Other Doll-Making Materials

The use of wax in the making of effigies and figures dates back at least to ancient Greece. But the development of the wax doll, as such, was the achievement of England, during the mid 1800s, and specifically of a woman, Augusta Montanari, founder of the Montanari family firm. Her dolls were of real poured wax, with the hair, eye brows and eyelashes embedded. Other dolls not attributable to a specific maker were of wax over composition.

In the early wax dolls, facial features were painted on, and fixed glass eyes were placed in the heads. Moving eyes were first used in England about 1825, and these were opened and shut by means of a wire coming out at the waist. These dolls were rather dull and unlife-like in appearance. The Montanari family changed this, introducing new techniques into wax doll making which resulted in some of the most beautiful and life-like dolls ever produced.

Celluloid, created in 1863, was a popular material for dolls because it was easily molded and generally inexpensive. Germany had most of the earliest production, with the most well-known company being Rheinische Gummi und Celluloid Fabrk Co.

From the 1870s, nearly every type of doll has been constructed of celluloid, from Bru fashion doll heads to the American kewpies. By the late 1930s and 40s, however, most of the celluloid dolls were cheaply made as either carnival prizes or National Costume Dolls.

Around 1890, manufacturers were seeking a doll that children couldn’t damage, and at a price below the standard bisque. Joseph Schon of Germany took out the earliest patent in 1887 for a metal head doll. The Minerva, almost synonymous with metal heads, was registered in Germany about 1894 by Buschow and Beck.