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Guide to the Paper Doll Collection
ca. 1850-1953
  PR 161

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Jenny Gotwals

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on December 27, 2019
Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: New-York Historical Society
Title: Paper Doll collection
Dates [inclusive]: ca. 1850-1953
Abstract: The collection contains both commercially printed and hand-made paper dolls.
Quantity: 2 Linear feet (2 boxes)
Call Phrase: PR 161

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Historical Note

The precursor to paper dolls were the French pantins, human figures printed with detached limbs meant to be re-attached with string. Paper dolls as we know them today, human figures with changeable costumes, were first manufactured in England in the late 18th century. The earliest paper dolls printed in America were made in the early 19th century. By the 1870s, paper dolls had become quite popular in the United States; production of sets of dolls increased as their popularity grew and as chromolithography made color printing more cost effective. Paper dolls were made and sold by commercial firms both for children to play with and for adults to observe current fashion trends. Women's magazines and newspaper supplements often included cutouts of paper dolls and/or their clothes.

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Scope and Content Note

The Paper Doll Collection spans the period from ca. 1850 to 1953 and contains both commercially produced and handmade paper dolls. Dolls in the collection were produced in both Europe and the United States. Sets of dolls, most of which have a distinct provenance, are kept together. Dolls are arranged by size.

Two Jenny Lind paper dolls and their accompanying dresses were made in Germany ca. 1850. The two dolls are quite similar, with only slight differences in facial features and tilt of the head. The clothing illustrates costumes worn by Lind in many of her featured roles.

Three folders hold a notable element of the collection, a large set of handmade paper clothes for paper dolls. Some of the dolls were cut from newspaper illustrations, and others were commercially manufactured paper dolls. The dolls often have names and ages of characters written on the verso. Some clothes were also cut from newsprint, but most were handmade using collages of different colors, patterns, and weights of paper, and sometimes tissue or lace doilies. The clothing is extremely detailed. Women's dresses often have matching purses attached to the dresses. Clothes made for a specific doll have been matched with that doll when possible, and are stored together in an envelope. Many of the outfits do not seem to correspond to the surviving dolls. The Victorian-style clothing fashions date the dolls from between 1880 and 1900.

A set of 36 paper dresses for a woman paper doll were originally printed in the Sunday supplement to the Boston Sunday Heraldthroughout 1895 and 1896. Sports costumes, evening and afternoon dresses in various fashions of the moment are included.

"Lady Edith" includes one doll and three outfits with matching hats. This set was issued in 1894 by London printers Raphael Tuck & Sons, the major English producer of paper dolls, for sale in the United States. One sheet contains a brightly colored doll and clothes—not cut out—entitled "Polly's Paper Playmates: Cousin Janet at an afternoon tea." The sheet was a supplement to the New York Sunday American in 1911. One folder includes die cut paper furniture for the paper dolls. The patterns for an armchair and bureau are uncut; the envelope they were sold in is also included. The envelope text reads: "The Girl's Delight: Paper Furniture (No. 1) for Paper Dolls." "The Girls' Delight" was a series of paper dolls printed in ca. 1857 by Clark, Austin & Smith, of 3 Park Row, New York.


Sets of dolls are foldered together and are arranged by size.

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Lind, Jenny, 1822-1887 -- Portraits

Document Type

  • Collages
  • Chromolithographs
  • Dolls
  • Paper toys
  • Paper dolls
  • Toys

Subject Organizations

  • Clark, Austin & Smith
  • Raphael Tuck & Sons

Subject Uniform Title(s)

  • Boston Sunday herald
  • New York Sunday American

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers.

Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to 30 photocopies per day per person. Suitability of the original for photocopying is at the discretion of the staff. Neither blueprints nor tracings can be copied under any circumstances. Duplication of large-format items will be done by the house photographer. See Print Room guidelines for details.

Use Restrictions

Permission to reproduce any Print Room holdings through publication must be obtained from

Rights and Reproductions
The New-York Historical Society
Two West 77th Street
New York, NY 10024

Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 282
Fax: (212) 579-8794

The copyright law of the United States governs the making of photocopies and protects unpublished materials as well as published materials. Unpublished materials created before January 1, 1978 cannot be quoted in publication without permission of the copyright holder.

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as: Paper Doll Collection, PR 161, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, The New-York Historical Society.

Related Material at The New-York Historical Society

Pantins, an early precursor of paper dolls, can be found in the Graphic Arts File (PR 022). The New-York Historical Society Museum holds other examples of paper dolls.

Separated Materials

This collection previously included two folders of paper dolls from the Nadelman Collection of Folk Art, which were transferred to the New-York Historical Society Museum in 2013.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was compiled by New-York Historical Society from various sources over time. When the source is known, it is noted at the folder level below.


The collection is open for additional materials to be added over time.

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Container List

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Jenny Lind doll and clothes

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Jenny Lind paper dolls were a gift of Mrs. Ida Messenger Peirsel, April 3, 1940.

Box: 1 Folder : 2-4 Dolls with handmade clothes
Box: 2 Folder : 1 Clothes from Boston Herald
Box: 2 Folder : 2 Doll and clothes printed by Raphael Tuck & Sons

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Clara Baldwin, January 14, 1859.

Box: 2 Folder : 3 Polly's Paper Playmates
Box: 2 Folder : 4 Paper Furniture for Paper Dolls
Box: 2 Folder : 5 I Love Lucy: Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz

Scope and Contents

2 statuette dolls (the characters Lucy Ricardo and Ricky Ricardo) and clothes. In original booklet. Published by Whitman Publishing Company. Source of acquisition: Gift of Linda Ferber, 2017. Added to finding aid, December 2019.


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