State Library of South Australia logo To be a child
SA Memory. South Australia past and present, for the future

Wooden dolls
Title : Wooden dolls Wooden dolls
Add To My SA Memory
Source : [Dutch dolls] [toy]
Format : Toy
Contributor : State Library of South Australia
Catalogue record
The State Library of South Australia is keen to find out more about SA Memory items. We encourage you to contact the Library if you have additional information about any of these items.
Copyright : Reproduction rights are owned by State Library of South Australia. This image may be printed or saved for research or study. Use for any other purpose requires permission from the State Library of South Australia. To request approval, complete the Permission to publish form.
Description :

Two wooden dolls, 29.5cm and 17cm in length, folk-made, with face and hair painted. Variously called Penny Wooden, Dutch Dolls or Wooden Tops, depending on their period, these dolls were cheaply and readily available. Jointed and waisted the dolls could be manipulated carefully into position and provide some semblance of action.

The dolls would be carved in one region and then farmed out to peasants for decorating: one woman is recorded as painting 1,200 dolls a week, carefully applying the dabs of black paint for eyes, brows and hair one day, and the other colours on other days to carefully conserve her paint supply. Finally, a coat of varnish was applied. The early penny woodens are distinguished by a double hairline, which gave a suggestion of the hair being drawn back.

Most wooden dolls were made in Germany with it generally accepted that 'Dutch' is a corruption of 'Deutsch' rather than a reference to the Netherlands. Wooden dolls were a popular subject in the late 19th and early 20th centuries for children's stories, including those about Catharine Susan by Kathleen Ainslie.
Further reading :

Ainslie, Kathleen. Catharine Susan's calendar 1906, London: Castell Brothers; New York: F.A. Stokes, [1905?]

Cieslik, Jurgen. Dolls European dolls 1800-1930, London: Studio Vista: Christies, c1979

Coleman, Dorothy S. The collector's encyclopedia of dolls, New York: Crown Publishers [1968]-c1986

King, Constance Eileen. The collector's history of dolls, London: R. Hale; New York: St. Martin's Press, 1978, c1977

St. George, Eleanor. Dolls of three centuries, New York; London: Charles Scribner's Sons, c1951

Internet links :
Exhibitions and events :



About SA Memory

Explore SA Memory

SA Memory Themes


My SA Memory


What's on