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Schoenhut Dolls

The Schoenhut toy company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania began to produce dolls in 1911. Already well known for their wooden toy pianos and circus toys, Schoenhut also made their dolls entirely of wood. Basswood was used to carve the dolls' heads, which was then molded under high pressure and temperature to smooth out the rough features. This process gave the dolls' heads an appearance similar to bisque dolls. Doll bodies were also made entirely out of wood and were joined by steel spring hinges that allowed the doll to be posed.

The first Schoenhut dolls were 16 inches tall with molded hair and eyes. Even though the eyes were carved wood, they had the appearance of glass eyes similar to bisque dolls. In 1915, Schoenhut introduced baby dolls that were 14 to 17 inches tall and included a curve to the arms and legs, as well as a Buster Brown doll that was 21 inches tall and had a mohair wig rather than molded hair. Schoenhut introduced walking dolls in 1919 and movable wooden eyes in 1920.

Schoenhut dolls were well crafted and durable. They were also heavy and expensive. In the '20s, the Schoenhut company found it difficult to compete with German dollmakers who produced bisque head dolls at half the price of American made dolls. After some attempts to lower the cost of production, Schoenhut ceased doll production in 1924.

Quick Facts

  • The Schoenhut company was founded by Albert Schoenhut, a German immigrant, in 1872. Schoenhut came from a family of wooden toy makers going back several generations in Germany. His first toys were pianos
  • Schoenhut doll heads were carved by several artists including an Italian carver named Graziano, a carver named Mr. Leslie, and Harry Schoenhut, Albert's brother
  • In 2014, a 1911 Schoenhut doll was sold at auction by Theriault's for $3,000. In addition to the standard features, the doll had a carved bonnet

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