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Paper Dolls

Paper dolls are two-dimensional images of people, animals, or objects that have been printed on paper and have accompanying clothing or accessories. The first paper dolls appeared in Paris during the reign of Louis XV. These toys were popular with royal French society. English paper dolls appeared about the same time, but were printed with accompanying moral stories for children. European paper dolls often depicted actors and actresses and were made to be used with a toy stage.

The first manufactured paper doll was called Little Fanny. She was produced by S&J Fuller of London in 1810. Soon after, the first manufactured paper doll appeared in America with "The History and Adventures of Little Henry" produced in 1812 by J. Belcher of Boston. The largest manufacturer of paper dolls in the United States was McLoughlin Brothers, founded in 1828. In Europe, Raphael Tuck became the most well-known paper doll publisher, beginning to produce paper dolls in London in 1866.

Paper dolls became widely popular during the 20th century, especially in the '30s and '40s when financial hardship and lack of resources made regular dolls difficult for families to purchase. Paper was one resource not limited by production during World War II, so production continued through the war. Many 20th-century paper dolls were fashioned after celebrities and comic book characters.

Quick Facts

  • Prior to the invention of pulp paper, children in the United States had a difficult time acquiring paper dolls, as paper was considered a valuable resource. Children who were given paper dolls during this time guarded them carefully
  • "Godey's Lady's Book" published the first paper doll in a magazine in 1859. In the 1900s, other magazines began publishing regular paper doll features, including "Ladies Home Journal," "Good Housekeeping," and "McCall's," creator of the well known Betsy McCall.
  • Early paper doll clothes were not manufactured with tabs. Instead, children applied the clothes to their paper dolls using a few drops of sealing wax.

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