Paper Doll 1873

Pictures and text taken from
The American Home Book, 1873
Home Games for Old and Young

“To Make Dancing Dolls”

These dolls, when well printed and prettily dressed, are welcome gifts to little dwellers in the nursery, as well as nice contributions to a fair. To make them you must have a large sheet of thick cardboard, some fine twine, paints &c. The body and limbs are cut out as in the pattern here given, but of a much larger size. Then the limbs are tied to the body as shown in the pattern, very loosely. A long string attached to the middle ties will, when pulled, make the doll dance. She must be dressed in a full, light ballet-dancer’s costume, setting well out, and not much lower than the knee, just covering the joint in the cardboard. A wreath of flowers can be fastened to the head. The clothes are sewed on to the cardboard body, and will not, of course, bear removal. The shoes should be painted on the feet.

If you prefer, you can make a boy doll (dressed as a Turk) in the same manner, but the ballet-girl dolls are much easier to make, and look better. The arms and the legs are fastened to the body by loose string passing through eyelet made in each, and tied at the middle of the back. (See back view of figure). A long string of narrow ribbon fastened to the horizontal strings, will, when pulled move all the limbs at once. A Highlander makes a good dancing doll. His legs should have the cross gaiters painted on them, and his kilt must be stiffened a little, so that it may not impede the free movements of his limbs. The common paper Harlequin is far inferior to these dressed dolls; but the faces and hair should be nicely painted in water colors. If the little manufacturers is not able to draw, and cannot persuade any older person to paint the dolls’s faces, you can take a head from some fashion-plate photograph or engraving and paste to the body. But of course the head must correspond with the body.”

NOTE: In the original illustration there was no second arm or leg!. For convenience a second arm, minus the fan, and a second leg were added. If you print this out on white or pale ecru card stock, it can be painted and dressed very easily. For a club or group project, or to make it in muliples for gifts: print out one. Paint it as desired, and have it copied in color. Email us a jpg of your version!