FROM THE PAST
BY HELEN M SAMSON
In the room at the county Historical Museum dedicated to toys of another generation, three rag dolls hold a special place. Their wide eyed stare is almost identical and they were made by the same lady. She was the vigorous wife of the well known pastor of Park Church, the Reverend Thomas K. Beecher.
In 1885, Mrs. Beecher while mending a pair of hose was inspired to try to make a baby doll from the material. The pattern formed in her mind was simple. The top was tied up, the middle stuffed very fat and the bottom was formed in plump legs with the ends turned up for feet. Arms were made from the mate of the pair of stockings. The whole was topped with yellow yarn hair. The small girl who received the first doll as a gift was so thrilled that the creator tried another one and added some innovations such as a snub nose and ears. Later, she added dimples in the arms and feet. One was easily sold at a church fair for fifty cents and the project was under way.
Friends gave freely of material, new and used and the more affluent provided silk underwear. In the next ten years, 950 dolls were made and sold. Over half were made by Mrs. Beecher and the rest by friends with a very little paid help. The carefully kept account showed a profit of $1,111.89. That was a princely sum for the times and it all was given to foreign and home missions.
Julia Jones Beecher was a dynamo of energy. The Reverend, an energetic man in his won right was once asked as to his well being and he answered with a husbandly, "As well as anyone can be who is married to a steam engine."
They were married in 1857 and she was his second wife. She was from Bridgeport, Conn. And her grandfather was the Noah Webster of dictionary fame.
Each of the dolls were accompanied by a note written by their creator.
"If you will always take by the waist and never by the arm; if you will give your hand a wash before you play with me; if you will not leave me out in the dust or in the sunshine, and if you will not squeeze my face flat; I will be your pretty baby for a long time."
|Update from Joyce March 2003:
The doll at left was recently offered on ebay with a starting suggested price of $6300.
I did not follow up to see if it sold or at what price.
|First Added to the Site on 19 DEC 2002
By Joyce M. Tice
You are our welcome visitor since 20 DEC 2002