Dolls have always been an integral part of American culture, and during the Civil War, they served more purposes than just posing as playthings. Dolls were frequently used to smuggle desperately needed medical supplies across enemy lines. Drugs were stuffed into the dolls’ china heads and, in fact, one such doll was recently discovered. Bisque and porcelain dolls wearing patriotic clothing were hot items during the War Between the States, especially in cities, where more families could obtain European imports. In rural America, handmade dolls made of rags and corn husks provided comfort, and were important contributions to a society fragmented with political unrest and turbulence.
After the war ended, dolls evolved as far as detail in their design, but they still carried a message of patriotism, especially once WWI broke out. Kewpie dolls were all the rage in the Roaring 20’s, but during the Great Depression, no one could afford dolls, so paper dolls were invented. The 30’s also brought us the very first collectible doll, which was none other than Scarlett O’Hara from “Gone with the Wind.” And WWII gave us G.I. Joe. Fashion dolls, such as our beloved Barbie, appeared in the 1960’s, as did the first African American dolls with realistic features.
Still, the Civil War forever remains in our psyche, and collectors are still able to purchase doll replications of famous generals and not so famous soldiers. Just for fun, here is a link to a website that offers some of these collectors’ items. Fiddle-dee-dee!