- Published: 22 April 2008
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Trina Michaelson, age 7, of Erie, Pa., for her question:
WHEN WAS THE FIRST DOLL MADE?
Since ancient times, the world has seen many doll like figures, although the toy doll as we know it today probably did not exist before the 1700s.
Back about 2000 B.C., doll like figures were found in Egyptian graves. Known as "paddle dolls" because they were carved from flat pieces of wood shaped like paddles, the dolls had painted patterns to look like clothes and clay beads to represent hair or headdresses.
Although the paddle dolls resemble our dolls of today, they were religious figures, not playthings.
Doll like figures with jointed, movable arms and legs were found in Greek and Roman tombs dating from the 300s B.C. Scholars aren't sure whether these figures were play dolls or religious objects. But they do know definitely that the young girls in ancient Greece played with dolls until shortly before marriage.
Scholars know very little about the toys of the Middle Ages, which lasted from the A.D. 400s to the late 1500s. Almost no dolls from this period have survived.
Great cultural and intellectual activity spread throughout most of Europe during the Renaissance, which ran from about 1300 to the 1600s. Dolls made during this period were often of white clay that had been pressed into molds and baked. The dolls may well have been intended as christening gifts. Children, most likely, did not play with them.
By the mid 1700s and early 1800s, dramatic changes in adults' attitudes toward children developed. During the Middle Ages and Renaissance children had been regarded as small adults, and were expected to behave much like grownups. But then attitudes changed. Play was now considered to be an important part of children's development.
With the change of attitude came many toys, including lots of dolls.
Toymakers during the 1800s created many new kinds of dolls including those made of wood, cloth, papier mache, wax and china.
Wooden dolls from Germany were the most common commercial dolls in Europe, the United States and Canada during the 1800s. Collectors today call them "pegwooden dolls." Most of the people bought unclothed dolls and then dressed them at home.
Cloth dolls of the 1800s included soft rag dolls and dolls of stiffened fabric. The first U.S. manufacturer of dolls was Izannah Walker, of Central Falls, R.I., who invented a doll making process in which layers of glued cloth were pressed between the halves of a mold. Walker began making dolls in the 1840s.
Papier mache dolls from Germany became popular until the mid 1800s.
German toymakers then began to make waxed doll heads during the early 1800s and by the 1840s, china factories in Germany began to make doll heads of both ordinary china and of fine china, called "porcelain." Matching china legs and arms sold so that people could assemble a doll at home, attaching the head and limbs to a homemade body.