From Doll Reader December 1988/January 1989
Christmas List and Paper dolls, a la 1890s
by Barbra Combatalade
photos by Albert Combatade
The smell of Thanksgiving turkey roasting is barely a memory when a certain tang in the air and the glint of shining ornaments suddenly sparkling on store display shelves warn that that day is approaching and it is time to make Christmas lists of what to give whom.
If time could be turned back to the late 1890s, how wonderful would it be for a paper doll collector whose favorites are those quaint nostalgic ones printed then for advertizing varied products. A much-wanted paper doll and just-the-right-gift could be obtained at the same time.
What lovelier surprise could a fashionable young lady find under the tree than the model 42 Columbia Bicycle! Cycling was so popular, and with this particular model she could wear the zouave costume designed and worn by Miss Cayman, as shown in Illustration 1, one of a set of six, available for five two-cent stamps. The head and arms pass through a slot in the top of the fold-over costume. Each 6in (15cm) doll is marked "Copyright 1895, Gast Litho. Co." on the front. There is a detailed description of the costume on the inside and a statement of the set's purpose: "The set will be of great value in deciding the appropriate dress for use awheel at the same time delighting the hearts of all children who hands they may fall." Columbia Bicycles for woman's use are advertised on the back.
A new Household Range for hard or soft coal or wood would be a most welcome kitchen addition for any homemaker who prides herself on her culinary skills, as discretely suggested by Raphael Tuck's Artistic series 102 seen in Illustration 2. "Buy Household Ranges" is printed below the slit in the doll's hats and is not visable when the doll is costumed, appropriate tasteful for "publisher's to Her Majesty the Queen, U.S. patent Feb. 20, 1894."
To keep the new stove black and brilliant, why not add a cake of modern stove polish, Enameline? With three Enameline labels and three one-cent stamps one could get a complete set of six floral dolls: water lily, sweet pea, iris, tulip, morning glory and carnation, shown in Illustration 3.
Any man of substance would welcome a subscription to the Boston Sunday Globe, with "the largest circulation in New England." With the August 11, 1895, issue is given a jolly humpty-dumptyish Forbes doll, seen in Illustration 4, which can be put togheter, again by following the numbers on the tabs.
A little girl's heart's desire would be fulfilled with a French doll from Au Bon Marche in Paris, perhaps one in provincial costume like the charming mademoiselle show in its 5 1/2 inc (14cm) advertising paper doll and seen in Illustration 5 and 6. An interesting three-dimensional effect is obtained by folding the vest down over the front, as shown.
A special treat for children would be a dish of Ovens assorted crackers and cakes to place by the chimney in case Santa should wish to pause for refreshments. Show in Illustration 7 is 1 of Ovens American Beauties, a 9in (23cm) blonde seen wither her envelope and one of her costumes, is as lovely ans any doll in Santa's sack.
No parlor is complete without a piano or organ. Music is so uplifting. Even Little Bo-Peep's sheep "Won't come home till the music's done", as goes the verse on paper doll from Estey Organ Co., seen in Illustration 8. Everyone's talking about the new-fangled sewing machines. The Wheeler and Wilcox has a good wheel guard that prevents oil splatter and tearing. However, the Ladies' World for December 1892 warns against extravagant spending in an article as "vulgar and tawdry." The newest fad in entertaining is the button sewing parties, with prizes for the neatest and fastest lady or gentleman. Surely an assortment of Barbour's Irish Flax, in business from 1784 to 1895, would not be a costly and amusing gift for a hostess. For three two-cent stamps one could secure 12 dolls varied as a masquerade.
The same article admonishes "do not waste money on people richer than yourself, but on those poorer," Christmas baskets for the needy might include New England Mincemeat (there are 16 dolls in its fairy's children series, all different); Friend's Oats (the Quaker miss is one of seven), Worcester Salt bags (Cuba is one of four united States possessions in 1898 represented in a set of 12 for just one coupon and three two-cent stamps); and Lion Coffee, so invigorating to mind and body, putting one in shape for the labors of the day. The photographer, seen in Illustration 10, is one of the occupations of the time shown, with four parts each, in this set of Lion Coffee premiums.
Gas-lit stores and carriages and fragrant trees alight with tiny tapers fade into flashing neon signs and crowded parking lots and a weary Santa in every shopping center
Christmas is still the most wonderful time of the year!