The history of Victorian dolls is to some extent a history of civilization itself. Few people realize that unlike other toys a doll has not always been a plaything, but in past worlds held particular significance in certain cultures and societies. Whether relics of devotion in religious cults or images representing some kind of magic (some going back thousands of years), dolls were common symbols and ideals, especially in the ancient world. It has actually been only since the mid-19th century that dolls began to be given exclusively for children's enjoyment and entertainment.
Dolls from every era reflect mankind's technical development at the time. From ancient ones made of stone to wood, porcelain, and eventually rubber and plastic, doll making has had a rich and interesting history. Not commonly known today is that during the 19th century, dolls had to imported from European countries like Germany and France. When doll making in the U.S. began in 1860, the stuffed bodies had to be manufactured domestically, whereas the heads had to be purchased abroad. One primary goal of these works of art was to make them incredibly life-like. Moving eyelids and turning heads, common to children who own dolls today, were considered sensational innovations at that time. Today's dolls made of plastic that make sounds and perform life-like functions have far less quality, and less of the maker's attention to detail than the fine Victorian porcelain dolls made during the 1800's.
These Victorian porcelain dolls became the focus of a private U.S. collector who, over the last 25 years, has come into possession of a few that are rare in form and beauty. Just over two feet long, one of these dolls is adorned with burgundy silk, intricate yellow lace, delicate satin. Donning an elegant hat, her braided locks drape down to about her knees. The title given to this German-made porcelain work of art was an Armand-Marseille Köppels-dorf Thürmigia (dolls today are not necessarily known as much by their manufacturer, whereas at that time they were), which would have certainly been appealing to buyers, and later to collectors. Another German female doll is 23 inches long, of the line Simon & Halbig Gräfenhain Thürmigia. Adorned with a classy purple velvet raiment with a cape and feathered white bonnet to go with it, delicate lace covers the whole outfit. Other dolls in this collection include a rare male version of the same German make first mentioned above. This brown-haired male doll is decked out in a green velvet raiment with a white lace collar, a cap of the same green fabric resting on his head.