Edith Paton with her rag dolls, Florence, Jane, David, Baby Dumpling, Betty Boop – 1933
“Each doll is a conscious individual creation…The individual nature that comes from conscious creation of folk art dolls make them a rich source in information about their maker’s past, economic and cultural traditions. By examining the creations we can extract a very wide sweeping narrative about the maker and her world.” – The History of Toys – Creation in the Hand
The notebook arrived first, followed a few weeks later by the box of dolls – a gift from my Cousin, Alan Garfield, from my Nana Paton’s collection. Emmie, Bessie and Cookie are among the dolls described in my Nana’s notebook, titled “My Dolls.” The notebook chronicles just some of the many dolls my grandmother made and collected over the decades. As early as the 1920’s she crafted dolls ─ rag dolls, some of which she sold during the Depression for about $2.00 each. Considered the oldest toy in existence, rag dolls have been around for centuries. During the years of the Great Depression, they were hugely popular in the United States. Raggedy Ann, perhaps the most famous rag doll, created by Johnny Gruelle in 1915, became the subject of his book, Raggedy Ann Stories, published in 1918. Her brother Raggedy Andy was introduced two years later. Also referred to as folk-art dolls, rag dolls are individually crafted from any materials on hand, mostly from scraps collected in the family rag bag. My Nana’s rag bag was filled with not only discarded pieces of fabric, but a variety of materials – leather, yarn, feathers, even rubber.
The doll named “Joe – I made this doll from an inner tube when we lived in Wells. ME in 1939. Wool chinchilla cloth for hair.” – Edith Paton