker's doll molds?"

Did they get left to a family member? A friend? Did they get broken upon her death? Are they moldering at some roadside antique shop somewhere in America? And would anyone know what they are if they saw them there?

There are a few dollmakers that I respect who have made a doll in the way that Izannah originally did - with a hard core, covered with layers of fabric that had been impregnated with something that stiffened the fabric and set in a mold. This was then covered with batting, which was covered with stockinette which was covered with paste which was painted. Phew! A lot of steps. And yet we see the longevity that the process gave her works

Inquiring minds want to know a lot about Izannah.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Paths That Cross

My goal for this site has been to gather as much information about Izannah Walker as I possibly can. I hope it will be a place where generous collectors will share pictures of their dolls (credited or not, whatever is comfortable). I also hope that others with knowledge about Izannah Walker and her dolls will share information to Chronicles readers.

In that vein, I was happy to get a phone call from Monica Bessette, pictured above with Izannah Walker dolls auctioned from the Maurine Popp Collection. It was so wonderful to talk with someone who is passionately interested in Izannah Walker. I'm hoping that I can persuade Monica and others (hint, hint) to offer more information about Izannah and to offer pictures of your original antique Izannah Walker dolls. It's for a good cause! Monica mentioned that the picture on the far left of the picture (the doll in blue) was known in the Walker family as "Izannah". This doll was originally in the Lila Singsen doll collection.

It seems that when you're passionate about something, and another person's passionate about it as well, eventually paths cross.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Izannah Walker's Patent Anniversary

Today, November 4th, is the anniversary of Izannah Walker applying for a patent for her dolls. She had been making dolls a long while, and we don't know why she took so long to apply for a patent. But it's interesting that she did, and in her own name, too!

A Pictorial Directory of Dolls<br> Featured on the Izannah Walker Chronicles

My mission for this blog in 2008 was to create the site I wished existed - a site for doll makers and collectors who love Izannah Walker dol...