Thursday, December 16, 2010

Skinner Auctions Izannah Walker Doll

UPDATE:  This doll sold for $4,977, which I believe includes the premium.

Skinner Auctions auctioned an Izannah Walker Doll at their  Holiday Auction on December 15th and 16th in Marlborough, Massachusetts.   The doll is pictured above, with description below:

Oil-painted Cloth Izannah Walker Girl Doll, Rhode Island, c. 1860, painted brown eyes, pink mouth and cheek coloring, brown hair with center part in front of applied ears, painted arms and hands, cloth body with sloping shoulders, lower limbs painted with black shoes, white cotton undergarments, a pink striped patterned dress and embroidered apron with cotton bonnet, ht. 19 1/2 in., (paint wear, flesh tones of face old repaint, scattered retouch).
Estimate $1,500-2,500

The hammer price for this doll was $4,200.00 plus buyers premium and taxes.   What a beauty!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Black Izannah Walker Dolls

Izannah Walker's black dolls are not often seen.  One is pictured above in an article written by Donna Kaonis for the Sept/October 1993 issue of Antique Doll World.   The doll was in Richard Wright's collection at the time of the article. Antique Doll World is not a current publication.  If  you're interested in reading about antique dolls, Antique Doll Collector magazine offers great articles specifically on antique dolls.  Donna Kaonis, the writer of this article on Izannah dolls, is now editor-in-chief at Antique Doll Collector magazine.


The closest account of Izannah's dollmaking that we have from her time is from Philomena Hart's column in the Providence Bulletin, as quoted by Janet Pagter Johl, on pages 37 - 39 of her book Your Dolls and Mine:

"Mrs. N.M.R. (Mrs. Norman H. Robertson, grand-niece of Miss Walker) wrote me a fascinating account of a doll which she thinks is the predecessor of the Chase doll of Pawtucket. It was made in Central Falls by Miss Izannah Walker.(1817-1888) She was the aunt of my correspondent who says of her, "Always inventive, she had created a stockinette doll as early as 1848 when my mother was a little child in New London, Conn. Family tradition tells of her struggle to perfect her work and of the long wrestling with one problem, how to obtain a resistant surface to the stockinette heads, arms, and legs, without cracking or peeling. With this problem on her mind, Aunt Izannah suddenly sat up in bed one night to hear a voice say "use paste." It worked... Aunt Izannah always deplored the fact that she was not a man. However, she made dolls and doll furniture, tinkered with household gadgets, designed a parlor heater, "that beat Ben Franklins," raised canaries, dabbled in real estate, and was looked upon with admiration by male contemporaries because of her skill with carpenters' tools, so perhaps she was resigned."
Mrs. Singsen, an early collector whose Izannah Walker dolls were photographed in Janet Johl's book, contacted Izannah's grand-neice Norma H. Robertson for more information, and received the following reply :
"The Walker family came to Central Falls in Somerset Mass., and the first dolls were made for friends. One, owned by the family and now out west, is one of the very earliest and is practically life sized. Izannah Walker had three sisters, and as the business began to develop she put them to work painting the dolls faces. There were also darky dolls made, but these Mrs. Robertson said, had wool hair instead of painted on hair. From 1845, when the first doll is said to have been made,until she died in 1886, Izannah Walker carried on the business, not securing a patent until persuaded to do so by friends in 1873."

Izannah Walker black dolls differ from her Caucasian  dolls in that the hair was not painted, but was applied wool to the top of the head.  Who knows where this wonderful black doll is now?  Collections shift and change often.   Here is a closeup of the magazine page:

Black Izannah Walker Doll featured in Antique Doll World Sept/October 1993 issue.

Which brings me to my next gentle request.  It would be a joy to feature your original  antique Izannah Walker doll on the Izannah Walker Chronicles.   All copyright of pictures is retained by you.   You may offer pictures anonymously or publicly according to your comfort level.  Please contact me  using the button at the top of the page.

Thank you in advance for broadening 
the knowledge of original Izannah Walker dolls.  

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Food for Thought: Other People's Questions

Mary Phillips Gonzales, BluFrogg Gardens posted the following questions and observations in an Izannah discussion online.  I asked her permission to post them here as food for thought.  She wrote:
Here's another thought for you: Izannah was born in 1817, right? It appears that she (they) were making the dolls by 1845. She would have been 28 or so. We all agree that it has taken each of us several to many years to replicate her doll, and we are probably still not doing it altogether authentically I won't go into detail here), so how long do you think it took her (them) and how many trial and error dolls would they have had to make?

I don't know about you all, but I have boxes full of "attempts."

I realize that children of that age were taught much needlecraft, but the making of the molds, the design of the body, the way the heads were sewn on the early dolls....the painting.......all before the age of 28?

Fast forward to Aunt Jane, Izannah's mother figure. When Aunt Jane Swazey died in 1872, Izannah immediately began the patenting process. Her patent picture depicts the entire process, hand press, molds, and all, and the written patent description describes the process, but then says, specifically, that the only thing she is requesting a letter patent for is the process of putting the cloth batting in between two layers of fabric, to allow the oil paint to be more flexible.

But if you only look at the drawing, you might think that Izannah is patenting the entire process...the hand press, the molds and so forth. But all of that  was already in common usage. Hawkins has a patent that also describes a press and molds, and that was 1868, and he wasn't patenting that either, just some other detail. You can't patent something in common useage, only that which is

And then, when Izannah wrote her will, she willed this patent to her half brother David, not her sister Jane.
Just some thoughts to mull over. I have some wild speculations, but nothing more than a working knowledge of dollmaking and a dabbling in psychology to support it.
There are some really interesting implications here...did Izannah start with a body pattern designed by someone else?  Was the press mold process a common one at the time?   See Edyth O'Neill's pressed linen doll which is similar to a Hawkins doll as an example.  So was Izannah only patenting the padding over the pressed linen?  Hmmmmmmmm.  Interesting theory. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Doll Collectors of America Convention Features Izannah Walker Dolls

American Made Dolls & Figurines

The Doll Collectors of America, Inc., 1940

In late summer/early fall a reader of this site emailed to let me know that the Doll Collectors of America's convention for this year will be focused on exhibiting members' Izannah Walker dolls seated in their favorite chairs.  What a site that will be, I am sure!  

I tried finding more information about the Doll Collectors of America, and found the following information at Connie & Jaye Lowe's site:
"The first organized group of doll collectors was incorporated in 1936 as the Doll Collectors of America. Meeting monthly in the Boston area, these stalwart women recognized the historical significance of dolls and, being dedicated to research and education, mandated for themselves publication on a regular basis. Their early works, The Doll Collectors' Manuals, long out of print, are even today prized for their valuable content. The thirst for research and knowledge of their collections, many of which were family dolls, treasured and left by their mothers and grandmothers, led pioneer scholars/collectors such as Janet Johl, Eleanor St. George, and later the Coleman family to produce serious publications. The 1968 Coleman Encyclopedia of Dolls, and the companion 1986 Volume 2, remain the backbone of research. The hobby had reached such proportions that by the 1970s myriad price guides were being published. Today, the most widely used is the Blue Book by Jan Foulke."
I own a number of books from the mid 1900's which were published by the DCA, the latest I own being the 1983 Annual.  I wonder if this event will be covered by one of the major doll magazines.  I hope so!  That would certainly fit in well with the past focus of DCA's  pioneering of doll studies.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Withington Auction Izannah Pictures

This was the last time that all three of these dolls will share a home, although the doll with the blue body covering and the large doll below will stay together.  

 The fingers of the large 26" doll were very long indeed!
The hammer price on this doll was $7,000, 
to which a 13% buyer's premium is added.

I loved the blue body covering 
on the doll that I had named "Experience."  
She ended at $4,500 + 13%.

 And this girl below was sweet as pie.
Someone mentioned that she had a less common face.
Even though she had a fragile split in one arm 
and one leg the hammer price was $6,500  - add 13%.

While at the auction I  met a few people I had only emailed before, and it was fun to put faces to names.  One of them was a member of a group I lead - that was great fun.  Another person I met reads this blog, and called me "the Izannah lady".  She was surprised to hear I don't own an Izannah, but thought I had a closet full of them.  Wouldn't that be fun?

There was a section of the hotel where dealers had set up in hotel rooms to sell antique dolls.  One of the dealers  had the sweetest boy Izannah doll (not for sale).  It was amazing, and worth the drive down to the auction just to see that doll!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Izannah Walker Hands Question

I received the following question by email, and thought it would be interesting to write about here for others to read about. 
Susan Hedrick, in her article in "Soft Dolls and Animals," clearly says, "Molded hands..." and "all but the upper arms and upper legs appear to have been made in the pressed method..."  Can this be true?
 This is interesting to read, and a great question, but I'm not sure I have definitive answers.  Most of the dolls I've seen have cloth hands, with stitching to indicate fingers, and an applied thumb.  Some of them could have had paste applied to the hands, perhaps.   Here are pictures of hands which have been posted here before, for you to look at and think about this question.  What do you think?

Monday, September 20, 2010

UFDC's Izannah Walker Study Set

I recently joined the United Federation of Doll Clubs (UFDC) as a member-at-large. UFDC has been kind enough to let me post PDF's of past Doll Reader articles focusing on Izannah Walker on this site. You can find these and other articles in the list in the sidebar.

UFDC also publishes an excellent magazine called Doll News, a magazine well worth reading. When you join UFDC, you receive the magazine as part of your membership. UFDC has other resources as well. One example is the wonderful Izannah Walker Study Set by Linda Edward, which a kind reader of this site sent to me. It is a slideshow of Izannah Walker dolls in CD format narrated by Linda Edward, who wrote Cloth Dolls Ancient to Modern. I learned some interesting things about Izannah Walker dolls from this study set. For example, I had assumed cotton was the stuffing in the dolls, but apparently Izannah used a variety of stuffing materials such as bran or sea grass as well as cotton. Like doll makers of today, she used what was plentiful at the time.

In becoming a UFDC member, you can join a local UFDC doll club and have full voting rights OR you can join as a member-at-large, which is great if you can't fit another meeting in your life.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Theory on the Missing Molds

Reuben Bates' molds, above

Ann Van Arnum has sent me several Izannah resources I hadn't seen.  She also sen me a wonderful theory on what happened to Izannah's molds. The molds above are not Izannah's molds, but are eerily similar. I asked Ann if I could quote her on this site, and she said yes. So here is Ann's theory:
"My theory on the long gone molds is that before and during World War Two, there were Scrap Drives that took place all over New England. Perhaps the metal molds disappeared into the Scrap Drives when someone was cleaning out a cellar.

I grew up in a very old house with a very old cellar. My maiden aunts' home, which was where they grew up, was built sometime before the Civil War. The homes were very close together on the outskirts of Boston. I remember my aunts going down into their very old cellar and dragging out all kinds of metal things , and also going into the old barn, and taking out old metal things for the scrap drives."

The old adage “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” meant the end to many things we would consider historical treasures today. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Withington's to Auction Three Izannahs

Withington Auction, Inc. will be offering three Izannah Walker dolls at auction in October. These sneak preview pictures were shared to be posted on the Izannah Walker Chronicles, with additional pictures to come.

Is that a bit of blue I see in a body covering above?

The doll above is very similar in expression to
a doll that was in Maurine Popp's collection,
shown below.

Large 27.5 inch Izannah Doll,
formerly in Maurine Popp's collection,
auctioned in 2003 by Skinner's.

The doll below is being donated to a museum...

Lots to think about, and some mysteries, too!

Friday, September 3, 2010

The American Museum to Host Izannah Walker Doll Workshop

NOTE:  This class has past, but the pattern is still available for those interested in making this doll. 

Over three years ago I started studying Izannah Walker Dolls in earnest. Who knew that these studies would eventually lead to developing my pattern? And that would lead to an online workshop. I was so surprised when some long established artists joined the online Izannah Walker Workshop (and a bit nervous, too, truth be told). And even more surprised (and honored) when I was invited to come to England to lead a workshop. Long-distance travel is very challenging for my family as I have a child with special needs, so I had to decline. But E. J Taylor and Lynne Roche will do a marvelous job teaching this workshop using my pattern at the The American Museum in Bath, England. The American Museum has "a remarkable collection of folk and decorative arts, the museum shows the diverse and complex nature of American culture."

If you live in England, this is a fabulous opportunity to learn about this type of doll from two wonderful doll makers. The two weekend workshop fee WAS £250. Class size is limited, bookings will be taken by The American Museum.

Telephone: 01225 460503

It was so fun to read the description of the class!

Best wishes to all you students of Izannah's work -

Northdixie Designs

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Izannah Walker Doll Sells for $8,500

This Izannah Walker doll sold at
Skinner Auctioneers & Appraisers'. recent auction this past weekend for hammer price of $8,500 to a floor bidder, not including taxes or buyer's premium.  The estimate was $4,000 - $6,000. I wonder who the lucky buyer was? This doll has a lively demeanor.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Old Tintypes and Daguerrotypes

The photo above looks a lot like the picture of Miss Mary on the cover of Antique Doll Collector. The doll above might be a papier mache doll, but those arms look an awful lot like Izzy arms. Hard to tell. Click here to see the image above in a larger format of the picture above.

I found this image in Mirror Image Gallery's Flickr - there is an amazing album of tintypes of children with toys.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Izannah's Year? Keep Your Eyes Open!

I started this site on January 1, 2008 as a way of sharing pictures I was able to take of original Izannah Walker dolls. Over the past 2 years many large pixel pictures have been shared on this site, and I have worked hard to put together a clearing house to all the information on original Izannah Walker dolls that's out there. 2010 has been a stellar year in terms of artisans' focus on Izannah Walker. Some highlights are....
  • Three artists have designed and released Izannah Walker patterns.
  • Two artists have made molds of their original Izannah Walker dolls, using them to make reproduction dolls.
  • Another artist I know has a major Izannah project underway, studying the original dolls closely. It will be interesting to see that come to fruition.
  • A live Izannah Walker Workshop based on my pattern is going to be held at The American Museum in Bath, England.
  • 179 people took my Izannah Walker Workshop (see link in sidebar).
  • An original Izannah Walker Doll will be auctioned tomorrow.
I wonder what Izannah would think of all this? I wonder what else might happen in 2010 in the Izannah World? My son teases me when I say, "Big things are happening in the Izannah World." His reply, "Oh, so there's an Izannah WORLD now, mom?"

Keep reading the Izzy Chronicles, because I will write about it all here. :-)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Antique Doll Collector - Izannah Articles

Picture courtesy Antique Doll Collector
Antique Doll Collector, Volume 1, No. 1
Nov/Dec 1997

Recently I purchased the back issues of Antique Doll Collector Vol. 1 on CD. I was thrilled to see a beautiful Izannah on the cover of the first issue. This doll was once owned by Lorna Lieberman and is the famed "Miss Mary" mint condition Izannah Walker doll Lorna arranged to go to the Toy and Miniature Museum of Kansas City. The story is well worth reading - and you can see that my own copy that I scanned below is dearly loved and acquiring "patina". The pictures in the article are outstanding - showing in detail the wonderful wardrobe which had been created for Miss Mary over the years.

Pictures courtesy Antique Doll Collector
March 2006, Volume 9, Number 2

Also in this the CD version of antique doll collector is this lovely doll below, which so hauntingly reminds me what Izannah's dolls might have looked like before "paste and paint" were added. I wonder if this doll was inspired by Izannah's works? The slope of the shoulders is similar...and the mouth looks very similar to R. John Wright's Izannah.

Picture courtesy Antique Doll Collector
Antique Doll Collector, Volume 1, No. 1
Nov/Dec 1997

courtesy of Withington Auction, Inc.

Don't the lips of the doll above look similar to this doll named "Ella" above? Or perhaps this closeup below of a doll from a picture in John Darcy Noble's book on p. 101 of Rare & Lovely Dolls of Two Centuries.

Do you see how looking through back issues of magazines with Izannah Walker pictures can get the mind thinking? If you're interested in ordering the back issues of Antique Doll Collector, click the link below.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Izannah Doll to be Auctioned in August by Skinner

UPDATE - sold for $8,500 to a floor bidder.
The estimate was $4,000 -$6,000.

Skinner Auctioneers & Appraisers has an Izannah Walker doll to be auctioned in the session on Aug 15 2010 10:00 a.m. Click here and scroll to item number 707 to see the item thumbnail and description. They graciously shared these pictures of the doll and gave permission to post them here:

and I always like to show the full doll at the end -
back to the beginning:

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.  ...