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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.

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.